More than 50 years ago we fought and lost lives because of race

A year before Singapore gained her independence, an event took place which changed our fate forever – The 1964 Racial Riot.

racial harmony
Police at the scene of the riot at Kallang. (Photo credit: National Heritage Board)

On 21 July 1964, 22 people were killed and 454 suffered serious injuries as a result of the violence that happened across a number of locations in Singapore – Kallang, Geylang and other localities.

It is an event that will forever remind us that the racial harmony we see and enjoy today, should never be taken for granted.

Racial harmony also leads to equal opportunities for all regardless of race, language or religion. Equal opportunities in terms of access to education, jobs and wealth.

For that matter, since our independence, all the 4 national races have been represented in the office of President; in fact, we will soon see our next Malay president.

What we see today didn’t come by chance. It came about as a result of social policies and governmental interventions that have helped to weave the national fabric together.

racial harmony

Take for example the HDB Ethnic Integration Policy which is in place to preserve Singapore’s multi-cultural identity and promote racial integration and harmony.

Back then, different races would cluster together forming racial enclave.

In 1970, the Presidential Council for Minority Rights was set up to ensure there is no discrimination against any ethnic minority groups.

racial harmony

But racial harmony is also something which all of us have to work at. Understanding, tolerance and patience is what we have to give as we live in harmony with our neighbours of other races.

Yes, we might see one or two incidents of new immigrants who do not espouse the ideal of racial tolerance and understanding as those of us who have been born here. But hey, it should be our individual responsibility to help educate and share how we can live in harmony and peace with others.

It’s definitely tragic if one day we see another case of racial riot because we fail to tolerate and understand our fellow brothers and sisters of other races, because what we and our forefathers have built up over decades would have been torn apart because of hatred and misunderstanding.

 “This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion.” – The Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew – 9 August 1965.

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Arthur Lee

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