SINGAPORE: Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam has spoken about the important role clan associations in Singapore play in community bonding and nation building.
In a speech at the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) — Business China Spring Reception on Tuesday, Dr Tan said that clan groups, together with new immigrant associations, can build and sustain a "uniquely Singapore Chinese identity".
He illustrated how in the early years, clan associations helped immigrants to secure accommodation and employment. This enabled the newcomers to gradually become rooted to what was once a foreign land, said Dr Tan.
As immigrants arrived here in greater numbers, he also noted how clan associations then began to run schools and hospitals.
"In the pre—war years, clan—based philanthropy became the predominant provider of social services and welfare. Beyond these key public services, clan associations were also committed to the preservation of Chinese heritage and promotion of Chinese culture," the president said.
Dr Tan said Singapore’s clan associations have displayed the ability to recognise the pressing needs of the Chinese community and stay relevant in changing times.
Today, he said, the promotion of Chinese culture and heritage should remain a priority for such associations. He added it is important to engage younger generations to ensure rejuvenation and continuity of traditions.
President Tan said that clan—run schools are well—known for their emphasis on values—based education and character development, which sets a strong foundation for building a gracious society.
The Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations is already looking into the challenges that will come with the projections spelt out in the Population White Paper.
In his speech, SFCCA president Chua Thian Poh said the sustained population growth in Singapore may pose further integration and assimilation issues.
He said: "On the integration part, we have to worry very hard (on how) to bring in the new immigration into our local society.
"As a clan federation, we have been organising new events to integrate immigrants into our local society. We’ve also organised local knowledge competitions for new immigrants, and we have organised sharing sessions about the local Chinese community with the new immigrants."
Mr Chua also revealed that the location of the proposed Chinese Cultural Centre, which was mooted on 2012, has been confirmed.
If all goes well, he said the building will be ready in about four to five years’ time.
Mr Chua said he believes this will be a social and cultural project with significance.
Currently, there are about 200 Chinese clan associations in Singapore.
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