The Malay/Muslim community has made enormous progress in the past 50 years and can be proud of its achievements, especially in helping to build a cohesive multiracial society, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
Speaking in Malay at the start of the National Day Rally, PM Lee lauded the community's growth and its efforts in nation-building.
"The Malay/Muslim community is an integral part of Singapore," he said, adding: "And they have contributed significantly to our nation's harmony and progress."
He said: "The Government appreciates the community's contributions and strong support. Let us continue the strong co-operation we have established over the years. Let us continue to write the Singapore story by strengthening our harmonious, multi racial community ."
In highlighting the community's contributions, PM Lee paid tribute to veterans such as master potter Iskandar Jalil, who received a Meritorious Service Medal, and former senior minister of state Sidek Saniff, who spoke at the funeral of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
He said Mr Sidek started off opposing a few government policies, but in the end still called the late Mr Lee a friend.
"Mr Lee succeeded in building an inclusive, multiracial society as he promised from the beginning. Fifty years on, I am touched and proud to see many Malays, especially the young, expressing heartfelt love for Singapore openly," said PM Lee.
"They appreciate and uphold our multiracial society."
The community has much to be proud of today, he added.
Malays are represented in every part of Singapore society. "When we look for promising professionals to field as candidates, we find many successful Malays in different fields-lawyers, bankers, educators, engineers, SAF officers."
While the Malay/Muslim community is constantly instilling a culture of self-reliance, it has kept the spirit of "gotong royong", said PM Lee.
It rallied together, setting up self-help groups such as Mendaki and the Association of Muslim Professionals.
The Government has supported the community's progress strongly by providing resources and advice, and offering the leadership of Malay/Muslim ministers and MPs.
The community has also benefited equally from national policies in areas such as housing, education and healthcare, PM Lee added.
Most Housing Board dwellers own their flats but a small group still lives in rental public flats.
"Within this group, Malays are over-represented," he said. Many of them are young Malay families with marital and financial problems, he said.
"I am concerned about their future, especially that of their children. They may be trapped in the poverty cycle throughout their lives."
These families should be helped to start anew if they are determined to put their lives in order, he said.
"We should help them own flats again, to provide their children with a more stable environment."
Later, in his English speech,he announced a scheme to help such families own their homes.
Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said the Malay community has progressed with the nation, but held firm to its identity.
"We've been able to practise our religion, preserve our language and culture and yet participate actively in the Singapore story," he said.
"We're a community that can balance our interests and the needs of religion with those of our nation."
Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh
This article was first published on Aug 24, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.