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Other possible fault lines have emerged in Singapore society, says DPM Teo

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Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has pointed to issues of citizenship, sexual orientation, and social values, as possible fault lines that have emerged in Singapore.

File photo: Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, Teo Chee Hean.

SINGAPORE: Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean has pointed to issues of citizenship, sexual orientation, and social values, as possible fault lines that have emerged in Singapore. He said racial and religious issues remain sensitive, and called on public officers to be mindful of managing social tensions. Mr Teo was speaking at the National Security Seminar 2013, and said the government is taking active steps to address key domestic concerns and friction points. Highlighting social unrest seen in other countries, he said Singapore is not immune to such challenges, and that social stability cannot be taken for granted. Among the challenges, Mr Teo said the country faces new dynamics from an ageing population and the integration of new immigrants, compounded by rising aspirations, income inequality, and rising costs. He said the economy is going through a transformation -- with Singapore building on its strengths, exploiting new opportunities to create good jobs and jobs-of-the-future for Singaporeans, and shedding areas where the country no longer has an advantage in. Mr Teo noted that diverse views exist in society, and said more room should be created for individuals and groups to contribute to the community.

Through the recently-concluded "Our Singapore Conversation", he said participants realised that Singaporeans cannot always insist on having their own ways, and that diverse views have to be reconciled to find a way forward. Mr Teo expressed hope that Singaporeans will be prepared to work for the common good, despite the fact that individual preferences may not be fully catered for in every situation. In certain instances, he said people have to agree to disagree, and respectfully, without pushing issues to the point of polarisation. Touching on the issue of resilience, he said it is not just about how the government acts, but also how society responds. Mr Teo said this extended to dealing with crises, and how to react accordingly. He lauded the many ground-up initiatives which demonstrated the "kampong", or communitytogetherness spirit, citing examples of how Singaporeans helped each other during the recent haze crisis. Mr Teo said while the government will not be able to address every concern or fulfil every wish, there should be room for all Singaporeans to be heard, to contribute, and to help build a better Singapore for the majority of Singaporeans. "Government may also not have the best answer or the perfect solution to every issue. Sometimes, our most important role is simply to bring different groups together to find a common understanding, or to channel their energies in a constructive direction," said Mr Teo. - CNA/ac