Today: Keep religion above fray of petty politics, says Dr Balakrishnan

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By Zul Othman
27 April 2009

The AWARE spat is not a national problem, and the government has no intention of intervening in it, said the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan.

This, even as he warns the two warring groups — the new executive committee elected this month and the Old Guard of the Association of Women for Action and Research — to “keep religion above the fray of petty politics”.

Dr Balakrishnan said it is a problem they have to solve themselves and in a democratic manner, while abiding by the constitution of AWARE.

The bitter spat between the two groups has been dominating the headlines for several weeks.

Members of the new Exco had said they went into AWARE to bring it back to its original focus, and that is women issues, when it appeared to them that AWARE had veered into supporting homosexuality.

As for the Old Guard of Aware, they have questioned what they saw as the stealthy manner in which the new Exco had mounted a “coup” in the 26-year-old organisation. The sage took a sinister twist when members of the new Exco revealed death threats had even been received.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of his community visit to Nee Soon on Sunday, Dr Balakrishnan said: “The most I would do at this stage is to give them some advice. Not just (to) AWARE but all Singaporeans. Number one, don’t let a single issue hijack the agenda.

“We live in a diverse society, there will always be some issue we cannot agree on — we need to be able to learn to live and let live, to agree to disagree and to do so agreeably.”

He also warned that no one should allow single issues to polarise and divide: “If you allow these single issues to dominate and hijack your agenda, I think you are not going succeed and it’s going to be counter productive.”

Secondly, the minister pointed out that Singapore is a multi-religious society.

As such, he said Singaporeans should “protect and nurture” the place religion has in our society: “We don’t want our religious organisation to be damaged or compromised by the hurly-burly of politicking that happens on the ground.”

His third piece of advice to Singaporeans out to make meaningful changes in society, is to build what he called a “rainbow coalition”. And this means ensuring representation from all the different streams and segments that constitute Singapore.

While urging everyone not to be distracted from the long term and more important challenges facing Singapore, Dr Balakrishnan is hopeful good sense will prevail.

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