“Sometimes, we take the communal harmony we currently enjoy as a natural state of affairs due to the swift actions of our police force and the Internal Security Department (ISD), but there is really no guarantee that racial and religious strife will never occur in Singapore again, and the current terrorism threat has added to this concern,” said Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister of State for Ministry of Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs.
He was re-launching the ISD Heritage Centre Mobile Exhibition at Dunman High School on 16 July 2012.
Minister of State for Home Affairs & Foreign Affairs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli (left) with Dr Foo Suan Fong (right), Principal of Dunman High School, re-launching the ISD Heritage Centre Mobile Exhibition. PHOTO: Matthew Wong
This message seems to have hit home with the students.
“Learning from the past, these exhibits provide us students with a greater sense of awareness and teach us that being mindful of racial and religious sensitivities is within our control,” said Sarah Tan, 17, a Year Five student from Dunman High School.
The ISD Heritage Centre (ISDHC) celebrated its 10thAnniversary in March 2012 with newly updated displays as well as a new gallery on counter-terrorism.
On 16 July 2012, as part of its anniversary commemorative efforts, the ISD Heritage Centre’s mobile exhibition was re-launched.
An interesting addition to this year’s mobile exhibitions is the deployment of student guides.
These students are trained by the Centre’s staff to act as guides to their peers to drive home the message that racial and religious harmony is a precious asset that all Singaporeans enjoy and must never take for granted.
For Sarah’s schoolmate, Regina Toon, 17, who was chosen as a student guide after being a prize winner in a students’ essay competition organised by the ISD Heritage Centre, the 1964 and 1969 racial riots were more than just a story.
“For safety reasons, my mother who was three years of age in 1969 had to move from her home in Joo Chiat to her grandmother’s home in Jurong when the 1969 racial riots broke out,” shared Regina.
The students’ essay competition was part of the Centre’s 10thAnniversary commemorative plan.
Mr Masagos Zulkifli also had a personal story to share regarding the 1964 racial riot.
“My brother was born in 1964 during the racial riots. As you can imagine, it was a difficult time for my family as it was hard for my mother to get to the hospital to deliver my brother amidst the chaos,” shared Mr Masagos Zulkifli.
From its inception, the ISD Heritage Centre has worked closely with educational institutions to reach out to the young through this exhibition.
It has played a critical role in offering invaluable insights and enduring lessons on Singapore’s vulnerabilities and resolve to overcome these.
While cases such as the Maria Hertogh riots and the devastating 1964 and 1969 ethnic clashes have been covered in the school syllabus, students and visitors get to relive the tensions and violence of the riots through filmed oral historical accounts by individuals who lived through the riots.
To reach a wider audience, a mobile component of the Centre’s permanent exhibition was developed in 2003.
In reiterating the emphasis of the Centre’s outreach to schools, the very first mobile exhibition was staged at CHIJ Secondary School (Toa Payoh) on 13 February 2003, focusing on the prevailing threats of communalism and terrorism.
This exhibition was then refined and officially launched by then Minister for Home Affairs Mr Wong Kan Seng at Bishan Community Centre on 18 June 2004.
Since its launch in 2003, the Centre has been invited to hold more than 50 mobile exhibitions in schools, community centres, shopping centres, mosques and even at the Shell refinery complex on Pulau Bukom.
Students now form one of the largest groups of visitors to the Centre, which has been visited over the last couple of years by students from about 200 national schools.
To date, more than 70,000 people have been engaged at such Mobile Exhibitions since 2003.
The travelling exhibitions also provide an opportunity for the students to reflect on how incidents in the past are still relevant today.
“The racial riots of the past can easily happen in Singapore today. This is especially so since social media is a double-edged sword and it can either unite people or inflame racial tensions in Singapore,” pointed out Yohanes Ng, 16, a Year Four student at Dunman High.
“Most youths take racial harmony for granted. They post tweets and Facebook updates in the name of fun, but they do not think first about how their words can potentially inflame racial tensions,” added Regina.
With the open platform that social media provides, Singapore has seen several cases of inflammatory comments on race and religion being posted on cyberspace.
So, getting youths to be more aware of the potential pitfalls of the misuse of social media is key and youths can play a part in maintaining Singapore’s racial fabric.
Dunman High School student guide Yohanes Ng, 17, sharing what he has learnt from the 1964 Racial Riots to Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli. PHOTO: Matthew Wong
The updated displays of the new mobile exhibition include improvements such as making the content relevant to the present-day context, beefing up the showcases’ design and introducing greater interactivity.
The design aesthetics of the structures, posters and video presentations were reconceived to give students a better sense of what it was like for their forefathers to live through Singapore’s early nationhood.
The new mobile exhibition also includes interactive elements such as touch-screen consoles to complement the poster content and to better engage students.
The new displays also highlight the key roles played by the security authorities in managing these incidents, thus providing a different perspective that makes dry facts of history more real, interesting and relevant to the students.
Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli (seated, right), and Principal of Dunman High School, Dr Foo Suan Fong (seated, left), reminiscing what Singapore was like in the past, while watching videos of the 1969 Racial Riots. PHOTO: Matthew Wong
The Centre will continue to enhance its outreach efforts to schools.
It is currently working with the Ministry of Education to reach out to students in secondary and post-secondary institutions such as the polytechnics and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) colleges.
In the second half of this year, the Centre will be holding more mobile exhibitions at Jurong Junior College, Victoria Junior College, Presbyterian High School, ITE College West, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Nanyang Polytechnic.
Do look out for these exhibitions that are coming your way.