Having the cake and eating it - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

As usual, Singapore wants to have its cake and eat it, said the international media reporting on the Government's decision to reverse its ban on casinos.Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has no argument with this point.In a dialogue last night with community and religious leaders as well as social service welfare groups, Mr Lee said that Singapore wanted the integrated resorts (IRs) but not the "havoc" nor the "mess". "And to a very great extent, we can achieve both," he said. Continuing where he left off in Parliament last week, Mr Lee called on his audience for support and help in dealing with the gambling problem in Singapore. Saying that he was heartened by the willingness shown by the religious, family and community groups to do so, following the parliamentary debate, Mr Lee noted that it would not be fruitful to cover old ground in arguing the issue."Beyond a point, it can be counter-productive because the risk is that we may harden views for and against and polarise our multi-racial, multi-religious society. That's something we should avoid at all costs."Stressing that Singapore should keep religion and politics separate, Mr Lee said that the way to accommodate different views is through tolerance and mutual respect. Religious and community groups, however, will be important as Singapore goes ahead with the IRs — because such groups will be on the "front line" in dealing with families that run into problems, he said. Mr Lee suggested that religious groups could propagate good values, discourage their followers from gambling and encouraging those at risk to exclude themselves from the casinos. They should also support families who want to exclude their loved ones and help troubled families through intervention and counselling services.Singapore society is the stronger, said Mr Lee, for containing a strand of strict, moralist thinking — an important component of the nation's "social immune system".Otherwise, "when anything new comes, you would try, have some fun, then run into trouble", he said. PM Lee says to a great extent it can be achieved Derrick A Pauloderrick@newstoday.com.sg As usual, Singapore wants to have its cake and eat it, said the international media reporting on the Government's decision to reverse its ban on casinos.Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has no argument with this point.In a dialogue last night with community and religious leaders as well as social service welfare groups, Mr Lee said that Singapore wanted the integrated resorts (IRs) but not the "havoc" nor the "mess". "And to a very great extent, we can achieve both," he said. Continuing where he left off in Parliament last week, Mr Lee called on his audience for support and help in dealing with the gambling problem in Singapore. Saying that he was heartened by the willingness shown by the religious, family and community groups to do so, following the parliamentary debate, Mr Lee noted that it would not be fruitful to cover old ground in arguing the issue."Beyond a point, it can be counter-productive because the risk is that we may harden views for and against and polarise our multi-racial, multi-religious society. That's something we should avoid at all costs."Stressing that Singapore should keep religion and politics separate, Mr Lee said that the way to accommodate different views is through tolerance and mutual respect. Religious and community groups, however, will be important as Singapore goes ahead with the IRs — because such groups will be on the "front line" in dealing with families that run into problems, he said. Mr Lee suggested that religious groups could propagate good values, discourage their followers from gambling and encouraging those at risk to exclude themselves from the casinos. They should also support families who want to exclude their loved ones and help troubled families through intervention and counselling services.Singapore society is the stronger, said Mr Lee, for containing a strand of strict, moralist thinking — an important component of the nation's "social immune system".Otherwise, "when anything new comes, you would try, have some fun, then run into trouble", he said.

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