Gandhi’s belief in equality resonates with Singapore: PM Lee at UN event

Gandhi’s belief in the “intrinsic equality of every person” resonates with Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. 

He was speaking at the commemoration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, held during the UN General Assembly session in New York on September 24.

“Our nation was founded on this same principle,” said PM Lee, who received the World Statesman Award for religious harmony from US-based interfaith organisation Appeal of Conscience Foundation on the same day. “We became independent in 1965 because we wanted to be a country where everyone was treated equally, regardless of their race, language or religion. We continue to uphold that fundamental ideal.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressing the UN Assembly at a commemoration ceremony of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Photo courtesy: PMO Singapore
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressing the UN Assembly at a commemoration ceremony of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Photo courtesy: PMO Singapore

The Prime Minister also noted that after Gandhi died and was cremated, Singapore had the honour of receiving part of his ashes. “The ashes were immersed at sea, in accordance with Hindu custom, two miles from the southern tip of Singapore.” 

Last year, India’s Prime Minister Modi unveiled a plaque to mark the spot. 

Other spots in Singapore which honour Gandhi’s legacy include a Memorial which is home to the Hindi Society, as well as a Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Universal Values in the Global Indian International School. “But beyond these physical traces, Gandhi’s ideas and ideals
have resonated and endured,” said PM Lee. 

(From left to right) Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, UN Secretary General António Guterres, India PM Narendra Modi, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and Jamaica PM Andrew Holness delivered speeches at an event to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Photo courtesy: MCI Betty Chua
(From left to right) Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, UN Secretary General António Guterres, India PM Narendra Modi, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and Jamaica PM Andrew Holness delivered speeches at an event to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Photo courtesy: MCI Betty Chua

In a world that is not only more diverse, but also more interconnected, differences are more easily amplified, and people more readily take offence, he said. He elaborated that tensions and conflicts are prevalent not just between countries, races and religions, but also within them. 

In view of this, PM Lee urged world leaders to take Gandhi’s message to heart. “We must try our best to resolve differences calmly and peacefully, appreciating the views of the other side, and without inflaming passions or hardening attitudes.” 

Author
Kareyst Lin
Kareyst Lin – Senior Correspondent

Kareyst has experience in writing about B2B technology for Computerworld Singapore, MIS Asia and CIO Asia; and on government technology for GCIO Asia. Her pet areas are artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and smart cities - these are fueled by her obsession with sci-fi movies and philosophy of mind. An active Yoga practitioner and cat lover, with a background in Indian philosophy, subaltern and diaspora studies.

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