New York: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, honouring the late freedom fighter’s legacy of non-violent resistance and philosophy of individual equality at an event marking the 150th anniversary of the Indian Father of the Nation.
Addressing the event, which was attended by leaders from countries across the world at the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Loong said, “The Mahatma firmly believed in the intrinsic quality of every person and this value resonates with Singapore because our nation was founded on the same principles. We became independent in 1965 because we wanted to be a country where everyone was treated equally regardless of their race, language or religion and we continue to uphold that fundamental ideal.”
“We try to expand the common space shared by the different races and religious groups in Singapore. We also strive to make our modest contributions to global efforts on mutual understanding and respect,” he added, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi seated in the audience.
The Prime Minister said that this year, Singapore had hosted an international conference on cohesive societies and had good exchanges with scholars and petitioners from other countries.
He also noted that after Gandhi passed away and was cremated Singapore had the honour of receiving a part of his ashes. The ashes were immersed at sea in accordance with Hindu customs two miles from the southern tip of Singapore.
Last year, Prime Minister Modi visited Singapore and unveiled a plaque to mark the spot.
There are also other places in Singapore which have been built to commemorate the legacy of Gandhi, such as the memorial that is home to the country’s ‘Hindi society’ and the ‘Mahatma Gandhi Centre’ for the action-driven leader’s universal values.
“But Gandhi’s ideals have resonated and endured beyond these physical traces,” Loong stressed.
He said, “Gandhi’s ideas have influenced far beyond India’s shores,” adding that the Mahatma’s philosophy of non-violence resistance, distinguished India from the other independence movements of that area.
“He championed non-violence to the core of his being,” the leader said.
He also reiterated the famous lines of the Mahatma– an eye for an leaves the whole world blind.
“We live in a world that is not only diverse but also more interconnected. Differences are more easily amplified and people more readily take offence.
Tensions and conflicts have been more prevalent not just between countries, races and religions but also within them,” he said.
“But if we try taking Gandhi’s message to heart then we should resolve all conflicts calmly and peacefully appreciating the views of the other side and without inflaming passions or hardening attitudes,” he added.
World leaders including Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and South Korean President Moon-Jae-in were also present at the event hosted by India. Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres also spoke at the gathering.
The event was hosted to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, which underlined the continuing relevance of Gandhian thoughts and values in today’s world.