Dr Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar, President, Jamiyah Singapore
Mr Tan Thiam Lye, President, Taoist Federation
Mr Tan Lee Huak, President, Singapore Buddhist Lodge
Organisations like Jamiyah Singapore, Taoist Federation and the Singapore Buddhist Lodge have always been at the forefront of social support, giving the less fortunate and vulnerable members of the community much needed comfort and support. I thank you sincerely for all the help that you have been giving.
2. As I was coming up to this beautiful auditorium, Mr Tan Lee Huak asked me, “Is this your second time at the Lodge?”. Some years ago, I came for a Mother’s Day event, so although my answer is this is officially my second time here, I actually visited the Lodge very frequently as a young kid.
3. When I was very young, I lived at the Bukit Ho Swee area with my grandmother. My grandmother prayed here so she came here almost every day. Once a week or every two weeks, I would visit the Lodge with her. I have eaten many of your free vegetarian meals. By providing free food and vegetarian meals, you have a whole community gathering here.
4. My grandmother passed away 30 years ago. She was a Buddhist who devoted herself to the religion and found a lot of comfort in it. She lived to be about 80 years old. Towards the end of her life, she suddenly found that she had advanced lung cancer, and within a few months, she had passed away. On the whole, the last few months were difficult for her. But she experienced only a few months of illness before she passed away, and was healthy prior to her illness.
5. During Chinese New Year and other auspicious occasions, we wish people a long life – 寿比南山. But having a long life has two meanings, at least from the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) point of view.
6. There is your biological life which consists of your healthy lifespan, and your actual lifespan. What we want is to make sure is that like my grandmother, you will have a healthy life, with only a few months’ difference, rather than 10 years’ difference. When you live for 10 years in ill health, there is no quality of life. So when we wish people long life, we are talking about your healthy life, not just your biological life.
7. Now that I am the Minister for Health, I have realised the importance of making our healthy lifespan and biological lifespan as close as possible. Advanced medicine may help, but that is not the main thing. By the time you fall sick and rely on advanced medicine to prolong your life and keep you as healthy as possible, it is never the same. The way to make a long healthy lifespan happen is preventive care – 保健重要过治疗。
8. MOH must become a Ministry of Health, not a Ministry of Sickness, which is why we have been focusing so much on preventive care, and helping people get healthy. It is important in our next phase of work, and the community must play a part in preventive care. The most important thing is how we eat, sleep, exercise and lead our lives, and whether every one of our seniors feel that they are loved, receive care and have relationships. That is the best medicine for all of us.
9. Events like this are a very good reminder that no matter what difficulties you face in your life, there are organisations and community partners that show that our society cares. When my grandmother came for a free meal, she made many friends and could feel the love and relationships around her. So how do we do this beyond this Lodge? If we do it all over our community, we will have a system to make our seniors as healthy as possible.
10. I thank you once again for inviting me. I wish everyone a happy, healthy life.