Keynote speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at Berita Harian’s Achiever of the Year Awards 2022 on 3 November 2022.
CEO of SPH Media Group Ms Teo Lay Lim,
Editor-in-Chief Mr Wong Wei Kong,
Editor of Berita Harian, Mr Saat Abdul Rahman,
Parliamentary and Cabinet Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very happy to be here tonight at Berita Harian’s Anugerah Jauhari 2022 and as Taufik said just now, this really feels like a family gathering. Please let me begin with a few words in Malay.
Saya berbesar hati dapat bersama anda malam ini untuk meraikan pencapaian dan kejayaan masyarakat Melayu/Islam.
Tahun ini adalah tahun ke-24 Anugerah Jauhari diadakan.
Ia lebih istimewa kerana Berita Harian juga menyambut ulang tahunnya yang ke-65.
Sejak ditubuhkan, Berita Harian bukan sahaja akhbar utama bagi masyarakat Melayu/Islam. Ia juga memainkan peranan sosial yang penting, dalam memajukan kepentingan masyarakat Melayu/Islam dan mendukung keharmonian sosial Singapura.
Berita Harian juga berfungsi sebagai pemacu kemajuan. Melalui acara-acara seperti Anugerah Jauhari, ia memberi inspirasi kepada masyarakat untuk mencapai kejayaan dengan pelbagai cara.
Sejak Anugerah Jauhari diadakan, para pemenangnya terdiri daripada pelbagai bidang, seperti perubatan, perniagaan, seni, sukan, agama dan juga kerja sosial.
Begitu juga dengan para penerima malam ini. Mereka cemerlang dalam bidang-bidang berbeza dan telah banyak menyumbang kepada masyarakat Melayu/Islam dan Singapura.
Kami bangga dengan semua penerima Anugerah Jauhari. Mereka bukti nyata kecemerlangan yang dicapai masyarakat Melayu/Islam.
Oleh itu, saya mengucapkan setinggi-tinggi tahniah kepada Berita Harian dan para penerima anugerah malam ini.
Syabas kepada anda semua! Terima kasih.
It’s very good to be here, to gather together, to recognise the contributions and celebrate the achievements of outstanding individuals in the Malay/Muslim community. Let me start by congratulating once again all the award recipients as well as their family members and partners who have made this possible. So once again, let’s give a big round of applause for them. Congratulations and well done!
The first Anugerah Jauhari was held in 1998. Since then, it has recognised an outstanding cast of Malay/Muslim individuals across many different fields for their accomplishments. These include Shafie Shamsuddin in the area of business, Imam Syed Hassan Al-Attas for his extensive efforts in inter-faith work, and of course our President Halimah Yacob, for her work to improve conditions for workers; and this is just to name a few.
Tonight, we are recognising three similarly accomplished individuals. We have heard about them from the citations earlier, but let me say a few words on their accomplishments.
The first is songwriter and lyricist Mohamed Yusofe or Yusnor Ef, who was awarded the Lifetime Achiever of the Year Award. I’ve known Mr Yusofe Ef for some time when I was in MCCY. I have interacted with him and when we gave out awards to recognise some of our cultural pioneers, he was one of them. I remembered on one occasion he gave a speech, and he spoke passionately about the importance of culture and heritage. He said, “the soul of our nation is our heritage. Without the past, we have no present. Without the present, we have no future.” He is known as the grandfather of Malay songs in Southeast Asia, he has written hundreds of musical hits that are well-loved and enjoy continued popularity today. Yusnor, who once counted famous actor P Ramlee as his mentor, regularly pays this forward by sharing his own knowledge and skills with younger musicians and artists. And of course, Yusnor’s accomplishments go beyond music – as all of you know, he is an educator as well, responsible for several Malay Language textbooks, and even educational television programmes on Malay language and Islamic religious knowledge.
Next is Associate Professor Hadijah Rahmat, who received the Achiever of the Year Award. Hadijah is widely recognised for her literary contributions to Malay literature. Through her numerous poems, short stories, plays and even children’s books, she has inspired many to fall in love with the Malay language. She has also shaped the way Malay is taught to a whole generation of students, having helped review the Malay language curriculum in 2005 to incorporate the vision of ‘Ariff Budiman’ – which emphasises the importance of values and culture in language study. Today, she continues to contribute to the study of the Malay language and culture at the National Institute of Education, where she also sets aside time to train and mentor budding Malay teachers. And just now, she promised to give me some bilingual Malay and English books that she has written to help me continue to improve my Malay.
Finally, there is Lee Syafiq, who received the Young Achiever of the Year Award. He started out his journey in culinary arts in ITE and learnt his craft in several restaurants before he struck out on his own. Today, Syafiq is a proud and successful hawker whose affordable halal gourmet burgers across Singapore challenges our traditional notions of hawker food. And he is even taking this overseas by sharing our hawker heritage with the world through an outlet at Times Square in New York. Having achieved success, Syafiq is also mentoring new aspiring hawkers under NEA’s Hawkers’ Development Programme. Our three very deserving award recipients tonight, let’s give them a big round of applause.
I must say that SMS Zaqy (Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad) and I are most happy because two of the award recipients, Hadijah and Syafiq, are also residents of our GRC. Purely by coincidence of course.
Through their accomplishments, Yusnor, Hadijah and Syafiq have each had a positive impact on the Malay/Muslim community and on Singapore. What is remarkable and noteworthy is not just that they have excelled in their different ways and fields; it is also that each of them benefited from teachers and mentors on their journey to success as you saw on the video just now and now they are paying forward by helping to teach the next generation of musicians, teachers, and hawkers.
Their example highlights a simple truth, that none of us can achieve success on our own – we all need people to inspire us, to teach us, or support us in times of need; that we can only achieve remarkable things if we work together and support one another. This brings to mind the ‘gotong royong’ spirit of the Malay community. And that is why the achievements of award recipients here tonight are not theirs alone, but really achievements of the entire Malay/Muslim community.
This idea of mutual support, by helping one another to progress and succeed, is not new. We have put this idea at the heart of our approach to help every Singaporean pursue excellence and success. It is why we have many Malay/Muslim organisations working closely with the Government to support and uplift the community at all levels. Organisations such as MENDAKI, which works to give our children from lower-income families a good start in life through education; or the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP), which helps develop and grow the community of Muslim professionals in Singapore. And the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which supports and nurtures Malay/Muslim enterprises.
These are just a few examples. There are many others. But I would be remiss if I did not recognise one important institution tonight, and that is Berita Harian, which is celebrating its 65th anniversary this year.
Over the decades, Berita Harian has established itself as a well-respected institution in Singapore. It not only promotes and preserves the Malay language and culture, but also champions the community’s well-being.
We saw this during our fight against COVID-19 these past two and a half years when we had to suspend in-person gatherings at mosques and other places of worship in 2020, Berita Harian partnered with local asatizahs to provide socio-religious content on its social media platforms.
More recently, Berita Harian collaborated with MENDAKI to launch a one-stop portal offering free educational content to ensure that primary school students have access to quality resources.
So, these efforts underscore Berita Harian’s commitment to supporting and advancing the interests of the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore. To Berita Harian and the entire team of the newspaper, congratulations for reaching this milestone!
Through the collective efforts of all these organisations and the Government, we have seen the Malay/Muslim community continue to progress over the years. For example, more Malays are doing well in our schools and Institutes of Higher Learning. Over the last 10 years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of Malays among the top 10 per cent of scorers in national examinations. We have also seen a substantial increase in Malay graduates at our autonomous universities.
These are important achievements because good education outcomes lead to better jobs and opportunities. And this is also the reason we have also seen the incomes of Malay households increase steadily over the years.
But ultimately, the success and progress of both the community and our awardees tonight would of course not have been possible without grit and hard work, perseverance, passion and most importantly the desire for excellence by every individual. So, I hope these awards continue to inspire many more Malay/Muslims to similarly strive for success and excellence across different fields.
More importantly, I hope it will encourage all of us to give back to the community, and support the next generation as Yusnor, Hadijah and Syafiq have done. Because we have in all of us the capacity to help and mentor others. We all have valuable life experiences to share, or skills to impart, and the privilege of being able to open doors and create more opportunities for others. So let us each do our part and support one another to help every individual progress and succeed.
If we continue to do this, I am confident that the Malay/Muslim community will continue to thrive and excel in the years ahead. Together, we can keep Singapore a place where those who work hard can achieve truly remarkable things. We can make Singapore a place of opportunities for everyone to realise their full potential and to be the best that they can be in anything they wish to do.
Congratulations once again to the award recipients, and to Berita Harian for its 65th anniversary. And I thank all of you being here and wish you of you a pleasant evening.
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