SM Lee Hsien Loong at the SFCCA-SCCCI Appreciation Dinner

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 12 June 2024

Transcript of speech by Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong at SFCCA-SCCCI Appreciation Dinner on 12 June 2024.

 

Please scroll down for the English translation.

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新加坡中华总商会会长 高泉庆先生
新加坡宗乡会馆联合总会会长 蔡其生先生
代总理和各位部长们
各位会馆和商团领袖、华社各界代表
各位来宾

大家晚上好!

今晚,由衷感谢新加坡中华总商会和宗乡会馆联合总会联办这场晚宴。感谢蔡会长和高会长的致辞和祝福。也感谢新加坡华乐团的精彩演出。在这里和大家齐聚一堂,让我回想到了2004年我刚上任的时候,你们也为我举办了千人宴。一晃眼,20年过去了。当年的许多华社领袖和我一样,现在都已经交棒了。但是很高兴看到大家仍然关心国家大事及华社事务。过去20年,能够以总理的身份为人民服务,既是我的职责,也是我的荣幸。感谢大家给我的支持。在我任期内,我一直和华社保持着紧密的联系。政府通过由部长领导的华社联络组,深入了解华社,并与多方合作,拉近各个华人组织之间的距离。多年来,我们建立了互信和良好的基础,同时也共同经历了种种挑战。无论是当年的全球金融危机或是近年的冠病疫情,华社都以大局为重,积极配合政府,一起渡过难关。华社领袖更是劳苦功高 ,谢谢大家!

本地华社组织大多历史悠久,根基深厚。回顾新加坡的建国之路,华社领袖和各界人士扮演了举足轻重的角色。从两百多年前我们是英国殖民地、后来成为自治邦以及与马来西亚合并、之后经历了新马分家、独立自主的过程,华社始终是一个重要的支柱,让新加坡可以从第三世界发展成第一世界的国家。

在我的任期内,我见证了华社不断自我更新,与时俱进。每一次出席总商会理事的就职典礼时,我就有机会与新的理事们交流,了解他们如何制定愿景和策略。每一届的理事也会竭尽所能,确保总商会能够帮助新型企业,并根据新会员的需求,为他们寻求商机。同时,总商会也不遗余力帮助本地商团转型升级,协助企业员工提升技能。总商会也配合政府政策,协助新加坡的中小型企业,扩展业务,进军海外市场。高会长说,不好意思唱 “ 我是一只小小小小鸟”。其实,当年的“小鸟”不少都已经羽翼丰满了,有充分的能力在广阔的天空展翅高飞,在国内外市场闯出一片新天地,成为家喻户晓的新加坡品牌。所以是唱新的一首歌的时候了。然而,每年还是会有一些新的“菜鸟”需要总商会丰富的资源和人脉来突破局限,壮大实力。当然,政府也会继续通过各种措施,帮助你们。

我国的华人社群活力四射。 我们每年引进不少新移民,华社都积极接纳他们,欢迎他们为我国经济注入活力,让本地华族文化更加丰富多元。华社组织是新移民融入新加坡社会的重要桥梁。通商中国推出了不少项目,促进我国与中国商界和人民之间的商业合作与友好往来。商会和会馆都以潜移默化的方式帮助新移民入乡随俗,让他们能够在本地结交各族群的新朋友。久而久之,这些新移民也会培养新加坡华人独特的身份认同,越来越有归属感。这对促进我国的凝聚力是非常重要的。

特殊的新加坡华人身份认同感

新加坡是世界上唯一一个华人占多数,却保持多元种族、多元宗教,人人都平等的社会。我们没有因为华人居多,就顺理成章,完全以华族文化作为新加坡文化。新加坡华族文化是建立在一个多元文化的环境里,我们接受和尊重其他种族和文化,同时也不断和各大种族相互交流。这是非常宝贵的,也是新加坡华人的特征之一。

所有国民都应该以新加坡的利益为首要考量。虽然新加坡华人跟世界各地的其他华人属于同个种族, 一些华人也觉得大家都是龙的传人,不过我们必须牢记,自己首先是新加坡人。最近,《海峡时报》的一位曾经派驻北京的记者就谈到他被当地人质问的经历。他说在中国时,经常会有人告诉他 – 既然你是华人,你就理所当然会理解并支持中国的立场。但是这名记者不认为属于同一个种族就一定会接受彼此的见解。他指出自己更会跟有相同成长经历的国人产生归属感。他坚定的表示我是新加坡人,这里是我的祖国。我认同他的看法, 新加坡有自己的利益考量,也有自己要维护的立场。对于一位新加坡人来说,这样的心态是很自然的,也是应有的,正确的。

在文化的层面上,我们融贯中西,也深受东南亚文化的影响,从而形成了具有本土特色的华族文化。2017 年,在华社的鼎力支持下,新加坡华族文化中心开幕了。经过一番努力,华族文化中心已经成为本地华社的一个亮点,它汇集了华社里的各个文化团体和组织,推出多项精彩的活动,让国人以新加坡华族文化为荣。

一直以来,华社组织对我国的文化发展贡献巨大。其中,宗乡总会、各个会馆、以及华文媒体一直坚守着发扬和传承文化的使命,努力吸引年轻人加入他们的行列。例如,新加坡华乐团上星期举行了这个乐季的压轴音乐会,就呈现了新谣代表人物梁文福的创作。这两场音乐会都爆满,观众包括男女老少,还有人远道而来来参加。我也出席了。当晚,我们都陶醉在首首动听的乐曲中。宗乡总会举办的春到河畔也深受国内外访客的欢迎,这个一年一度的活动,除了让大家在农历新年感染佳节气息,也让人们有机会了解本地的传统华族文化,当然还有机会与财神爷有约。政府也一如既往重视母语教育,从多方面着手让学生保持对母语以及华族文化的兴趣。通过这些年的努力,如今年轻一代对本地华人在多元种族社会里的地位和角色有了更深一层的认识,也更积极发扬本地独特的华族文化。整体来说,我们有理由对华族语言和文化的传承有把握。我相信只要我们多管齐下,再接再厉,就能够让华族文化生生不息,让新加坡的文化底蕴更加深厚。

高会长刚才引用了三首歌来表达本地华商的心声,我都听到了。在这里,请允许我我尝试以本地创作来回应。

高会长说华社在“等我。”大家请放心,不用像黎沸挥 一样“等你等到我心痛”。我已经交棒了,不过就如梁文福的歌词,政府会和大家 “向着目标,手牵手,一起走到” 。接下来的日子,不一定是风平浪静,可是陈佳明说得对:我们要有信心“阳光总在风雨后,请相信有彩虹 ,风风雨雨都接受,我一直会在你的左右”。

最后,衷心感谢大家的浓情厚意。我相信要华社团结一致,与政府爆出密切合作,我们就能够继续乘风破浪,勇往直前。让我们全力以赴支持黄循财总理和他的团队,一起携手前进,打造一个更美好的新加坡!

谢谢大家!

 

 

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English translation of the Mandarin speech

I thank SCCCI and SFCCA for organising this appreciation dinner. I thank Mr Thomas Chua and Mr Kho Choon Keng for their speeches and well wishes. I also thank SCO for their performance.

The gathering tonight reminded me of the dinner that SCCCI and SFCCA organised for me 20 years ago, when I just became the Prime Minister. 20 years have passed in the blink of an eye. Like myself, many Chinese community leaders present at that dinner had also passed the baton to the next generation of leaders, but I am heartened to know that they remain concerned about national affairs and the Chinese community. It has been both my duty and honour to serve the people as the Prime Minister for the last 20 years. During my term, I have always maintained close contact with the Chinese community, and we went through many challenges together. Through the Chinese Community Liaison Group, led by Ministers, the Government has deepened its understanding of the Chinese community, and worked with various groups to bring the community closer together. Over the years, we have developed a sound foundation of mutual trust, and also went through many challenges together. Whether it was the Global Financial Crises or the more recent COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese community always prioritised national interests, and worked hand-in-hand with the government to overcome the challenges. Much credit goes to the Chinese community leaders. Thank you!

Many Chinese community organisations have deep historical roots in Singapore. The Chinese community has played an important role throughout Singapore’s nation-building journey. From the time when we were under British colonial rule, to self-government and merger with Malaysia, then separation and eventual independence, the Chinese community has been a key pillar in Singapore’s progress from third world to first.

During my term, I have witnessed how the Chinese community has evolved and kept up with the times. Whenever I attended SCCCI’s Council Installation Ceremonies , I would take the opportunity to engage the newly appointed council members and understand their plans for the future. Council members of each term had done their best so that SCCCI is able to help businesses in emerging industries and new members identify business opportunities. SCCCI has also persevered in its mission to help local companies transform their businesses and upskill their workers. SCCCI also works with the government to grow our SMEs, and help them expand their business and venture overseas. Mr Kho quoted lyrics from a popular Chinese song , to suggest how much local SMEs had benefitted from government’s support, and how they would not have made it on their own. Actually, many SMEs have gone from strength to strength, and have done well both locally and overseas, establishing themselves as well-known Singapore brands. But there will be new SMEs that would require SCCCI’s resources and networks to achieve a breakthrough and grow stronger. And the government will continue to support them through various measures.

Our Chinese community is dynamic. We bring in many new immigrants annually and the Chinese community welcomes them to contribute to our economy and enrich our Chinese culture. Our Chinese community organisations play an important role in the social integration of these new immigrants. Business chambers and clan associations have also found ways to help new immigrants embrace our way of life and make friends from all races and communities. Over time, these new immigrants will also develop the unique Singaporean Chinese identity and grow their sense of belonging to Singapore. This is critical to our social cohesion.

The unique Singaporean Chinese Identity

Singapore is the only country in the world that has a Chinese majority population yet maintains a multicultural, multireligious society where everyone is equal. Despite having a Chinese majority, we did not choose to build the Singapore culture completely around the Chinese culture. Singapore Chinese culture is established on the foundations of multiculturalism, we accept and respect other races and cultures, and constantly interact with one another. This is very precious, and is a unique feature of the Singaporean Chinese identity.

In Singapore, all citizens should put Singapore and its interests first. While the Singapore Chinese share their ethnic roots with other Chinese around the world, and some Chinese feel that we are all “descendants of the Dragon”, it is important that we remember we are first and foremost Singaporeans. Recently a Straits Times journalist who was formerly based in Beijing shared his experience of being frequently questioned by locals on his identity. He would be told that since he was Chinese, he should understand and support China’s position. This journalist did not think that just because you share the same race, you would accept the same perspective. He pointed out that he felt a stronger affinity towards people who shared the same experiences growing up. He firmly believes that I am Singaporean and this is my country. I agree with him. As Singaporeans, we have our own interests to protect and our own positions to uphold.

The blending of cultures from the East and West, as well as influence from Southeast Asian cultures have shaped our distinct local Chinese culture. In 2017, with the strong support of the Chinese community, we opened the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC). Over time, SCCC has become the hub of the Chinese community, bringing together many Chinese cultural groups and organisations to offer a wide range of activities that showcase the best of Singapore Chinese culture.

The Chinese community has always made important contributions to the cultural development in Singapore. Among them, the SFCCA, various clan associations and the Chinese media have made it their mission to promote local Chinese culture and encourage the younger generation to join their ranks. For example, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra held its season finale concert last week, featuring the works of our Xinyao icon Dr Liang Wern Fook. Both concerts were packed with audience members young and old, and many came from afar. I too was there, and thoroughly enjoyed the music. SFCCA’s River Hongbao is much loved by Singaporeans and tourists alike. This annual event gives visitors the opportunity to soak up the festive spirit during Chinese New Year. They also get to chance to learn about our local traditional Chinese culture, and meet the God of Fortune too! Our government remains committed to mother tongue language education and make much effort to keep students interested in their mother tongue and Chinese culture. Through our efforts over the years, the younger generation today have a deeper appreciation of our unique local Chinese culture that is rooted in a multicultural society, and they are keen to promote this culture. Overall, we have good reason to be confident about the preservation and promotion of the Chinese language and culture. I believe that if we continue to persevere in our efforts, our Chinese culture will continue to thrive and grow richer with time.

Mr Kho used three songs to convey the feelings of the Chinese business community. I hear him, and I will respond with three songs by local songwriters. Mr Kho said that the Chinese community is “waiting for me”. Rest assured, I won’t make you wait for too long. Although I have handed over, the government “will move towards the goal, hand in hand and get there together.” The days may not always be bright, but we must remain confident because “after the rain, the sun will shine, and there will be a rainbow. Whatever the trials we face, I will always be with you.”

Lastly, I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for your good wishes and warm regards. I believe, as long as the Chinese community remains united, we will overcome the difficulties and forge ahead. Let us do our best to support Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and his team, and together with them, build a better Singapore! Thank you.

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