Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, Teo Chee Hean, at the Joo Chiat 60th Anniversary and National Day Dinner on 4 August 2019.
“A Beautiful Home in Joo Chiat,
A Bright Future for All Singaporeans”
Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin
SMS Edwin Tong
My fellow former Grassroots Advisers of Joo Chiat Mr Lim Chee Oon,
Mr Chan Soo Sen, and
Mr Charles Chong, Deputy Speaker of Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening. I am very happy to be here with so many of you and also to see many familiar faces at Joo Chiat’s 60th Anniversary National Day Dinner.
Joo Chiat Experience
My own entry into politics was here in Joo Chiat in 1992, under the guidance and leadership of ESM Goh Chok Tong, then-Prime Minister, who brought me into his team for the Marine Parade GRC by-election. I had the good fortune to be guided at that time by my predecessor Mr Lim Chee Onn, who shared his experience with me very generously. And our fellow Marine Parade GRC MPs, Mr Othman Harone Eusofe and Mr Matthias Yao, were great comrades. Mr Choo Wee Khiang, also an advisor to the grassroots organisations here, helped me a great deal with my Chinese speeches for the rallies.
At that time in the early 90s, Joo Chiat was in a state of transition. The Government was lifting rent control over the shop houses in the area, which made up a significant number of the dwelling units in Joo Chiat. This encouraged and incentivised the rejuvenation of Joo Chiat. Today, Joo Chiat is known for being a modern, clean and safe estate, while retaining its rich history and multi-cultural heritage with people from different races and religions – Indian temples, Chinese temples, churches, and of course a very strong Peranakan culture as well.
I have continued to follow the developments here in Joo Chiat very closely, and was here to introduce Mr Chan Soo Sen as well as Mr Charles Chong to our activists as they took over the responsibility of looking after our residents here.
I am glad that Edwin and his team have put in much work over the last 4 years to further improve the lives of our Joo Chiat residents. Residents today enjoy many community spaces such as the recently enhanced parks at Telok Kurau and Elite Terrace. The Siglap Outfall launched by Edwin in 2017, under the Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (or ABC Waters) Programme, has given Joo Chiat residents another lovely space for community activities along the scenic waterfront at East Coast Park.
Joo Chiat now is on the cusp of another significant new development and rejuvenation. That is the Thomson-East Coast MRT stations at Siglap and Marine Terrace are expected to open in 2023. These two stations will allow our Joo Chiat residents to significantly shorten their travel time to the Central Business District and northern areas of Singapore, and will add to the many attractions of Joo Chiat as a place to live in and come to for good food and culture.
Tonight, I am happy to see many old friends and colleagues who have served in the Joo Chiat Citizens’ Consultative Committee (CCC) and other grassroots organisations over many years, especially in the early years of Joo Chiat to help develop and build up Joo Chiat. I can recognise Mr Seek Hang Peng, Mr Long Foo Choo, and Mr Abdullah Shafie. I also recall fondly those who are not here anymore – Mr Foo Kee Seng, Mr Kee Kah Hock, Mr Tan Wee Kiah, and the two Mr Pangs.
It was a humbling experience to walk the ground with these stalwarts. When I introduced myself to our residents, I see the puzzled look on their faces as they say, “Who are you? Who is this?” After I introduced myself, they said “I thought it’s Dr Yeoh Ghim Seng”. This was even after the by-election and having served here for a couple of years. This taught me a very valuable lesson. I learnt early from Mr Lim Chee Onn that there is no substitute for walking the ground, meeting our residents, listening to them, and addressing their needs and concerns here in Joo Chiat and nationally.
I encourage all of you to continue engaging and working with Edwin and his grassroots leaders to build a better, more cohesive Joo Chiat for future generations.
60 Years of Self-Government
The establishment of Joo Chiat as a constituency 60 years ago coincided with a significant milestone for Singapore – the attainment of self-government.
In 1959, Singapore adopted our own constitution and became an internal self-governing state, taking an important step towards independence. We became responsible for ourselves. Voting restrictions were removed, and voting was made compulsory for the first time. It was also the first time that all the seats in the Legislative Assembly were elected. The number of electoral divisions was doubled from 25 to 51. Joo Chiat, which was carved out from Katong, was one of the new constituencies created.
Following the general election on 30 May 1959, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in his first speech as Singapore’s first Prime Minister, reminded us that: “The good things [in] life do not fall down from the skies. They can only come by hard work over a long time.” Mr Lee urged all Singaporeans to “do their duty to themselves and their fellow citizens”, cautioning that this might require the people to sacrifice their individual interests so that “the paramount interest of the whole community could prevail.”
We succeeded in Singapore because Singaporeans heeded Mr Lee’s call to unite behind a common goal to build a better future for ourselves and for Singapore. And we worked together with Mr Lee, and with successive generations of leaders under Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee Hsien Loong to stay united and forge ahead as a nation.
Today, I would also like to talk about progressing together, and preparing for the future.
The Government is continuing to work hard to take care of all Singaporeans and help everyone achieve their aspirations.
We are providing more support to ensure that every child, from pre-school onwards, has a good start in life. We are making post-secondary and higher education more accessible and affordable. We are creating more pathways to success that take into account the different strengths of our students. NUS, NTU and SMU have been joined in recent years by SUTD, SIT and SUSS to provide new and career-relevant programmes to suit both young and mature students. We have also introduced aptitude-based admissions at ITE and the polytechnics, and opened programmes in completely new areas which never used to exist before like e-gaming, bio-tech, cybersecurity, aviation, or hospitality. Through these initiatives, we hope to help more students reach their full potential and achieve their aspirations for a better life, regardless of their background and family financial circumstances.
We have also been promoting lifelong-learning to help Singaporeans continuously pick up new skills to remain employable for life.
We are honouring and looking after our senior Singaporeans. The Pioneer Generation package, introduced in 2015, reached out to 450,000 Singaporeans. This year, we introduced the Merdeka Generation Package.
Our Merdeka Generation, born in the 1950s, grew up with Singapore. Many made sacrifices for their younger siblings and children, and for our nation. The men were amongst the earliest batches called up for National Service as we became responsible for our own defence and security.
The Merdeka Generation package reaches out to 500,000 more Singaporeans. Together, the Pioneer and Merdeka packages reach out to 950,000 Singaporeans out of our 3.47 million citizens – or more than 1 out of every 4 citizens. The packages directly and indirectly benefit almost every family in Singapore.
I understand that there are a good number of Pioneers and we have over 4,300 Merdeka Generation residents in Joo Chiat. Please join me in giving our Pioneers and Merdeka Generation a warm round of applause, as a small gesture of our appreciation for all your contributions to building Singapore.
Preparing for the Future
Second, we need to continue to think ahead and prepare for the future. When we look around the world and even our region today, we see turmoil, political instability, demonstrations and violent clashes on the streets. There is lack of confidence and trust, and uncertainty about their countries’ future.
Here in Singapore, we are fortunate to have harmony and stability. We work hard to improve the lives of Singaporeans, plan for the future, and not just work for today.
A key element is the way we plan and prepare for leadership renewal and succession. Senior leaders make way for the next generation in good time, but continue to serve in different capacities to share their experience and help the next generation of leaders to succeed.
ESM Goh is a very good example of that – both a beneficiary as well as someone who has helped mentor and guide the 3G leadership. ESM Goh, whom we have here with us today, succeeded Mr Lee Kuan Yew smoothly in 1990, and took Singapore further forward for 14 years. ESM Goh ensured a smooth transition when he handed over to PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2004, 15 years ago.
The political transition to our 4G leadership is underway. We have a strong team of 4G leaders, led by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat. I have worked with many of them over the years. They are capable people. They complement one another with a range of skills, competencies and backgrounds. Most importantly, we have to look at what is in their heart, and they have the interest of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart. That is the most important thing. Our 4G leadership team are committed to serve our people, and not any personal agenda.
They are reaching out, walking the ground, to get to know you – all Singaporeans – better, to work with you and for you, to shape our vision and plans for the future and turn those visions and plans into reality to make life better for all of us. I hope that all of you will also get to know them better, and work with them closely to take Singapore forward.
My heartiest congratulations on Joo Chiat’s 60th anniversary. I wish all of you a Happy National Day. Majulah Singapura!
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