PM Lee Hsien Loong at unveiling of SG50 commemorative notes

PM Lee Hsien Loong | 18 August 2015

Speech by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at unveiling of SG50 commemorative notes on 18 August 2015.


ESM Goh Chok Tong, DPM and Chairman MAS Tharman Shanmugaratnam, guests, fellow Singaporeans

Very happy to be here today to launch the Commemorative Notes as part of our SG50 celebrations. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has produced a set of Commemorative Notes and Coins this year to mark Singapore’s progress over the last half century.  They celebrate our shared heritage and the Singapore spirit.  The coin set was themed “Education, Building our Nation Together” and was launched by Minister Heng Swee Keat earlier in April. Today I am launching the set of notes comprising one $50 bill and five $10 bills today.

The notes draw inspiration from our collective Singaporean history, values and aspirations. I am glad the designers are here with us today to see the notes come to fruition.

As with our current portrait series of notes, a portrait of Mr Yusof Ishak graces the front of all the commemorative notes. He was our first President and an outstanding member of our pioneer generation and exemplified enduring Singaporean values of meritocracy, multiracialism, and modernisation.

The $50 note shows Mr Lee Kuan Yew rallying the people with “Merdeka!” This was back in 1959 when Singapore achieved internal self-government, and he became our first Prime Minister. Mr Lee and his colleagues believed in, and fought for a Singapore governed by elected representatives for the benefit of the people. Self-government in 1959 was a major step towards Singapore’s eventual independence in 1965. Very few people, when we became independent, would have expected this little red dot, with no resources or hinterland, to survive, much less to thrive. But our leaders and people showed indomitable spirit and grit, they worked together, they grew the economy and built a place where all of us, regardless of race, language or religion, called home.  So it is apt that the $50 note also features our first National Day Parade, a year after independence. It represented the resolve of the newly-formed nation to defy all odds and it showed the can-do spirit that continues to drive us to excel and to realise bigger dreams.

Even as we reflect on our past, we must look to the future. That is why the note depicts Punggol, our latest new town, which symbolises the continuing renewal of our homes and communities which is our responsibility, to build on the legacy which we have inherited and carry on to realise the vision of the Pioneers to make Singapore our best home.

The $10 notes illustrate the values that make Singapore a “Vibrant Nation, Endearing Home” for all of us. They celebrate Singaporeans from different walks of life, who together make this island our home. I am glad that some of the people depicted are here with us today.

Let me briefly mention the themes depicted in the notes which you saw in the animation earlier. First, “Regardless of race, language or religion”, one of Singapore’s key founding principles – multiracialism. We have achieved social harmony not by chance, but through conscious, deliberate effort and vigilance on the part of all of us - the government, the communities and each Singaporean. As a result of which, today we are proud of our diverse and harmonious multi-racial, multi-religious society.

We celebrate “Opportunities for all” which underscores our belief in a fair and inclusive meritocracy. For students in school and adults at work, we strive to create varied pathways for individuals to pursue their passions and fulfil aspirations. We create a whole society where our young can look to the future and chase rainbows – be it academic success, technical expertise, sporting or artistic achievements.

We celebrate our being “Safe and secure”, the peace and stability that made possible our development and prosperity. For that, we salute the men and women in the SAF and the Home Team who have been vigilant and have given us the peace of mind to study, work and play.

We celebrate “Strong Families” because we are committed to our families as a basic building block of society. We celebrate respect for our elders who have contributed so much in bringing us here. Families are the centre of our lives for many of us, and the energy, drive and enthusiasm of our young people brought up in stable families, together with the wisdom, experience and guidance of our elders will ensure our nation’s resilience and dynamism.

Finally we celebrate a “Caring Community, Active Citizenry”, reminding us that each of us plays an important role in fostering a compassionate and cohesive society. Many Singaporeans are active citizens, despite their busy schedules, many volunteer their time, knowledge and expertise at the grassroots and the community, in their interest groups, in their religious groups to lend support to fellow Singaporeans and improve common spaces.

This is our Jubilee Year, it is special. It is a time to reflect on our shared history and the sacrifices of our pioneers, to reflect on the values that brought us here and pledge to preserve and uphold these values. So that Singapore will keep growing and thriving for many more years to come.

The Commemorative Notes and Coins are the result of a lot of effort by the MAS and they have spent a long time thinking over the themes, the presentation, the packaging, the whole idea of this element of our Jubilee celebrations, how to capture these significant milestones and core values in beautiful illustrations.  I hope the notes and coins will prove popular and Singaporeans will collect them, cherish them and also absorb and express the lessons and values depicted in them. Happy SG50!