PM Lee delivered his 2015 National Day Rally speech on 23 August 2015 at the Institute of Technical Education College Central. He spoke in Malay and Chinese, followed by English.
Here is the transcript of the English speech in full.
For the video with sign language interpretation, please scroll to the bottom of the page.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
My fellow Singaporeans, good evening.
First, let us thank Kit Chan again for her beautiful singing and also for dedicating her song to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I am very glad I invited her to the rally, and I am very touched that she offered to sing “Home”, which is a fitting tribute to Mr Lee and a good start for the SG50 National Day Rally. Two weeks ago, on the 9th of August, we celebrated our Golden Jubilee with a parade at the Padang. For everyone who took part at the Padang, at the Floating Platform, around the Bay, watching at home or overseas, that night was something special to remember. It was not just a birthday bash, we were celebrating something far greater.
First of all, we celebrated our resolve to defend ourselves and to survive over the last 50 years. We started out at independence with only two infantry battalions in a rough neighbourhood. But our pioneers were determined to defend ourselves - we built up the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Within four years, we paraded a few of our units on National Day in 1969.
Overhead, we had one Hunter aircraft and one Alouette helicopter flying the Singapore flag. In the mobile column, we had 18 AMX-13 tanks, which were appearing in public for the first time and Major Goh Lye Choon was a second in command. Singaporeans cheered, everyone understood what it meant and it was not just Singaporeans who took note. Fifty years later, our pioneer servicemen kicked off the SG50 vintage parade. Right marker, Colonel Swee Boon Chai - first batch, Officer Cadet School (OCS). Marching with him was Captain Hong Seng Mak, the legendary Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) - Tiger Hong. Ibrahim Bulat, who trained the first national servicemen. John Norfor and K S Rajan, our pioneer pilots. Chan Seck Sung, our first US Ranger-trained commando, still wearing a red beret. Encik Mohd Saleh, Warrant Officer Class 1 Navy pioneer who was one of the oldest participants, 77 years young. We had Corporal Philip Ng, a citizen soldier, NSF 4 SIR 1972, NS Man 61 SIR, ten years - 1974 to 1984 - now Mindef reserve, still marching. And many others too, older, greyer but the spirit remain undaunted and I am so glad that we have some of them here with us tonight. Thank you very much. Take a bow together.
Above us, instead of one Hunter fighter, we had 20 F-16s, flying across the Padang forming the Number “50”. A Chinook helicopter flew the flag, escorted by two Apaches and Colonel Goh Lye Choon, now retired, was once again the Second-in-Command (2-IC) of the mobile column, this time on a Leopard tank. That is him. Behind Lye Choon, 178 vehicles rolled past the City Hall steps. Tanks, artillery, AA missile launchers, special ops vehicles, Hazmat vehicles and completing the mobile column we had nine vehicles carrying nine families. They were the pioneers who had served in the SAF and the Home Team and they were on parade with their children who are presently serving and in two cases, with their grandchildren too. And here we have a family - grandfather, father and son. The son is Corporal (Cpl) Tajol Isfahan, 22 years old who joined the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) full-time three months ago. The father is Senior Warrant Office Mohd Azlan, who’s 48 years old, who is an SCDF Marine Command Specialist and their grandfather Mr Selamat, 78 years old. He joined the Singapore Fire Brigade in 1948 before I was born – I think before most of you were born. He was involved in many major fire and rescue incidents – the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961, the Robinson’s Department Store fire in 1972, Hotel New World in 1986. Three generations saluting the nation and we saluted them back.
Secondly, on National Day, we celebrated how we had turned vulnerability into strength. We started off with no hinterland and a weak economy. We depended on our entrepot trade, but our neighbours were building their own ports and sought to bypass us. Our workers were unskilled and anxious about their future but we determined to make the world our hinterland. And the tripartite partners worked together, worked hard to create the best workforce in the world. The Government, the employers and the Unions, we worked together, Business Environment Risk Intelligence (BERI) every year ranked us number 1 in the world. And with that workforce, we made PSA and Changi, the best in the world.
We were a poor third world country; people lived in cramped and squalid slums, no modern sanitation, no utilities, but we built HDB flats to house all of us and made Singapore a first world metropolis and our beautiful home. Nearly all our water came from Johor and every now and again when an issue arose with Malaysia, some crazy politician would threaten to turn off the tap, to get us in line, but we did not die of thirst. We cleaned up our rivers, we dammed them up to become reservoirs, we built Marina Barrage and turned Marina Bay into Marina reservoir. Our whole island became a catchment area. We invented NEWater and on National Day 2002, we toasted our success. Huat Ah!
Thirdly, we celebrated our journey from third world to first as one united people. When we separated from Malaysia, we were not yet one people. Memories of the race riots were fresh and raw. The minorities were uncertain of their place in the new country. They saw what had happened in Malaysia. They wondered, will the new Singapore Government keep its promise of a multi-racial society. But 50 years on, we celebrate as one united people. On National Day, when the siren sounded, we stood and recited the Pledge together - regardless of race, language or religion. We sang Majulah Singapura.
What an exhilarating journey these 50 years have been. How did we get here? I will put it down to three factors. Firstly, we determined to be a multi-racial society. Secondly, we created a culture – a culture of self-reliance, and also mutual support. And thirdly, we kept faith between the Government and the people.
We believed that before race, language and religion, we should first and foremost be Singaporean. PM Lee
We believed that before race, language and religion, we should first and foremost be Singaporean.
First of all, multi-racialism. We separated from Malaysia because we believed in this ideal of a multi-racial society. We believed that before race, language and religion, we should first and foremost be Singaporean. That was the fundamental reason for our foundation as a country. So we came down hard on chauvinists and racial extremists. We built HDB estates where all the different races lived and mingled together. There are no segregated ghettos in Singapore. We made English our working language and gradually all our schools shifted to teaching in English. We created Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) so that minorities would always be represented in Parliament and this way, we encouraged all the communities to come together and yet gave each community space to maintain their own cultures and their own ways of life. When delicate and awkward issues arose, we dealt with them together.
For example, when we discovered the Jemaah Islamiyah group, planning to set off suicide bombs in Singapore after 9/11, we handled it as one people; we did not divide into Muslims and non-Muslims. At the same, we made the effort to bring everybody together and to ensure that every community could hold his own and not be left behind. So we set up self-help groups, the communities did, starting with the Council for the Development of Singapore Malay/Muslim Community (Mendaki), later the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), then Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC) and the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and the Eurasian Association. The Government supported them and so we progressed together.
Therefore, for SG50, every community in Singapore is celebrating because every community has progressed with the nation. And each group is celebrating with the other groups because we are one united people. I have attended many SG50 celebrations this year – a Catholic Jubilee Mass at the Indoor Stadium; the SG50 Kita National Day Observance Ceremony here in this campus, led by the Malay/ Muslim organisations but with other groups participating; a Buddhist celebration at the Indoor Stadium; a Protestant prayer event at the National Stadium; a joint concert organised by the Taoist Federation; the New Creation Church and others at the Star Performing Arts Centre. Here you see, one of the items - a Chinese Kungfu group performing with the Silat group. One function. At one dinner, I had sitting around my table representatives of all the world’s major religions and I posted the picture on Facebook. It showed the Rabbi of Singapore together with the Mufti of Singapore and Mr Gurmit Singh, a Sikh leader who was then chairing the IRO, the Inter-Religious Organisation. Each had different dietary rules, each was served food that met his religious requirements, but nothing stopped them from having a meal together and being friends together, in fact, they took a selfie together, which I also posted on Facebook. Only in Singapore!
Some people may think that racial and religious harmony is not a problem anymore and that I am making too much about this. But they would be wrong. Race and religion are always sensitive matters, especially for us and in some ways, today, more complex and difficult to handle than 20 years ago, because religiosity has gone up. Many societies, people are taking their religion more seriously, happens in developed countries like US, Britain, Australia, Germany where you see racial and religious tensions. Happens in Singapore too, not tensions but people taking religion more seriously and everywhere people exposed and vulnerable to extremist ideologists, like the Jihadist ideology of ISIS. We are a multi-racial and multi-religious society and we are always at risk of deep fault lines opening up, and we must never take our present happy state of affairs for granted.
The second factor of our success, after multi-racialism, is our culture of self-reliance and mutual support. We knew right from the start that to strike out and blaze a path on our own, everyone had to pull their weight and be counted, we could not afford free-riders and that is why Mr Lee Kuan Yew exhorted us over and over again to become a rugged society. We do not use that term quite so often anymore, but our people must still be robust and tough, be able to take hard knocks, always striving to be better. No one owes us a living and we have to make our own way forward in the world. But a rugged society does not mean every man for himself. We are strong even though we are small, because we are strong together. The ethos of our society is clear – if you work hard, you should do well and that is good for you and we should cheer you and celebrate it, but at the same time if you do well, we expect you to help others and everyone has to work together so that we succeed as one team Singapore.
We have got to inculcate this ethos in our young people too. And that is why we encourage our children to play sports to experience losing and winning together. That is why we send them on adventure learning and character education. To OBS, Outward Bound Singapore in Pulau Ubin and also on overseas expeditions, so that they can toughen themselves up and learn to work with one another as a team. When I was in Secondary four, my principal sent me to OBS, the experience made a deep impression on me. Nowadays, students have many more opportunities to go for adventure learning, here and also abroad. Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) had a very successful programme, the Omega Challenge. It has been going on for seven years, the students who have been, have testified to how much they benefitted from it. Tragically on their recent expedition to climb Mount Kinabalu, the Omega Challenge group was caught in an earthquake. Seven students, two teachers and a guide died. We all mourned them and grieved with their families, we held a National Day of Remembrance. It will take us a long time to get over this tragedy but life goes on and it is important that we move on. And I know that the other TKPS students and teachers who were on this trip are courageously doing so. We have to go on with the adventure training, we will take the necessary safety precautions but we must keep pushing our limits to bring up a generation who will grow up tough and able to work closely together.
The third factor for our success is that we have kept faith between the Government and the people. We have built up this bond between the Government and the people over the past 50 years. The Government has kept its promises, what we said we would do, we did do. We have kept our politics honest, we insisted on high standards of integrity in public life, no corruption, no dishonesty. We are also honest when it comes to policies and when it comes to the choices that we have to make. We do not shy away from hard realities, we do not sugar-coat difficult issues. We do right by Singaporeans. In turn, our people expect the Government to perform, trust the Government to have their interests at heart and support the Government and its decisions to work for the common good. And even in tough times, we can act decisively together.
It was like this with our Pioneer Generation, for example on the issue of Land Acquisition. The Government needed land to build HDB new towns around the island to house our people. To build industrial estates like Jurong to create jobs for our people. Later on to build the MRT network to move people around. So the Government passed laws to acquire land not at the market price, without paying market prices. It was tough for the land owners who suffered financial losses, sometimes more than once. It was tough for the households who had to be resettled, lives were disrupted, thousands, maybe tens of thousands had to change their livelihoods. But if the Government had not done this, we could not have housed our population and we could not have transformed Singapore, so there were sacrifices but in the end, it was for the common good and everybody benefitted and I thank all those who sacrificed for this common good.
Even with recent times, we had to do tough things together. During SARS in 2003, we passed laws urgently on the certificate of urgency to quarantine people at home, to prevent community spread and we will ring you up and ask you to turn up on your camera to show that you are still there. Singaporeans understood this was necessary and they accepted it. Recently, South Korea had a serious outbreak of MERS but they had problems quarantining people. It was not so easy for them to get people to cooperate. There was one case, where a person was missing from her home, they knocked on the door, no answer, telephone no answer, tracked her down via her hand phone. She was several hundred kilometers away, playing golf. You can pass the laws but people have to cooperate.
From time to time, new tough issues will come up and we will need your support to deal with them. One tough issue which we already have and which will be with us for a long time to come is immigration and foreigners. It is a very sensitive matter, not an easy thing to talk about, even at the National Day Rally and Singaporeans understandably have strong views about it. The Government has heard them, we have adjusted our policies, upgraded our infrastructure, slowed down the inflow of foreign workers, tightened up on PR and citizenships applications, made sure that Singaporeans are fairly treated at work. But on foreigners and immigration, there are no easy choices. Every option has a cost, has a downside. If we close our doors to foreign workers, our economy will tank. Companies would not have enough workers. Some will close down and our own people working in these companies will lose their jobs. Also we need foreign workers to build our homes and schools, to meet our daily needs, we need foreign domestic help. So we cannot close our doors completely. On the other hand, if we let in too many foreign workers, our society will come undone. Singaporeans will be crowded out, workplaces will feel foreign, our identity will be diluted and we just cannot digest huge numbers. Therefore, we have got to find something in-between, make a right trade-off but even in-between there is a cost and there is a price and there is a pain. Companies will still find your costs going up, they will have to pass some of these costs on to consumers. Things would not be as cheap. Companies will have to pass up opportunities too. When they can see the opportunities but cannot get the workers, many companies will not be able to expand. And yet because some foreign workers will still be coming in, there will be Singaporeans who will feel that Singapore is changing too fast and will resent having to compete with non-Singaporeans. Whichever option we choose, it will involve some pain.
But I believe that I am doing what Singapore needs and what best safeguards your interest. If I did not believe that, I would not be doing it. It is my responsibility to make this decision, to make this judgement and then to act on your behalf. And having acted on your behalf, to account to you for the results and for the reasons why I decided the way I did. I think I owe it to you. You have elected me. This is my duty, I cannot shirk it.
These principles have brought us here – multiracialism, self-reliance and mutual support, keeping faith between the government and people. These principles have made us special. They are not so easy to do. Easy to say, not so easy to do. Very few countries have got this right but by and large, we have got it right. And Singapore has to stay special because if we are just a dull little spot on the map, a smudge, we are going to count for nothing. We have to be a shining red dot. If we are soft and flabby, we are going to be eaten up. We have to be rugged and we have to have that steel in us. If we are divided, whether along racial lines or class lines, we cannot survive. We have to stand as one united people, we have to progress together.
We have to be a shining red dot. PM Lee Hsien Loong
We have to be a shining red dot.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
How do we stay special? First, we have to be alive to our external environment. That is a fundamental reality for a “little red dot”. We will always be a small country in Southeast Asia. This is an exciting place to be, but also a rather dangerous place to live. I have not spoken much about the external affairs in recent rallies because we have been focused on domestic issues. But I think I have spoken too little because big things are happening around us and they are bound to affect us and unless we keep track of events and stay on top of developments, we may be overwhelmed. We have good relations with our neighbours, much better than 50 years ago and our neighbours have done well and we have prospered with them. But it may not always be like this. Even in the next 10 years, we cannot be sure. Certainly, in the next 50 years, nobody can rule out instability, tension, or even war in Asia.
Take Malaysia, our closest neighbour, our very close partner. We watch what is happening in Malaysia very closely. What are the Malaysians worried about? I can tell you what they are worried about. They worry about ISIS and terrorism because Malaysian citizens are becoming radicalised, going to Syria and Iraq to fight, including members of their armed forces going to become terrorists. Some have already gone, dozens are there. When they come back, they will bring back violence, the know-how and the extremist ideas. This year alone, Malaysian authorities have arrested nearly 100 citizens suspected of links with ISIS. That is one thing they worry about which we should worry about. They worry about racial and religious tensions, about society being divided along racial lines. They have had incidents recently like the riot in Low Yat Plaza, between Chinese and Malays, which have prompted soul searching. If they have racial problems, it will affect us across the border. They worry about money politics. 1MDB is in the news every day and Prime Minister Najib has just set up a national panel to develop laws on “political funding with integrity” because everybody knows this is the problem. These are Malaysia’s problems. Fortunately we are a different country, having separated from Malaysia 50 years ago. But our two societies and our two economies remain very closely intertwined. So their problems can easily become our problems. And if Malaysia is troubled, unstable or divided, it will affect our economy, our society and our security too. And the closer we work with them, the more we are concerned that things go well for them.
Indonesia is also important to us. It is the biggest country in Southeast Asia, it sets the tone for the whole region. When Indonesia is stable, all its neighbours benefit. If Indonesia is in a state of flux, Southeast Asia will be affected, as it was during confrontation. We have enjoyed good relations with Indonesia for many years. With President Suharto since 1970s, then with President SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) over the last decade and now I look forward to continuing these good relations with President Jokowi. But Indonesia is a big and complex country and there are different views within Indonesia about its neighbours. And one common Indonesian view about Singapore is that we are a small neighbour enjoying undeserved success at their expense. I told you in my Chinese speech just now of one Indonesian official who explained this mindset to us but I give you another example here.
On our National Day, just recently on the 9th of August, one Indonesian newspaper published an overview of the relationship between them and us. And they quoted a senior Indonesian politician what he said about the haze. He said, “I would only consider apologising for the haze if Singapore and Malaysia are thankful for the oxygen from Indonesian forests for 11 months each year”. So you know where you stand and please know your place in the world. Do not get uppity. This may not reflect the Indonesian Government’s view, but we have to take note of it. It is a deep seated mindset – that a little red dot red dot should know its place in the world – and this mindset will not disappear for a long time. I once met a group of Indonesian journalists. We invite them to our National Day to understand us and to write about us. So they asked me, the usual questions which Indonesian journalists ask us about – smuggling, about money laundering, about sand, about us taking advantage and so on, I gave them explanations. At the end of it all, they were persuaded, then they said to me, “Do you feel discouraged that you keep on explaining and at the end we keep writing the same thing?” I said no, I am not discouraged at all, I am quite used to it. But I think that’s the fundamental reality and it is not going to change for very long time to come.
We also have to watch relations between the major powers in the region. We are friends with all the major powers, with America, with China, with Japan – all three. And people are amazed that we can be friends with all three and they ask how this is possible? Well, we tell them just good luck but partly, it’s also because of adroit diplomacy, because we have good officers in the MFA. But we have been lucky, we have been lucky that the big powers have been at peace with one another. And so we don’t have to choose sides, with one against the other.
But will it be so easy to maintain this happy state of affairs in future? Will the stars always be so neatly aligned? What if relations among the powers sour and hot up? There could be a miscalculation, there could be a mishap. There could be a misunderstanding. If American and Chinese airplanes collide over the South China Sea, or Japanese and Chinese ships clash near the Diaoyu Dao or the Senkaku Islands. Then tensions will go up, countries will press us to take sides. You are either with us, or against us. Which are you? We have to decide which are we. It’s not so easy to decide and these are imponderables and risks which we have to be aware of and which Mr Lee Kuan Yew was very concerned that Singaporeans may not be adequately aware of and wanted to speak about, even into his extreme old age. It was that important to him. It is in fact that important to us.
We have been able to maintain our security, and our standing in the world because we have a strong SAF so others do not fool around with us. Because our economy is successful, so others find it worthwhile to cooperate with us. Because we have good diplomats and good leaders, who talk sense, command respect and can defend our interests abroad. These are important advantages for a small country which does not have aircraft carriers to go sailing around, keeping the peace and keeping ourselves safe. And we must keep these advantages to sail through the next 50 years safely. Let me just give you two examples of how having good ministers can advance our interests abroad, out of many.
Take Minister Vivian – Vivian Balakrishnan. Minister for Environment, Water Resources. Last year, he attended the UN Climate Change Conference which was held in Peru, in Lima in December. Vivian led the Singapore delegation but he did not just represent Singapore. He was appointed one of two Friends of the Chair. The other Friend of the Chair was Norway. And the role of the Friend of the Chair is to be an honest broker. To work behind the scenes to bridge the gaps between the different countries, to help put together a deal that countries could agree upon. So it is an important low-key job. They chose Vivian and Vivian was effective. Why? Because he was competent and mastered a very complicated brief. Every time he briefs Cabinet, we have to spend time reading the paper understanding the subject all over again and asking Vivian what does all these mean? But it his job to know and to explain and to analyse how we can protect our interests and not be disadvantaged. But he also was supported by a strong and cohesive team of Singapore officials. Different ministries, each knowing their job but able to work together across the ministries and take a national perspective. So they could staff him, they could work out alternatives, they could propose compromises, they could tweak the language, they can go and chat up different groups and find out what different groups are thinking. That was Team Singapore at work. They actually should wear red T-shirts at such meetings. Vivian and Team Singapore helped the Lima conference to reach a successful outcome. They had to overrun. I think they went for another 36 hours but in the end there was a positive agreement and in the process, the agreement also protected and advanced Singapore’s interests. That’s one example.
I give you another example. These are all far away from defence. So people understand that even apart from armed forces, we have to be on our guard and know how to work with others to advance our interest. This next example is Lim Swee Say. Swee Say attends the ILO Conference in Geneva every year. International Labour Organisation. He used to go as Secretary General of NTUC, now he goes as Minister for Manpower. This year he went in June, the Director-General of ILO hosted the conference dinner, so dinner is meant to talk shop. And at dinner many of the Labour Ministers shared the problems they faced in their countries, all facing similar problems – slow job, growth youth unemployment, stagnating wages, widening income gaps. It was a very miserable dinner. So Swee Say is never one for a miserable dinner, he decided to turn the discussion around and to focus on solutions and not problems and he did it, the way only Swee Say knows how to do it. He started by acknowledging we all face the same 3 “D” challenges, D for delta. What’s D? Jobs Deficit, Skills Deficit, Quality Deficit, so three D’s. So everybody nodded, say yes. Then he said, we all want the same three F’s opportunities – future. Jobs of the future, skills of the future, career of the future, everybody smiled. Then he concluded that the solution was to strengthen the three P’s – Partnership between the partners. Partners: Government, unions and employers. And he shared about Singapore’s unique tripartite approach and sold a little bit of “koyok” for us. So when Swee Say had finished, the mood in the room had lifted and everyone was discussing solutions and not moping. And the Director-General rounded the discussion and proposed three cheers for Singapore.
We must maintain this quality of leaders and strengthen our economy and our defence in order to hold our own with the outside world, to work with others to advance our interests and to protect ourselves when the external environment becomes troubled or hostile.
We have to stand as one united people, we have to progress together. PM Lee Hsien Loong
We have to stand as one united people, we have to progress together.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
The next thing we must do to continue being special, is to keep on improving our education, not just in schools, but also life-long learning because education enables our people to be self-reliant, because our workers and students must stay ahead of globalisation and technology. Last year, I explained SkillsFuture, which provides Singaporeans with opportunities to develop to their full potential, whatever their starting point may be.
Since then, we have made some progress, for example, we have a SkillsFuture Earn-and-Learn Programme, it gives fresh ITE and Polytechnic graduates a head-start in their careers. They can earn a full-time salary, at the same time learn new skills and then upgrade to higher jobs. We have created the SkillsFuture Credit so every Singaporean aged 25 and above will have initially $500 of credit in the account to spend on training programmes throughout life and from time to time, we will top up that credit. Tonight, I will tell you about another thing we are doing, which has to do with SIT – the Singapore Institute of Technology. SIT provides applied-learning pathways for students who prefer more hands-on learning. SIT awards its own degrees; it also awards degrees in collaboration with respected overseas partners. For example, TUM – Technical University of Munich or CIA, Culinary Institute of America, it teaches you to cook, not to spy. Or DigiPen Institute of Technology, one of the top institutions for animation, computer engineering and game design. SIT is expanding its intake so it can take in more poly students, more mature students. This year, 2,000 students already, when five years’ time by 2020, 3,500 students.
I visited SIT a few months ago at their campus at Dover Road. I met their students and staff, they were keen about their future, passionate about what they were doing and the students relished the opportunities for internships to apply what they have learnt and to show off their skills. And one such student is Chen Zhangkai, who is 27. Zhangkai is a late bloomer; when he was young, he played truant, he got into fights, he was streamed into EM3, almost failed his PSLE. So he took a longer path than usual. From PSLE he went to Normal Technical (stream), then to ITE, then to Nanyang Polytechnic, then to SIT. Step by step, persevering, overcoming setbacks, climbing up. Last year, Zhangkai graduated from SIT with a Digipen degree. His final year project and portfolio were good, and a director of an animation studio came, saw it, was impressed, offered him an internship and after that offered him a job. So Zhangkai has now landed himself a dream job as an animator. Well done Zhangkai. SkillsFuture will produce more success stories like Zhangkai. There are always opportunities no matter where you are to upgrade and do better.
SIT’s main campus is at Dover Road with branch campuses in all the polytechnics. So we will bring all these branch campuses together and build one new centralised campus for SIT. And the new campus will be in Punggol. Across the road from SIT, we will build a creative industry cluster, in fact, on both sides of SIT. JTC will do this and bring creative industries to come to be next to SIT and to be integrated with SIT. So that students can easily go from classroom to workplace, apply what they learn. Companies can easily go to SIT and get help if they need some new ideas or some problem solved. SIT will also be integrated into Punggol Downtown, an HDB upcoming Northshore District. And the community will share SIT’s facilities; the classrooms, the workshops, the multi-purpose hall. So, we have talked about Punggol 21, we have Punggol 21 Plus with SIT, it will be Punggol 21 A-Plus. Here is how the SIT campus will look like. SIT in the middle and you can see the industry buildings on both sides, if you zoom in and take a closer look, you can see the University on one side, the industries on the other and linked bridges joining them up, so people can go back and forth. This will come.
It is a long-term effort and the Chinese saying, says: “十年树木，百年树人” – ten years to grow a tree, one hundred years to nurture a person. When we go into SkillsFuture, this is our mindset. We are planting for the long term; planting seeds now to bear fruit many years from now. Of course, we also will be planting real trees on the SIT campus and when they are grown, many years now, I hope the campus will look something like this, and Punggol 21 residents will be happy.
While SkillsFuture creates more opportunities for Singaporeans, we will continue to make sure that no one is left behind. There is an African saying which says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” For the last 50 years, we have gone together and we have gone far. That is what we must do for the next 50 years.
HDB housing is one important way we make sure that we go together. We started the HDB home ownership programme in the 1960s and it has been a tremendous success. Today, more than 90 per cent of HDB households own their flats. We are a nation of home-owners and we have achieved something unique for our people, home ownership and no ghettos or slums anywhere in Singapore. There is a true story about an IMF economist who visited Singapore, Indian economist, his name is Sudip. And he stayed at the Fairmont. Fairmount Hotel, high up, looked out saw the beautiful city, he said, “Can’t be. I want to find out how big this nice area around the hotel is”. So he decided he would get down, walked in one direction until he reached a not-so-nice area, turned round come back then he will know Singapore is like so many other cities in the world, with rough areas. So Sudip came down, walked and walked and walked and walked, he never reached a rough area. After two hours, he gave up and came back, astonished and impressed that Singapore had no rough area. In Boston, I did the same experiment from Harvard, half an hour, I got there. And it is not unique; every city is like that except Singapore. In Singapore, no matter where you are, you live in a good neighbourhood, you have good homes, you have parks, you have waterways, you can feel safe and secure, you can go jogging in the middle of the night, even if you are a young lady; safe. This must always be the reality for all Singaporeans.
HDB flats will always be affordable and accessible to all. In the last five years, we have made big moves in housing. We have stabilised BTO prices, we have launched 100,000 HDB flats equal to four Clementi towns. We have shortened queues for flats so most first timers can now choose their flat in a non-mature estate on their first try. Some of them said, “Please don’t give me the flats so fast, I’m not ready to collect my keys yet.” But we are going to do three more things in housing.First, for the higher end households, we will make more Singaporeans eligible to buy HDB flats and ECs (Executive Condominiums). Currently, there is an income ceiling for HDB flats and ECs. HDB flats – ceiling $10,000; ECs – ceiling $12,000. We last raised this four years ago. Since then, incomes have gone up further and also since then we have cleared the first-timer backlog, queuing up for HDB flats. So, we have the possibility now to raise the income ceiling and bring more people into the eligibility net. What shall we do? For HDB flats, we will go from $10,000 to $12,000. For ECs, we will go from $12,000 to $14,000. This way, more households can buy HDB flats and ECs.
Secondly, we will help middle and lower-income households who are buying their first home, first timers. We will make HDB flats more affordable for them. We have a complicated system of HDB grants. If you are buying a house, you know the details but the gist of it is, there are weighted towards those who earn less. So the less you earn, the more generous our grants. The more you earn, you may still be eligible for an HDB flat but I think you can pay for a bit more of it yourself. So we will enhance our grants which help the lower and middle-income households buy flats. The way we do that is we have the Special CPF Housing Grant which is called the SHG – Special CPF Housing Grant. We will extend the SHG to cover more households. Right now, the SHG has an income ceiling, which is $6,500, and that is half of all households. And we will raise this ceiling to $8,500 so that two thirds of households will qualify for the SHG. We will also increase the amount of the SHG, because currently the maximum amount is $20,000 and we will double that to $40,000. So what does this mean? For a median household, one just about middle-income, buying a flat previously they would have received $10,000 of SHG, now they will receive $30,000 of SHG – three times as much.
The third thing we will do is, to help those in rental flats, to help them to own their flat. With the home ownership programme, almost all Singaporeans have been able to buy their homes but there are few who still cannot afford to do that or have not been able to hold onto their flats. So, for those who have not bought the flat ever before, Minister Khaw Boon Wan recently restructured the two-room flat and the Studio apartment schemes and after the restructuring, I think that will help, it is more flexible, it will be easier for people to buy their first flat, a two-room flat. Also now that we are doubling the maximum SHG, which I just told you about, that will make two-room flats even more affordable. How much more affordable? Last time when I was an HDB agent, I told you that if you earn $1,000 a month, you can buy a two-room flat. Now with these latest changes, even if you earn below $1,000 but you are holding a stable job and you contribute to CPF regularly, you can still afford to have a two-room flat. Come to your housing agent at your MPS (Meet-the-People Session) and we will work out the details.
There is another group of rental tenants who are more difficult to help, more tricky to help and these are ones who have bought a flat before, but sold it and are now back in a rental unit. They have already benefitted from previous HDB subsidies. So the Government cannot just give them another grant to buy another flat; otherwise there’s no end and it would not be fair to others. So these households find it particularly difficult to afford another flat. Also these households often have many different problems – jobs, relationships, children’s education, sometimes drugs and their housing problem is a result of their other problems. It’s not a house being an issue but because their lives are not in order, so the house is a consequence of the mess.
I am very concerned about the future of this group because without help, they may be permanently out of reach of getting a flat of their own. And they will be trapped in poverty and their children will be affected, and you perpetuate the cycle into the next generation.
So we have studied this problem at length. I think there is a way we can help these families to start afresh and to own their homes again. And we have got a scheme to do this which we’ll call it the Fresh Start Housing Scheme. What will a Fresh Start Housing Scheme do? It will help second-timer rental households own a two-room flat. The flat will have a shorter lease, the flat will have stricter resale conditions that can make it more affordable and also may maximise the chances of people holding on to it and not just flipping it. But it’s not just providing a flat. It’s also supporting the family with counsellors, to guide them to solve their problems holistically, all aspects – jobs, school, drugs, family relationships, planning for the future, saving for the future. The family has to play its part, and show that they are putting their lives in order, determined to get back on their feet, committed to putting their children through school. Then if they show that and with all these extra arrangements, I think we can justify providing a grant for them – a Fresh Start Housing Grant – to help them pay their flat. So it is not without conditions. You have to do your part. But you do your part, we help you, you have a second chance. And over time, with guidance, with help, through this Scheme you can own your own homes again. You have something to work towards, aspire to and achieve, for yourself, for your children. It’s a major initiative, it will take us sometime to work out but I think it is important because it shows our philosophy – that in Singapore, we will help you but you must help yourself and we do not want anybody to be left behind.
Finally, we have to manage our population issues well. Because whether our population is young or old, growing or shrinking, that determines how our society, our outlook, our confidence will be. I will speak about two groups tonight - the seniors, and families and babies. Let me start with the seniors. The elderly will always have a place in Singapore. We honour them because they brought us here, they brought us up, and they will always have something to contribute to Singapore. That is why we made the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) to express our gratitude to the pioneers who contributed so much to building today’s Singapore. Having made the package, we made an extra effort: we sent PG Ambassadors to every home, to visit pioneers at home, chat with them, understand their needs and explain to them how they can personally benefit from the PGP. And in the process of talking to them, we learnt many heart-warming stories and we collected them in a nice book which we launched last month. It’s titled, “Their Past: A Present for Our Future”. Quite a clever title; lots of interesting stories in the book. One in particular is about two friends - Mr Mutu Sammy, and Mr Ching Chong Kwi. Mr Mutu Sammy is 69 years old, Mr Ching is 81 years old. They have been neighbours and close friends for ten years. Mutu lost his leg long ago in a traffic accident. Mr Ching, who is 81 years old, takes care of Mutu - looks after his plants, changes light bulbs for him, drives him to medical check-ups. Mr Ching speaks Mandarin, Mutu speaks English, and they talk to each other in Malay. That’s the Kampong spirit for you. Mutu and Mr Ching told our Ambassadors that they are very happy with the PG Package and the PG Card because Mutu benefits directly from it. There is a PG Disability Assistance Scheme and he qualifies and he gets $100 a month, and when he visits the Specialist Outpatient Clinic, the net amount he has to pay is just $12. And of course both are happy to be honoured and to be recognised. We are grateful to all our Pioneers and I think at SG50 NDR, we should say again, thank you, pioneers of Singapore.
The senior citizens, I know what you are thinking, who are not quite as old as the PG, you are also very much in our minds. So when we did the PG Package, we also did a special package of Medisave top-ups for those who are slightly younger, did not quite qualify, like me. But I think what many seniors really want is not a package but to age well. Gan Kim Yong leads the Ministerial Committee on Ageing. He will announce an Action Plan soon, which we hope will make Singapore a model for successful ageing, handling this problem.
Let me give you just one sneak peek from his plan tonight. Many people who are in their 60s want to work longer. They say, “If I sit at home and do nothing, I will go ga-ga. Furthermore, my wife will tell me to go and do something about it." So we raised the re-employment age to 65 three years ago. And the unions and workers were very happy. I think the employers have accepted it. They are adjusting to it and starting to benefit from it. It’s still too early to judge but so far, it seems to be working well.
From the workers’ point of view, 65 may be too early to stop work. Workers want us to raise the re-employment age and they want to keep working for as long as they are healthy. I hear this every time I attend a union function. I reply, “Yes, I agree fully. We will do it, we have choose a right time to do it because we want to make sure that the employers have the practical arrangements, and you can make a contribution at your company and it will not be a burden to the company.” Otherwise it’s not sustainable. But we have been working at this problem. The tripartite partners have been discussing this and I am happy to tell you that they have reached an agreement. And the agreement is that we will pass legislation to raise the re-employment age from 65 to 67. We will do it by 2017, in other words, after the coming election.
Now, let me talk about families and babies. We discuss these as policies - what should we do, rules, incentives - but at the root of this is not policy. It is people, families and their children. Our families are what make life meaningful for many of us and our children are what will ensure that Singapore will have a future. In fact, our children are the reason why we want Singapore to have a future, for them, and so we decided on a baby Jubilee Gift for SG50 babies. And you can see some of the things down here – A box, the strap, some T-shirts, and some other diaper holders. I am glad to hear from Grace Fu that we have given out almost 20,000 SG50 packets this year, including one to Tin Pei Ling. When I go around and see parents with the red sling, I will ask them “Ah, SG50 baby. Congratulations! How many months old?” And then, “When is the next one coming?” In fact, I have been trying to find a family which has two Jubilee babies. It is possible. And finally I came across one. Introducing Charlotte on the left and Colette, on the right, twins born three weeks ago. I hope couples continue to have many babies after SG50, but I know it is a serious decision. It is hard work and a lifelong commitment. You sacrifice your time, your sleep, you have to buy milk powder, diapers, and parenting goes on for many years, well after your children have supposedly grown up. Having a child is a major responsibility, but we will help you, because every Singapore child is precious to us because each one is a member of our Singapore family. So when I speak about families at the National Day Rally, I always try to do something to make it easier for parents to have babies. Not just practical help, but also signals to change mindsets and attitudes and, therefore, encourage people gradually to change behaviour. For example, making workplaces more family friendly or getting fathers to do their share of parental duties. If you look at the numbers, last year’s numbers seem promising. This is the graph of the babies born every year since 2000. 2000 was a bumper year. 41,600 Dragon Year. The next Dragon Year there is a bit of a blip, but what encourages me is that this year 2014, not a Dragon Year, but almost as big as a dragon. If you look back, it is almost 10 years since we have had that many babies in one year. So it is not bad and I expect that this year, we will have about the same number as 2014. On National Day this year, we had a record number of babies born – 129, 9th August babies.
These are statistics, but what I see directly when I go around confirms this. Because nowadays I often see families who have lots of kids and they are proud and happy that they have many children and they tell me that they have many children. On the Jubilee weekend, I met the Goh family at new Ci Yuan Hawker Centre. I went to see the hawker food, but I got a bonus I saw some babies as well. I started off noticing this SG50 baby, then I counted the sister one, brother one, another brother one two, three, four, five kids in one Goh family. Father was not there. I said where’s the father? Father queuing up for food. So talked to the father, he works in the SAF, mother is a homemaker and they are enjoying family life. It is good! So I think this is a good time to give our families and babies efforts an extra push. We will push in four ways.
First, we will help couples who live closer to their parents. In the old days, we used to have extended families and everybody would be under one roof. It can be complicated, but it is also a strength. Now, people live in nuclear families. But many couples still want to stay with their parents or near their parents, or parents often would want to stay with or near their married children so that the grandparents can enjoy their grandkids and the adult children can help to look after the old folks as they age. HDB already has various schemes to support this, we have relooked at the HDB incentives and we will repackage them and re-launch them more generously. And we will introduce what we call Proximity Housing Grant. What is the Proximity Housing Grant? It is for every Singaporean household whether first timer or not, you will be eligible and you can get it when you buy a resale flat with your parents or near your parents or you buy a resale flat with your married children or near your married children, you can get the Proximity Housing Grant once. But MND will work out the details and we will announce them soon.
Secondly, we will enhance the Baby Bonus. We will increase the amount of the Bonus to help cover a little bit more of the child-raising costs during the child’s infancy and I think that will help because I hear mothers telling me that, milk powder is expensive. Well, that is so, this will be a little bit of assistance. Also, the Baby Bonus is presently just for the first four children, so we will now give it to every child. This will provide support to parents, more support to parents with larger families and also reflects our attitude that every child is valued in Singapore.
Thirdly, Medisave. In Singapore, when a new baby is born, you do not just get the birth certificate, you also get the CPF Medisave account. And the account comes with some money from the Government to help cover your MediShield premiums and vaccinations and other expenses, at least for the first few years. And this is called the Medisave grant for newborns. So we will increase the Medisave grant for newborns, we will make it enough to cover MediShield Life premiums until you are 21 years old and also help with other healthcare expenses such as recommended vaccinations. Because until 21, really the burden is on your parents. After 21, we presume you will be looking after yourself and this will give your parents greater peace of mind.
Fourthly, paternity leave. Fathers play a very important role in bringing up children. You have to do your part, if it is just the mother’s responsibility to care for and raise your children, I think the mother will decide enough is enough. Right now, fathers get one week of paternity leave, I think fathers can do more, so we will add one more week of paternity leave, making two weeks, do not go and play golf, please use it to take care of your kid. The Government will pay for this one extra week. We will implement this, but the companies have to agree to give the leave, so we will not force the companies for a start, we will implement this on a voluntary basis to give the companies, to give employers time to adjust and then after a few years, we will look at the position again. Of course, the public service, the civil service, will volunteer straightaway. So to all the public officers who may be watching tonight, you have no excuse. The Baby Bonus, the Medisave grant and the Paternity leave changes will apply with effect from the 1st of January, the 1st of January 2015 because this is a Jubilee year, I think we should give all the Jubilee’s babies this little Hong Bao. Grace Fu will tell you lots of details soon and I hope they will all be happy details and they will help many more couples to experience the joys of parenthood.
For Singapore to continue to do well, we must have that resolve to defend this land. PM Lee Hsien Loong
For Singapore to continue to do well, we must have that resolve to defend this land.
PM Lee Hsien Loong
For Singapore to continue to do well, we must have that resolve to defend this land. We must have that will to make Singapore endure and to prevail and we must stand as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion. After 50 years, this faith, this sense of togetherness and purpose is stronger than before. The Singapore spirit ignites when we celebrate our successes together. When our athletes made us proud at the SEA Games, like Shanti Pereira who won our first sprint gold in 42 years or Ashley Liew, the marathon runner. After the other runners took a wrong turn, he slowed down and waited for them to catch up and showed sportsmanship and class. The Singapore spirit shines when we help one another in times of need. When we were beset by severe haze in 2013, many people came forward to distribute masks and help the less abled. When a man was run over by a truck recently, people rushed forward to push the truck, lift it up and help the man out. After a bomb exploded in Bangkok last week, Singaporeans living in Bangkok contacted the embassy to offer help.
Our spirit shone brightest when Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away. Hundreds of thousands lined up, day and night to pay their respects at Parliament House and at many community tribute sites. Mr Lee’s passing brought out so much in us. People queued patiently, they let children and seniors through, businesses provided free chairs and refreshments to those queuing up, volunteers helped out, distributing umbrellas, food, drinks and when the gun carriage carried Mr Lee on his final journey from Parliament House to the UCC, the University Cultural Centre, tens of thousands lined the streets and then it started to rain, what do we do? Everyone stayed put, it was like the 1968 National Day Parade when it poured on the parade after it had formed up. The funeral procession started on time into the pouring rain. I was deeply moved to see the crowds, stand their ground paying their last respects to Mr Lee, tear drops and raindrops fell together. For all of us, this was a historic moment shared as one Singapore family. We were mourning Mr Lee’s passing but also affirming what he stood for and celebrating what he had achieved. That day, something changed in us. Our shared moment of sorrow bonded us. Now we do not have to struggle to find words to define the Singapore spirit or to say what being Singaporean is. Now we know that we are Singaporean.
50 years ago, our challenges seemed insurmountable. As a small country, we could easily have flickered and faded into the darkness of history. But our pioneers were made of stern stuff, they were galvanized. Many born elsewhere but deciding to make Singapore their home and their lifelong passion. They dug in their heels and built a nation together. 50 years on, our challenges are still formidable but they are far from insurmountable. Those people who feel daunted and think Singapore’s best days are behind us, they are wrong. Our best days will always be ahead of us, provided we continue to have a strong team, a team of lions and the lion-hearted, leaders and the people. We have had such a good team so far, started with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his colleagues, together with the pioneer generation, who built Singapore and made sure that Singapore would thrive beyond them. They handed over to Mr Goh Chok Tong and the second generation of Singaporeans 25 years ago now.
Our generation inherited Singapore from them and together, we took Singapore further forward to reach SG50. In the last ten years, we have written perhaps, another chapter of the Singapore story. If you have been following my National Day Rallies, you will know what we have done together.
We said we would build more beautiful homes that Singaporeans could afford, and we did. This is Punggol 21. This is the view from Dawson, I think it is taken from the air terrace, I went up to take a look, the city rejuvenated. We have continued the Kampong spirit. During Ramadan, neighbours break fast together along HDB corridors. All over the island, volunteers have beautified our shared spaces with Communities in Bloom.
We said we would strengthen our safety nets, and we did. We introduced Workfare, Silver Support, ComCare, we built new hospitals, Ng Teng Fong Hospital has opened since my last rally. Community hospitals have also opened, this is Renci and Yishun Community Hospital will soon be ready. We have made healthcare more accessible and affordable. We have CHAS, the blue card and the orange card. And we have the PG card. With MediShield Life, Singaporeans have lifelong healthcare coverage. We helped each other too, going door-to-door delivering milk powder and food to needy families. Seniors have kept active, exercising to stay fit and healthy as they age. And if you think these exercises are not quite challenging enough, you can try to do these exercises.
We said we would create more pathways for children to chase rainbows, and we did. We built Northlight and Assumption Pathway for students who failed their PSLE, because we believe in our young and we will never give up on them. We built the School of the Arts, the Sports School, the School of Science and Technology to cater to varied talents. We built first class campuses for our ITE Colleges, including ITE College Central, where we are now. We built new universities, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), UniSIM. If they were not first class institutions, Chen Long (Jackie Chan) would not have given us these beautiful old Chinese buildings to be part of SUTD. But, we are special and we will keep it so.
We said that we would transform our city, and we did. Changi Airport is upgrading, project Jewel, T4 and T5 are coming up. The Gardens by the Bay are an iconic and popular attraction. We have beautiful park connectors and ABC waterways, like Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. I took Prime Minister Tony Abbott there, the Australian PM, to show him how Singaporeans live and the natural environment that we all enjoy. I think it is worth showing off Bishan- Ang Mo Kio Park. Our volunteers have been active too, preserving nature and heritage on Pulau Ubin, keeping our rivers clean.
We said we would transform Marina Bay, and we did. This was Marina Bay in 2005 with Marina South still empty land and at my rally that year, I promised you that by our Jubilee year, Marina Bay would be special and this is Marina Bay today. We did this together. We had a vision, we believed in it, and together, we realised our dreams.
In the last ten years, we built on what we inherited. We put brick on brick, we climbed step by step, we kept Singapore special, delivered results for Singaporeans. How did we do that? Mr Lee and his team planned beyond their terms, beyond their lifetimes. They nurtured the next generation of leaders and the next generation of Singaporeans. They taught their successors to do the same and this is what my team and I have sought to do for the last ten years. We have served you to the best of our ability, you have got to know us well, we have walked this SG50 journey together with you. My team and I take very seriously our responsibility to make sure that Singapore lasts beyond us. My core team are already in our late 50s and 60s. We will not be around forever and we must have the next team ready in the wings. The nucleus is there – brought in at the last elections and earlier. They have taken charge of important programmes like Our Singapore Conversation, like SG50 as well as different ministries, including difficult ones. They have connected with Singaporeans young and old and participated fully in the major decisions which we have made. But we need to reinforce them, to round out the team to give Singapore the best possible chance of succeeding into the future. And that is what I need to do in the next election.
Singapore is at a turning point. We have just completed 50 successful years. Now we are starting out on our next 50 years of nationhood. Soon, I will be calling elections to ask for your mandate to take Singapore into this next phase of our nation-building. And this election will be critical. You will be deciding who is governing Singapore for the next five years; but more than that. You will be choosing the team who will be working with you for the next 15-20 years. You will be setting the direction for Singapore for the next 50 years. You will be determining the future for Singapore.
What will this future be? Will Singapore become an ordinary country, with intractable problems, slow or even negative growth; overspending; heavy burdens for our children; gridlocked government; unable to act? There are so many examples around the world. Or will Singapore always stay special for our children? A multi-racial society strengthened by diversity, not splintered by divisions. A rugged society where everyone strives to do his best, but looks out for his fellow men, a people who live up to our song “One People, One Nation, One Singapore”.
If you are proud of what we have achieved together, if you support what we want to do ahead, the future that we are building, then please support me, please support my team because my team and I cannot do anything just by ourselves. We have to do it with you in order to do it for you. In fact, we have to do it together in order to do it for all of us to do a good job for Singapore so that we can keep Singapore special for many years to come. Another 50 years.
Can I be sure that Singapore will still be doing well, still be special come SG100? Nobody can be sure. Nobody can promise that we will all live happily ever after. We all have our hopes and fears, our views and our guesses. One opinion that I know everybody would have liked to know was Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s. He is gone now, but some friends did ask him this question not too long ago.
In his old age, a group of friends would regularly take Mr Lee out for meals. The conversation would flow, and Mr Lee would get a chance to see a different bit of the Singapore he had built. The last time they had dinner together was in January this year, shortly before he was taken to hospital. After Mr Lee died, one of the friends wrote to me, describing what happened. Let me read her letter.
As it was the start of 2015, we talked at length about the celebrations for SG50. We took turns to encourage Mr Lee to attend as many SG50 events as possible. Actually, we hoped he would be there for the SG50 National Day Parade. Mr Lee listened to our exhortations, but stopped short of saying yes to our suggestions. At each of our gatherings, it had become a tradition to ask Mr Lee “Will there be a Singapore many years from now?” Once, Mr Lee said “Maybe”. On another, Mr Lee said “Yes, if there is no corruption”.
This was classic Mr Lee – ever-believing in Singapore, yet ever-cognisant that there was always work to be done, that we should never take things for granted. Continuing with our tradition and in the spirit of SG50, that evening we asked him “Will there be a Singapore 50 years from now?” Mr Lee’s answer took us all by surprise.
That evening, for the first time, Mr Lee said“Of course there will be … even better!”
Mr Lee did not make it to the SG50 NDP. But we were happy to have the three surviving ministers who signed the Separation Agreement at the Parade. Encik Othman Wok who is here with us this evening and Mr Ong Pang Boon and Mr Jek Yuen Thong. They sat in a place of honour, next to Mr Lee’s chair. When we watched the video tribute to Mr Lee, we were all moved. We could sense his spirit with us, and in us. Mr Lee would have been proud of what he had built, if he had seen the NDP.
Now he is no longer here, we are on our own, but we are ready. Our resolve to defend ourselves is unquestioned. Our spirit and confidence is robust. Our unity and identity as a people has never been stronger. At the NDP, we showed the world what stuff Singapore is made of.
For me, there were two special moments in the memorable parade. One was when Kit Chan sang “Home”. She sang beautifully, she always does. But what most amazed me was the singing from the crowd. All round the Padang, we could hear our voices lustily singing. “This is home, truly” and never before have we done that.
The second moment was after the parade. The last item the kids were in bright LED costumes putting on an energetic and spectacular performance. I went down to the Padang afterwards to meet them. They were in high spirits. Their faces shone with excitement and hope. I thought to myself these are the faces of the future of Singapore. 50 years from now, SG100, they will be about 60 years old – still vigorous with many more active years ahead of them. I hope they will be back at the Padang celebrating again, remembering SG50, congratulating one and another on how much they have done and how far they have come and looking at more young, radiant faces of children and many grandchildren and singing Majulah Singapura! Thank you very much!
. . . . .