Pioneers celebrated at National Day dinners

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew present flowers to pioneers during the National Day Dinner on Aug 8, 2015.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Transport Lui Tuck Yew present flowers to pioneers during the National Day Dinner on Aug 8, 2015. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The pioneer generation of Singaporeans and the country's founding leaders were celebrated at National Day dinners across the island last night, where ministers and MPs called on Singaporeans to emulate their grit and determination which made it possible for the country to celebrate its Golden Jubilee.

At a Moulmein-Kallang GRC and Whampoa SMC dinner in Farrer Park Field attended by 6,500 residents and community leaders, the pioneers among them were invited to stand by guest-of-honour Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Lee then called on the audience to give them a round of applause, saying: "We are here today because our pioneer generation set us on this path. They sacrificed, they slogged, they worked and built today's Singapore.

"Therefore, when we celebrate SG50, we remember the pioneer generation, we thank them, we honour them, we salute them."

It was the pioneer generation led by founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team who decided they would make the effort and show the world what Singapore can do, PM Lee added.

Today's Singaporeans should have the same determination to build up and improve the country, and "take it into SG100", he said.

His comments were echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

Mr Teo told 4,000 residents at a dinner in Punggol that 50 years ago, Singapore's future was uncertain as it was a fractious society divided by race and labour issues.

"Those were tough times. But our pioneer generation and Singaporeans down the generations made the right choices. And what did they choose? They chose unity over division," he said.

These choices were not automatic outcomes but critical decisions urged on and encouraged by the political leadership - Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said Mr Teo.

"But it was also a decision, a choice which Singaporeans made about the future they wanted. A future which is harmonious, a future which is united, and a future in which we progress together," he said.

"If... we spend all our time... and all our energy in conflict with each other, we will not make progress. But when we unite... we are unbeatable," he added.

Elsewhere, at a carnival in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC's Cashew ward, Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Singapore's greatest achievement is in translating the ideal of multiracialism and equal opportunity for all into reality.

"This massive transformation that the pioneer generation effected, our next generation will have to do the same," he said, when asked for his wish for Singapore.

PM Lee, in his speech, also noted that the current batch of MPs and grassroots leaders has been consistently working hard over the years to improve the lives of residents. And though Moulmein-Kallang GRC and Whampoa SMC will see their boundaries change at the general election, Mr Lee assured residents that whatever their constituency, his team of MPs would take care of them.

"However the boundaries are drawn, I hope you will work together, give your support to the grassroots advisers... so that together we can make Singapore better, together we can celebrate many more happy National Days to come," he added.

• Additional reporting by Lim Yi Han and Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2015, with the headline 'Pioneers celebrated at National Day dinners'. Print Edition | Subscribe