PICTURES, VIDEO

PM Lee mobbed as S'poreans converge in London's Victoria Park for Singapore Day

Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, having a conversation with young Singaporeans based in London on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at Singapore Day in Victoria Park. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Ms Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, having a conversation with young Singaporeans based in London on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at Singapore Day in Victoria Park. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW
Singapore Day was held at Victoria Park in London on Saturday. -- ST PHOTO: STEPHANIE YEOW

It was Singapore's day in the sun literally at Victoria Park on Saturday.

London shrugged off its grey blanket of the past week and unfurled rare blue skies as the temperature rose to around 19 deg C. It almost felt like air-conditioned weather back home, but better, as Singaporeans descended onto the sun-drenched park to sample hawker food and enjoy the entertainment provided by homegrown stars such as the Dim Sum Dollies, Gurmit Singh and Hossan Leong and singers Jack and Rai.

Crowds began forming early and by noon, there were more than 10,000 guests soaking up a slice of Singaporeana and colonising a swathe of the sprawling park, named after the queen of the empire that once ruled Singapore.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arrived to cheers and claps and mushrooming smartphones as people snapped pictures of him, but he did one better. He went on stage and took a picture of the waving audience, and then turned around to do a selfie with them in the background.

"I am very happy to be here for such a beautiful Singapore Day. Some of you have private messaged me, e-mailed me, commented on my Facebook, liked me... I look forward to enjoying the laksa with you," he told the crowd.

As he left the stage, Mr Lee was mobbed by a surging crowd wanting to take pictures of him or their own selfie with the PM in the background.

The team overseeing the event from the National Population and Talent Department led by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu also mingled with guests, many of whom work, live and study here.

But more than 16 per cent of those present had also travelled from all over Europe to be at the park, some as far away as Munich in Germany and Nice in France, for a chance to rekindle their links with Singapore and "relieve some of their homesickness", said Ms Fu.

Student volunteer Bing Xi, a third-year law student at King's College, was there bright and early to manage other volunteers and confessed that all he could think of, he said, was "my intense strategising" on which food to queue up for first.

"I am going for the laksa, and then the teh tarik, and then I want the prata," said the 24-year-old, adding these were delights hard to come by for Singaporeans living abroad.

There was all of that on the menu, and more, including chicken rice, satay and bakchor mee from famous stalls back in Singapore.

As a volunteer who was to get word out about Singapore Day, Mr Bing said he didn't have to work very hard. "Everybody wanted to come here to meet and be with other Singaporeans. And it's great because I get to meet friends from up in Manchester and Liverpool who otherwise would not make the trek here."

Sixty-five-year-old Madam Peggy Quek was among those who came with a party of six friends, including two foreigners from South America and South Africa. "They've heard so much about Singapore and everything about Singapore makes all my friends, go 'wah, wah, wah', so good."

For her, Singapore Day is a chance to make new friends as she did at the last event in London four years ago. She met a Singaporean who lives in Dusseldorf, Germany and last year went on a trip to Europe and rekindled the friendship.

A member of the pioneer generation, Madam Quek, who has lived in London for 38 years but travels home twice a year, said: "Those days, my mother always told me, listen to the Government; this is a good Government and she was right."

Said DPM Teo: "I could feel the strong Singapore spirit... I am glad to see that many have a keen interest in what is happening in Singapore and want to contribute to make Singapore a better home for us all."

Earlier in the day, Ms Fu had a dialogue with 40 overseas Singaporeans. Several talked about the upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations for Singapore's independence next year and how they could contribute. "Many are keen to give back and the ideas they shared, such as helping the needy and how to bring new arts and cultural ideas to Singapore, have galvanised them."

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