Singapore has 'ample reason to celebrate' its 50th anniversary as one nation, one people

Mr Lee reflected on the improbable and thrilling journey from Third World to First in his National Day Message.
Mr Lee reflected on the improbable and thrilling journey from Third World to First in his National Day Message.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE YOUTUBE
Mr Lee reflected on the improbable and thrilling journey from Third World to First in his National Day Message.VIDEO: PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE

SINGAPORE - What a journey it has been. From the "moment of anguish" when Singapore separated from Malaysia, the first generation of leaders convinced the pioneer generation that Singapore could succeed as a sovereign country.

Together, these lions and a lion-hearted people built a nation through a lifetime of unwavering determination. After them, younger generations picked up the baton and took Singapore further.

Paying tribute to these accomplishments in his National Day Message on Saturday evening - the eve of Singapore's Golden Jubilee - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reflected on the improbable and thrilling journey from Third World to First that has given Singaporeans "ample reason to celebrate" 50 years on.

Breaking from tradition, Mr Lee, who recorded his message at the historic Victoria Concert Hall, did not mention the economy's forecast growth figures for the year that have traditionally been a highlight of the annual message for August 9.

Instead, he focused his 15-minute message on the theme of celebration.

"Let us celebrate 50 years of peace and security, underwritten by the blood and sweat of generations of NSmen."

"Let us celebrate how we turned vulnerabilities into strengths. How a struggling economy with no domestic market made the world our market and created jobs for our people," he said.

Without a hinterland and dependent on Johor for water, Singapore turned its port and airport into the best in the world, and the whole island into a water catchment area.

Without natural resources, it educated and created jobs and opportunities for everyone.

"We have proven that together, we are greater than the sum of our parts," Mr Lee said.

Most of all, he added, Singapore can celebrate how it has left no one behind in its success story.

Every citizen has benefited from Singapore's progress and life has improved for all - Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians, blue-collar as well as white-collar workers, HDB homeowners as well as condominium dwellers, he said.

Through its journey, Singapore has kept to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's promise on that anguished day of August 9, 1965, that "we are going to be a multi-racial nation in Singapore."

" We will set an example," he had said. " This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion."

This evening, Mr Lee also said he had chosen Victoria Concert Hall as the venue for his message because of its special significance in Singapore's history.

In 1954, then called the Victoria Memorial Hall, it was where Mr Lee Kuan Yew launched the People's Action Party; in 1958, it was where the National Anthem "Majulah Singapura" was first performed.

Turning to the future, Mr Lee said that Singapore now stands at a "high base camp" from which it can look back and marvel at how far it has come.

"From this base camp, we can also look forward to new peaks ahead," he said. "The journey ahead is uncharted. But we must press on, because we aspire to do better for ourselves and our children."

He also expressed confidence in Singapore's future: "We know that we will get there, because we will always be there for one another. We are stronger as one people."

Referring to incidents that have warmed hearts and made headlines in recent weeks, he also pointed to how Singaporeans instinctively gathered to lift a truck to save someone trapped underneath, and went on singing the National Anthem with gusto even when the music failed.

"We are proud of our past and confident of our future," he said. "Together we believe in Singapore; together we belong to Singapore; together, we are Singapore."