Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has pledged to steer Singapore through the current crisis alongside senior Cabinet colleagues and fourth-generation (4G) ministers, even as the People's Action Party (PAP) ensures there is continual leadership renewal.
"You have my word: Together with my older colleagues like (Senior Ministers) Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as the younger 4G ministers, I will see this through," he said at the party's online rally yesterday.
"I am determined to hand over Singapore, intact and in good working order, to the next team."
PM Lee was speaking about his political journey in the last leg of his half-hour speech to Singaporeans, touching on how the PAP believes in - and has made sure of - leadership renewal over the years "to keep the party vigorous and in sync with your aspirations".
He entered politics in 1984 and was among the 26 new candidates the party fielded in the general election that year, setting in motion its move for self-renewal.
"Today, I am the only one left from the class of 1984. But the party now has many younger cohorts of leaders to take the country forward," said PM Lee, who is 68.
However, no one, including him, had expected to encounter an overwhelming crisis like Covid-19 in the last stretch of his premiership.
"But I count myself fortunate to have been elected by you, and chosen by my fellow ministers and MPs, to lead Singapore through this critical crisis," he added.
Looking back, he said: "I have spent all my adult life serving my country because I believe in Singapore. That is why I took a scholarship to serve in the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces). That is why when ESM (Emeritus Senior Minister) Goh Chok Tong asked me to enter politics, I agreed." PM Lee was a brigadier-general in the SAF before he stood for election.
GE2020 is PM Lee's ninth general election and yesterday's rally was his seventh Fullerton rally, a signature PAP event that had been held near Fullerton Building in almost every general election. It was held online this year because of safe distancing measures.
PM Lee noted that Singapore has thrived and transformed in the last 36 years, overcoming several crises along the way. "Fullerton Building today is no longer the General Post Office, but a heritage building restored to more than its old splendour. The Singapore River has been cleaned up. Marina Bay has been transformed... into a vibrant downtown."
He recalled that in his debut Fullerton rally speech in 1984, he told young voters it was great to be young and okay to enjoy Michael Jackson's music, and just a few months later, the 1985 recession struck, "and we had much more serious issues to talk about".
In the years since, the Government has tackled various challenges together with Singaporeans. Likewise, he is confident Singapore can pull through the current crisis, provided it has a capable government with the full support of the people, and the "same unshakeable will to marshal all our energies and resources to fight it together, prevail and emerge stronger".
"Our response in this crisis will determine the future of our country, and prospects for our children and grandchildren in Singapore." If Singaporeans work together and build well, the Fullerton rally 36 years from now will take place in a vastly transformed Singapore, one that today's young Singaporeans will be proud to have built, he said.
PM Lee called on all Singaporeans to throw their support behind him and the PAP, and to be confident that "Singapore will endure this searching trial".
"All my life, I have felt a deep personal responsibility to do my part to keep Singapore safe and to make it succeed. Now, to get through this crisis, I need your help; I cannot do it alone. I need the strongest team we can find to work with me and with you. I also need full support from all of you," he said.