National Day Rally 2019: Singapore comprises multiple layers built by each generation, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

Spectators at the National Day Parade at the Padang on Aug 9, 2019. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Singapore - Hundreds of years ago, an ancient earth wall used to stand where Stamford Road now runs, from Fort Canning all the way to the Padang.

Alongside the wall was a stream that became the Stamford Canal of today.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cited these developments to show that Singapore today comprises multiple layers and imprints of different eras, with each generation building on the work of their predecessors.

The Greater Southern Waterfront, comprising 30km of coastline from Gardens by the Bay East to Pasir Panjang, will add yet more layers to the city, he added, as he pledged to pass on a better Singapore to future generations.

In a National Day Rally speech delving deep into history in Singapore's Bicentennial year, he recounted how the different communities in Singapore had come from different lands over the centuries, bringing with them their identities, cultures and beliefs, and their hopes, dreams, passions and ambitions.

Touching on the topic first in his Malay speech and later in his Chinese and English speeches, PM Lee said the Malays came in large numbers after Stamford Raffles arrived. Most were from around the region, and there were also Arabs from Yemen and some people from India.

He noted that their cultural and historical ties have helped to foster understanding with neighbouring countries, while their influence on society has helped shape Singapore's national identity as a multiracial country in South-east Asia.

In the process, he added, Malays have developed their own unique identity.

The story is similar for the Chinese, Indians and Eurasians, who had come to Singapore as sojourners but eventually sank roots and developed their own distinct identities, he said.

"Slowly, we wove these strands together to become Singaporeans and to build today's Singapore," he added.

"And the layout and the architecture of our city reflects this richness and complexity."

For instance, parts of the Civic District and Central Business District are laid out in line with the first town plan drawn up around 200 years ago.

Many colonial buildings from that time remain, and have been restored and re-purposed, like the former Supreme Court and City Hall which have become the National Gallery Singapore.

Through this process of building and rebuilding, each new generation will leave their mark on Singapore as their predecessors have done, said PM Lee.

The new downtown in Marina Bay, for instance, has created a distinctive city skyline, while Jewel at Changi Airport has given Singapore a spectacular new gateway to the world.

"What we talk about, this Government, we will deliver," said PM Lee to applause.

Meanwhile, he added, the planned move of Tanjong Pagar port to Tuas will free up space and provide a "blank slate" for a new generation to build part of their vision for Singapore.

He listed other major projects unveiled at National Day Rallies over the years, which he said were progressively taking shape but "will not be done in a decade, or even in one generation".

They include the Punggol Digital District, Jurong Lake District, Changi Terminal 5, redevelopment of Paya Lebar Airbase, Tuas Port, and the Greater Southern Waterfront.

"There will be space for successive generations to fill with their hopes and dreams," he said.

Wrapping up his speech, PM Lee added that Singapore's progress depends on Singaporeans remaining united and having an honest and capable government "working together with you, for you, for Singapore".

"The next few years will be demanding. We have to handover smoothly to a new generation of leaders, and continue to strive to realise our ambitions," he said.

Calling on Singaporeans to work together with his team, he added: "My team will work with you to build this jewel of a nation, so that Singapore will always be a vibrant, thriving city where opportunities are open to all, and our children and their children will have a bright future."

"Let us strive together to create this future. Let us unite as one nation to build tomorrow's Singapore."

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