SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has pledged that he will steer Singapore through the current crisis alongside senior Cabinet colleagues and the fourth-generation ministers, even as the PAP ensures there is continuous leadership renewal.
"You have my word: Together with my older colleagues like (Senior Ministers) Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, as well as the 4G ministers, I will see this through," he said at the online Fullerton rally at noon on Monday (July 6).
"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 speech, and touched on how the People's Action Party believes in - and has ensured - leadership renewal over the years "to keep the party vigorous and in sync with your aspirations".
In the 1984 General Election, the PAP fielded 26 new candidates and its self-renewal took off, he said. "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."
PM Lee also said that no one, including him, had expected to meet 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 said.
Looking back on the past, 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. That is why when ESM Goh Chok Tong asked me to enter politics, I agreed."
Monday's rally was PM Lee's seventh Fullerton rally since he entered politics in 1984, and his ninth general election so far. Singapore has thrived and transformed in the last 36 years, overcoming several crises along the way, he added.
"Fullerton Building today is no longer the General Post Office, but a heritage building restored to more than its old splendour," he said. "The Singapore River has been cleaned up. Marina Bay has been transformed from open water and empty reclaimed land into a vibrant downtown, alive with business, recreation and arts, alive with life."
While Singapore has built all this up steadily, the journey was not a smooth one.
PM Lee recalled how in his debut Fullerton rally speech, he told young voters it was good to be young and okay to enjoy Michael Jackson's music, and just a few months later, the 1985 recession hit "and we had much more serious issues to talk about".
In the years since, the Government had to contend with challenges such as the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998; the Sept 11, 2001, terror attack and the Jemaah Islamiah terror threat; the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003; and the global financial crisis of 2007-2009.
"Each was a grave challenge. Each time, we worried about the worst happening to us but each time, the Government led from the front, Singaporeans rallied together, and we pulled through," he said.
Likewise, he is confident that Singapore can pull through this latest crisis, provided it has a capable government with the full support of the people, and if it has 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," he said.
If Singaporeans work together and build well, generation after generation, the Fullerton rally 36 years from now will likewise take place in a vastly transformed Singapore, one that young Singaporeans of today will be proud to have built, he added.
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," he said.
"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."