A toast to an !mprobable nation

Fifty years after independence came unsought, Singapore has not just survived but thrived, thanks to pioneers who pulled off firsts that others thought were impossible.

Anyone who predicted in 1965 when we separated from Malaysia that Singapore would become a financial centre would have been thought mad. How did it happen, the gleaming modern office blocks with banks of computers linking Singapore with London, New York, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and other major financial centres? It had a most improbable start in 1968.

MR LEE KUAN YEW, First prime minister

In the course of my work, I often visit military camps. One of the lasting impressions I get on these occasions is the image of the national serviceman on sentry duty - a bespectacled youth of slender proportions, ill at ease in an unaccustomed environment but trying to conceal it. An improbable soldier.

DR GOH KENG SWEE, First defence minister

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2015, with the headline ''. Subscribe