Singapore ministers share their thoughts on National Day

Folded paper hearts form the word SG51 at the Kembangan-Chai Chee National Day observance ceremony. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

SINGAPORE - With the country taking its first step towards what many hope will be another 50 years of peace and prosperity, ministers posted on social media a mixture of forward-looking messages and nostalgic reminders of the hard work that has enabled Singapore to celebrate its 51st birthday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a poignant look back at the first National Day Parade (NDP) he participated in as a member of the Combined Schools band in 1967, remembered how "each parade is memorable in a different way".

He wrote: "As we look forward to this year's parade, I hope we will remember how we got here. So long as we keep on working together, doing our best and finding new paths forward, each year on National Day we can sing Majulah Singapura, with pride, together."

Sharing his optimism for the future were Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who called on Singaporeans to stay united as one people.

While Mr Chan said the past 50 years have "given us much to cherish", he cautioned that it is also timely to ask: "What more can we do to shape a better future for ourselves and for generations to come?"

Mr Tan, who is currently in Brazil to support Team Singapore's athletes at the Rio Olympics, added: "This is our first step beyond SG50 and the beginning of our next leg. Here's wishing all of us wisdom, courage and unity!"

In a nod to PM Lee's National Day Message, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob wrote that it was not just the Government's responsibility when it comes to keeping Singapore exceptional.

"It requires each and everyone of us to do our part. Sometimes, it requires only simple acts. Be good and considerate neighbours, with huge doses of give and take. Spare a thought for the less fortunate," said Madam Halimah.

And with the threat of extremism hanging over Singapore, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said he was giving the NDP a miss as he was attending a meeting in Indonesia to discuss how the region can deal with the problem of terrorism.

He also thanked the Home Team officers working round the clock to protect Singapore.

Meanwhile, Acting Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng repeated the National Day message he read out in schools on Tuesday (Aug 9) morning, recounting how he told students that they would be responsible for writing the next chapter of the Singapore story.

Mr Ng wrote: "I shared how our students should use the opportunities in schools to learn and to grow. To pick up values, knowledge and skills needed for the future; to make friends and build deep and meaningful relationships with each other; to work hard together for our families, our communities and for Singapore, just as our pioneers did."

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, on the other hand, chose to highlight the inspirational story of footballer-turned-chef Muhammad Haikal Johari. He is currently the executive chef of Spanish restaurant Alma, which recently earned a star in the Singapore Michelin Guide 2016.

"Just 10 months ago, Haikal was paralysed from the neck down after a motorbike accident. With daily physiotherapy at NUH, the support of his wife Rafiqah Soh, and sheer will, he's got back some of the movement in his legs, and can move his hands. He's also got back his voice," said Mr Tharman.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's Facebook post also had a more light-hearted tone as he expressed his delight at the choice of Bishan's otter family by Straits Times readers as the 51st object that best represented Singapore.

"That we have a family of otters establishing their habitat in Bishan-AMK park, in between two HDB towns packed with people, is uniquely Singaporean," Dr Ng said.

Acting Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung dedicated a video to the residents of Sembawang, where he is an MP.

While Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is still recovering from a stroke, will not be able to attend the parade, he posted an uplifting message of how he is well on the road to recovery and would be watching it from home.

Said Mr Heng: "A very happy National Day to all Singaporeans! Do share with fellow Singaporeans your hopes and dreams for SG51 and beyond!"

Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo embraced her love for teh-c-kosong (hot tea with evaporated milk but no sugar) in her Facebook post, while Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs Amrin Amin, posted a photo of himself in a hand-painted red and white batik shirt.

Mr Amrin, who is marking his first parade as an MP, revealed that he enlisted the help of renowned local batik painter Sarkasi Said for his shirt.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.