SINGAPORE - As Singapore charts a different path amid a fast-changing world and the rising aspirations of its people, the need for good leaders at its helm remains constant, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He called on his People's Action Party (PAP) not to shirk this responsibility, adding that if the ruling party fails to provide good leadership, Singapore will be in "deep trouble".
Speaking at a celebration of the PAP's 60th anniversary on Friday evening, Mr Lee reaffirmed his party's commitment to serving Singaporeans and leading the nation forward.
"No matter what the odds are and what circumstances we find ourselves in, the PAP will always be on Singapore's and Singaporeans' side and it will always do its best for Singapore and Singaporeans," he said to the 700 PAP members gathered at the Victoria Concert Hall - the same site where the party was launched in 1954.
Among those present were former prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong - respectively PAP's founding secretary-general and former secretary-general - as well as the party's pioneer generation of MPs, party branch leaders, cadre members and members of the Cabinet.
Mr Lee, the current secretary-general of the party, urged PAP members to hold fast to the ideal of building a just and equal society, which has been at the core of the party since its establishment.
He also said the ruling party would have to win the trust and support of the people and serve with humility, always conscious of their duty towards Singaporeans.
In a reflective speech recounting key moments in the history of Singapore and the PAP, Mr Lee showed how the party had never given up on the country.
The PAP had been a formidable opposition party in the Legislative Assembly in the 1950s, taking part in negotiations in London that led to Singapore gaining self-government in 1959, he said.
Then in 1961, when internal strife between the pro-communists and non-communists in the party tore the PAP apart, the non-communists stood and fought, winning support for Singapore's merger with Malaysia, he added.
When Singapore was finally a part of Malaysia, race-based politics had raised tensions and plunged the country into riots. If the PAP leaders had faltered then, all would have been lost, said Mr Lee.
But the party took on the task of building Singapore, which was thrust upon it after separation from Malaysia in 1965, and has since led the country through various crises such as Sars in 2003 and the global financial crisis in 2008, he added.
Mr Lee also paid special tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who turned the party into a national movement and was the architect of modern Singapore.
In addition, he thanked the party's activists for serving the ground, taking care of residents, mobilising support and keeping the party close to the people.
Ending his speech with the party pledge, Mr Lee urged all members to pledge themselves anew so that all Singaporeans, regardless of race, language or religion, can enjoy a full and happy life.
To commemorate the event, Mr Lee launched the book PAP60: Foward Together, which chronicles 60 defining moments in the party's history. He also unveiled a marker, together with the older Mr Lee and Mr Goh, that had been put away for safekeeping in the past few years while the concert hall underwent renovations.