SINGAPORE - Singapore started its journey as an independent nation striving to build a multiracial society, where every citizen - regardless of race, language or religion - is on an equal footing.
Five decades on, the country has succeeded on this front, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a national day observance ceremony held by some 30 Malay/Muslim organisations and their partners on Saturday.
In a short speech in Malay and English, Mr Lee paid tribute to the strong ties between the communities here, as he recalled how Singapore had from the start been determined to be a country where people are judged for their ability and contributions, and not the colour of their skin.
He said: "It was why we left Malaysia. It was the fundamental reason for our Singapore to exist as a nation."
The 1,000-strong crowd gathered at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio on Saturday morning was proof of how far the country had come, with people of different races and religions coming together to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee.
The country's pioneers had taken the first step, and the following generations have built on the efforts of the founding fathers, noted Mr Lee.
Their efforts have helped Singaporeans journey from third world to first as one united people, he added.
"We built a harmonious multi-racial society, where each group maintains its culture and traditions, but all are well integrated into one Singapore identity. We nurtured both self-reliance and mutual support, so that each one does his best, but we all help one another and leave nobody behind," said Mr Lee.
"We kept the faith between the Government and the people, with the people having high expectations of the Government, and the Government doing its best to serve Singaporeans."
The ceremony on Saturday - which was followed by a small carnival with performances by budding artistes - was a meaningful way to mark Singapore's golden jubilee, noted Mr Lee.
Even as Malay/Muslim groups took the lead to organise the event, self-help groups from other major communities - the Chinese Development Assistance Council, Sinda and the Eurasian Association - were also part of the festivities.
Mr Lee said such efforts showcased Singapore's success as a multiracial nation.
"Our minorities are confident of their place, and proud of our nation," he added.
"Long may this peace and harmony continue, as we go forward as one united people. Majulah Singapura!"