PM Lawrence Wong to S’poreans: ‘Join me and my team in our journey forward’

Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong shaking hands with Prime Minister Lawrence Wong after receiving the instrument of appointment from President Tharman Shanmugaratnam during the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on May 15. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Prime Minister Lawrence Wong speaking after being sworn in at the Istana on May 15. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Prime Minister Lawrence Wong (centre) laid out his plans to take Singapore forward amid a more challenging world in his inauguration speech on May 15. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
(From left) PM Lawrence Wong taking the oath for due execution of office of prime minister and oath of allegiance in the presence of President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The ceremony held at the Istana at night after a heavy afternoon downpour, marked not just a change in leadership but also in generations. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lawrence Wong called on Singaporeans to join him in the ambitious goal of building a society where everyone matters “and a Singapore that matters to all Singaporeans”.

There will be no easy formulas to apply, and no models to follow in this task, he said on May 15 after being sworn in as Singapore’s fourth prime minister at the Istana.

But he and his fourth-generation political leaders, together with the help of Singaporeans, will experiment to discover fresh solutions and blaze new paths.

“Everyone will have a stake in our nation’s progress. Everyone will play a key role in shaping our future,” he said in his inauguration speech.

Addressing Singaporeans for the first time as their prime minister, he promised to serve with all his heart, to never settle for the status quo, and to “always seek better ways to make tomorrow better than today”.

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As prime minister, his mission was clear: To continue defying the odds and to sustain the miracle of Singapore.

“So that we can reach even greater heights. So that we can be a beacon of hope and unity for ourselves and our children,” he added.

Laying out his plans to take Singapore forward amid a more challenging world, PM Wong said there will be those who doubt Singapore’s ability to go further.

But he was sure they would be proven wrong as they have been in the past.

“When the going gets tough, we do not crumble. We press on, with faith in our fellow citizens and in Singapore’s future. We strive harder, reach further, and prove that with determination and hard work, there is no challenge we cannot overcome,” he said.

This is the spirit he will bring to his new role, he added.

In a ceremony before an audience which he said embodied the “rich fabric of our nation”, he solemnly took his affirmation of allegiance and of due execution of office.

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Led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, he swore to bear faith and allegiance to Singapore and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. He also swore to faithfully discharge his duties according to law to the best of his knowledge and ability, and without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

Watching on at the Istana lawn were students, teachers, unionists, business leaders, athletes, artists, community volunteers and the front-liners PM Wong had thanked tearily in Parliament in 2020 for their contributions during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

When he was done, he was handed a scroll, the instrument of appointment, by President Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

President Tharman Shanmugaratnam (centre) hands Prime Minister Lawrence Wong (left) the instrument of appointment at the Istana on May 15. With them is Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Then, in order of seniority, Mr Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as senior minister, Mr Gan Kim Yong and Mr Heng Swee Keat as deputy prime ministers, and Mr Teo Chee Hean as senior minister.

This was followed by 14 ministers, nine senior ministers of state and five ministers of state.

PM Wong, who has been taking classes in Malay and Mandarin, spoke first in the two languages before moving on to English.

The ceremony, held at the Istana at night after a heavy afternoon downpour, marked not just a change in leadership but also in generations.

Mr Wong is the first prime minister of Singapore to be born after the country’s independence in 1965, as are most of his colleagues in the fourth-generation (4G) team.

(Front row, from left) DPM Heng Swee Keat, SM Lee Hsien Loong, PM Lawrence Wong, DPM Gan Kim Yong, SM Teo Chee Hean with the new Cabinet at the Istana on May 15. PHOTO: MCI

Citing this, he said his generation have been shaped by their experiences, having seen the vital importance of good leadership, political stability and long-term planning, and have also benefited from the imaginative policies of Singapore’s founding fathers.

Their leadership style will differ from previous generations’, he said.

“We will lead in our own way. We will continue to think boldly and to think far,” he added. 

He also pledged to build on the foundations laid by the earlier generations, acknowledging that he and his team stood on “the shoulders of giants”, such as Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team who led the country through independence and established the key pillars of governance; and second prime minister Goh Chok Tong and his team who took the country through the next lap, and nurtured a kinder and gentler society.

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For his predecessor, SM Lee, PM Wong reserved a special tribute.

He thanked the outgoing prime minister for his guidance and mentorship, and on behalf of the nation, for his devotion to the service of the country and people, and his stewardship of Singapore.

“Mr Lee spoke often of the need to keep Singapore exceptional. He was exceptional himself – in his devotion, his selflessness, and his dedication to serve,” said PM Wong.

A smiling SM Lee leaned forward in a bow in his front-row seat, to applause from the audience.

President Tharman, in a speech before the swearing-in ceremony, said much could be recalled about SM Lee’s leadership in areas from foreign to security policies. “But it is above all the norms and standards that Mr Lee upheld and reinforced – the intangibles of political leadership – that define his most important legacy,” he added.

“His selflessness and personal integrity, and the expectations of high standards of conduct that he set for those in political office. His making time to listen to people from all walks of life, and different points of view, in making decisions that are fair and in the best interests of Singaporeans. His resolve to tackle difficult issues early, never leaving them to future leaders to resolve, even if it means paying an immediate political price.”

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Singapore should never let slide these expectations of integrity, incorruptibility and conduct that SM Lee and his predecessors have established, as there will be no going back when standards slide, said Mr Tharman.

Even as he started out in his new role, PM Wong, who had emerged as the front runner for the role of prime minister in 2022 after the 4G’s earlier choice, DPM Heng, stepped down, had succession on his mind.

One of his key priorities is to identify and persuade younger Singaporeans, men and women in the 30s and 40s, to join his team, he said.

“So I call out tonight to all my fellow citizens: Help me to provide Singaporeans with the government they deserve. Let us make a difference, and serve our nation together,” he said.

Later in the night, PM Wong arrived to an enthusiastic reception in Yew Tee where more than 1,000 people had gathered to watch his swearing-in ceremony.

PM Wong, who has been an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC since 2015, said to them: “The best days of Singapore are still ahead of us, the best chapters of our Singapore story lie ahead – let’s work together to build a better Singapore together.”

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