SINGAPORE - The Republic has endured and thrived because it has continually transformed and modernised, even as it preserves some elements of its past, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Dec 5).
"Each generation of Singaporeans has built on what their predecessors had achieved, preserving what is 'gracious and good', and building upon it so that the next generation can reach greater heights for themselves and for Singapore," he said at the Singapore Cricket Club's Visitor's Dinner in Connaught Drive.
At the dinner, PM Lee was also conferred the honorary title of Distinguished Visitor, which to date has only been given to both former prime ministers. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew got it in 1970 and current Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in 2007.
PM Lee shared that in preparing for the dinner, he looked up the speech that Mr Lee Kuan Yew gave back in 1970. One paragraph resonated with him, he said.
The late Mr Lee had said: "I hope that this open green space and this building will continue to symbolise that capacity to change, to adapt, to adjust, and to keep all that was gracious and good of the past. That is not to say that all of the past was wonderful. But there were quite a number of things in the past which were good, including this open green space. There are quite a few things in the present which are not so bad, and so worth preserving."
PM Lee said this was an apt thought, especially during Singapore's Bicentennial year when the nation was "remembering the ups and downs, the triumphs and tragedies, the troubles we have experienced together, and the progress we have made".
He also noted that from its vantage point at the Padang for the past 167 years, the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) has had "a front row seat witnessing the growth and transformation of modern Singapore".
These include when Singapore fell to the Japanese and the latter's tanks and troops paraded down St Andrew's Road in February 1942; when the Japanese surrendered in September 1945 and a victory parade took place; and the huge rally to celebrate Singapore attaining self-governance in June 1959.
Singapore has prevailed through these ups and downs, said PM Lee, adding that the Padang is also where the nation has celebrated National Day on many occasions, including its first National Day Parade in 1966, as well as the SG50 and Bicentennial NDPs.
He noted that while the city has undergone a complete transformation, the Padang along with other key historic buildings like the Supreme Court and Victoria Concert Hall have remained. "So has the SCC," he added, saying that such buildings and venues are a physical link to the past and serve as a reminder of key moments of history.
In the same way, the SCC has preserved some of its "more treasured traditions" while moving with the times, said PM Lee. He highlighted its tradition of sporting excellence which has expanded beyond playing cricket on the Padang to include other sports like football, hockey and rugby.
"You have expanded your mission to promote a love of sports not just among your members, but all Singaporeans," he said, noting that the club's sports teams have nurtured generations of Singaporean talent across different sports.
The dinner also saw SCC president Sher Baljit Singh present Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin a $300,000 cheque for SportCares, which was a result of funds raised by the SCC through various Bicentennial celebrations in October.
SportCares is the philanthropic arm of Sport Singapore, which organises activities to empower underprivileged children, youth at risk, low-income families and persons with disabilities through sports. Said PM Lee: "I thank all SCC members for your generosity and kindness, and encourage you to continue keeping your doors open and embracing this spirit of inclusion in all that you do".