PM Lee urges Singaporeans to think ‘how we can move forward together’
As Singaporeans mark the nation's bicentennial year by reflecting on how it came into being, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged them to also "think of how we can move forward together".
Noting that Singapore is always a work-in-progress, he said at the launch of the Singapore Bicentennial yesterday: "It is every generation's duty to keep on building, for our children, and for our future."
In doing so, Singaporeans not yet born will have, in another 50 or 100 years, a richer and greater Singapore Story to tell.
It will be, he added, "one that we will have helped to write together".
The year-long Bicentennial, which will feature, among others, projects by artists, schools and ethnic associations, started along the Singapore River to understand where Singapore began, and will close at Marina Bay to look forward into the future.
In his address, PM Lee also said that in retrospect, Singapore's separation from Malaysia less than two years after the merger was not surprising.
Tracing events since Sir Stamford Raffles established Singapore as a free port, he said: "Over nearly 150 years, our political values, inter-communal relations, and worldviews had diverged from the society on the other side of the Causeway."
Its identification as South-east Asian and Malayan, seeded in 1819, drove Singapore to join the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, he added.
"But though we did not realise it then, this history had also made us quite different from our neighbours and friends," he said.
Even before the British came, Singapore already had a thriving seaport called Temasek at the mouth of the Singapore River. That was back in the 14th century.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europeans who came to South-east Asia knew about the island.
When Raffles arrived in 1819, his establishment of Singapore as a free port was a "crucial turning point in our history", the PM said, as "it set this island on a trajectory leading to where we are today".
He noted that when the communists won the civil war in China, many Chinese stayed on in Singapore and they fought to shake off the British colonial yoke.
PM Lee credited the Pioneer Generation as having the grit and resolve to show they could be masters of their own fate when Singapore separated from Malaysia.
But Singapore also recognises the British left an indelible imprint on Singapore, said PM Lee, citing the rule of law and the parliamentary system of Government.