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Lee Kuan Yew inspired entire generation of Singaporeans (The News Today (Bangladesh))

by August 17, 2015 General

Darryl Lau, Consul of Singapore Consulate in Dhaka, on August 9, 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of Singapore said in a speech delivered by him that Singapore was the first country in the Southeast Asia to extend formal recognition to Bangladesh in February, 1972. Bangladesh is now Singapore’s second largest trading partner in the sub-continent and ties between the two countries are growing day by day. The following is text of his speech.

Dear ministers, ambassadors/High Commissioners and distinguished guests we, the Singapore community, are delighted that you are able to join us here this evening for a very special event, one which holds a lot of meaning for us Singaporeans: our country’s Golden Jubilee celebrations on the occasion of the 50th National Day of Singapore which we have abbreviated as SG50. While we are not able to be physically present in Singapore to witness the grand national day parade which has just ended, we have done the next best thing by taping the broadcast of the parade for your viewing pleasure later on. For our guests present, we do not have any special guest for this evening as everyone here is special to us.

You, and the countries represented here, including of course our host country Bangladesh, are either our immediate neighbours or partners in various fields over the years. And where Bangladesh is concerned, it is a longstanding friend, where we were the first country in our region to extend our formal recognition in Feb 1972 following Bangladesh’s declaration of independence in March 1971. Bilateral relations are multi-faceted: Bangladesh is Singapore’s 2nd largest trading partner in the sub- continent, and exchanges of visits at various levels remain strong.

Singapore is also host to a significant Bangladesh workforce whose friendly disposition, work discipline and eagerness to do a good job make them highly sought after in various industries, such as construction, shipbuilding and estate management. Some of the most iconic buildings that dot the Singapore skyline today have been developed through the contributions of the Bangladeshis there. I was in Singapore last weekend and was very pleasantly surprised to see some of the Bangladeshis having their weekend break at East Coast park, wearing T-shirts with the words, Together we celebrate SG50, Bangladesh-Singapore Friendship Association. Their sense of inclusiveness is uplifting. In the same vein, I was in Gazipur earlier today to celebrate SG50 there in an event by the Bangladesh-Singapore Friendship Society organised by Mr Altaf Hossain of W W Grain.

I attended to convey greetings from the people of Singapore and to express our thanks to the many Bangladeshis who hail from rural communities such as these for their contributions to Singapore’s development. Excellencies, and distinguished guests, The last 50 years journey has been an exhilarating ride for Singapore. But truth be told, at the inception of our independence on this very day in 1965, no one, including our founding fathers, could have imagined how well things have turned out for our nation. Bereft of a hinterland after our separation, how was a city-state with no natural resources, comprising a diverse population of different ethnicities and religions, ever going to survive? And yet survive we did.

We made the transition from a third world nation to a developed country within one generation. Per capita income grew 110 times, from US$512 in 1965 to US$56,700 in 2014. How did this happen? On this occasion, it behoves us to remember the pioneer generation whose hard work and sacrifice transformed Singapore into what it is today. Undoubtedly, we were also most fortunate, as they say, to be able to ride on the shoulders of giants who were our founding leaders, not least in the form of our first PM Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Our celebrations tonight would have been perfect if Mr Lee had lived to see this day, which is the culmination of his lifework.

But alas, this isnot to be, as Mr Lee passed way in March this year. His absence at tonight’s ND parade is sorely missed by our citizens. The tens of thousands of Singaporeans who queued patiently for hours to pay their last respects to Mr Lee attest to the enormous respect for this extra ordinary leader, whose abiding passion for his country shone through in whatever he did. That said, to paraphrase a highly respected official from our foreign ministry, no leader, however talented, can achieve much alone. Mr Lee was undoubtedly a great leader, but he was the great leader of a great team and of a great people. Leadership is not a matter of intellect alone.

Mr Lee’s sense of mission, his dedication and passion for Singapore inspired an entire generation of Singaporeans from all walks of life to defy the odds and to serve some cause larger than themselves. Dear fellow Singaporeans, There is much that we can be thankful for as we celebrate SG50 today. We received a very special BD gift the night before. Singapore’s Mr Butterfly, Josesph Schooling, achieved a historic podium finish at the 100 metres butterfly final at the World Swimming Championship at Kazan. Despite qualifying only seventh for the final, Schooling swam way above expectations to clinch a bronze. He has dedicated his medal to the people of Singapore.

We, the Singapore community in Dhaka, salute his fine achievement. In this regard, the SG50 event is not just a celebration of our success, but to also reinforce our sense of identity. We are not a perfect country, no country is, and there is always room for improvement, but there are many aspects about our country which we should cherish, not least the social and religious harmony which we enjoy, which unfortunately is becoming a rarer sight in this troubled world of ours.

What next for Singapore, as we look towards the future? The greatest danger is one of complacency, thinking that we have arrived, and worst still to fall under the delusion that success is the natural order of things. The manifold challenges that we are facing today, though different, are no less daunting than that faced at the time of our independence: maintaining the growth momentum so as to create good jobs for our people when we are already at a high-base economically, coping with a rapidly ageing population even as our demographics do not suggest that we are going to replace ourselves anytime soon, maintaining our social cohesion amidst the centrifugal forces unleashed by globalisation, are all formidable challenges. The Singapore that you see around us today and which many young Singaporeans take for granted, is a totally unnatural place.

We exist only by dint of human endeavour, not by any divine right. What was created by human endeavour must be maintained by human endeavour. Singapore will be preserved only if the next generation shares that passion from which flows the determination to overcome challenges that cannot now be foreseen. It will do well for us to remember that 50 years is a short time in the history of nations. Past success is no guarantee of future success.

There is always less margin for error for small countries, and more so for a city-state, particularly in a time where sociologists say that we are now living in a VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. What will get us through then? The answer I think, resides in hewing closely to the tenets reflected in our national pledge, which is to work as one united people, regardless of race, language or religion so as to build the society we desire which is to be based on justice and equality.

Let us do our little bit to keep the Singapore Story going, and show the world that though small, we have the gumption to pursue our dreams. Let the chapters between now and SG100 be filled with many more accounts of our derring do, as we transcend the limitations of our size and strive to remain an exceptional country. Happy Birthday Singapore, Speech of Darryl Lau, Consul, Singapore Consulate in Dhaka, at Westin Hotel on August 9, 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of Singapore.