Tuesday 22 November 2011

Chinese clan associations can help engage new immigrants, says Mr Lee Kuan Yew

By Huang Lijie, The Straits Times, 22 Nov 2011

CHINESE clan associations here have a new role to play in engaging new immigrants from China, said former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

He suggested that the associations work with the Government to conduct simple English lessons for new immigrants to help the newcomers learn the working language and integrate into society with greater ease.

He said clan associations that are based on dialect will have to modify their roles because dialects have gradually faded away here, with English as the working language and Chinese as the second language for Chinese Singaporeans.

Mr Lee also stressed that the clans should encourage people to speak Mandarin and not dialect.

He was addressing about 1,200 guests at a gala dinner organised by the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) and the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI).

(From left) SFCCA president Chua Thian Poh, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, ESM Goh and SCCCI president Teo Siong Seng. Mr Lee and Mr Goh were presented with books to commemorate the contributions of both leaders to the Chinese community. -- ST PHOTO: RAJ NADARAJAN

The dinner at the Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre ballroom was held to pay tribute to him and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

Guests included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew said that while clan associations were previously set up to help fellow clansmen related to one another by dialect group or the province in China where they came from, that role is no longer relevant today.

He said: 'If you want to play a role in the 21st century, the new migrants from China, their problem is not Chinese... Their problem is how to learn simple English to meld into the population.'

He suggested that the SFCCA and SCCCI work with the Government to help run English classes at community centres two to three times a week, for a nominal fee, to help new immigrants from China integrate into the society.

He added that 'there is no going back to the past', to a time when dialects or Chinese were the first language for some of the elderly in the audience.

He said: 'Your children, if they clutter their minds up with all these dialects they are not going to maximise their opportunities. Master English, master huayu, or putonghua, and you've got a world you can communicate with and China, 1.3 billion people you can do business with.'

In his speech, Mr Goh spoke about how he was called to serve in politics.

He said: 'Though unprepared, I had left a secure job for the uncertainty of politics... I have told my story to encourage young people now comfortably pursuing their careers and building their families to step forward to serve the community.'

Mr Chua Thian Poh, president of the SFCCA, praised both Mr Lee and Mr Goh for maintaining close relations with the Chinese community.

He said both had launched policies in the interests of the Chinese business and Chinese community organisations, and it was with their support that the SFCCA, the Chinese Development Assistance Council and Business China were established.

He added that both leaders 'spared no effort' in preserving Chinese traditions and culture, and in continuing to support the Speak Mandarin Campaign.

To commemorate the contributions of both leaders to the Chinese community, the SFCCA and SCCCI launched two new books, Lee Kuan Yew And The Chinese Community, and Goh Chok Tong And The Chinese Community at the event.

The books, which are not for sale, were presented to both leaders and also to guests.

Speech by ESM Goh Chok Tong at the Tribute Dinner Hosted by SFCCA and SCCCI on Monday, the 21st of November at Suntec City Ballrooms

1 Before I make my speech in English, let me say a few words of appreciation in Chinese.

2 先生们、女士们大家晚上好.

政府治理国家,一直都获得华社的支持。华社在我国的经济发展方面,确实做出了不少贡献。在社会的层面上,华社兴办学校,推广教育,扶弱济贫,热心公益。华社和政府,还有社会上其他群体和机构团体,一起打造了一个更美好的新加坡。新加坡宗乡会馆联合总会和新加坡中华总商会 在我出任总理期间,给了我极大的帮助。在此,我要感谢蔡天宝先生,还有宗乡会馆联合总会 和中华总商会的前任会长和会员们,感谢大家多年来给予我的支持与鼓励,也感谢大家今晚为李光耀先生和我 举办了这场盛大的千人宴。大家的隆情厚谊,让我深感荣幸,感动万分。谢谢大家!

(The Chinese community has always been supportive of the Government. It contributed to the economy. It ran schools and supported education and donated generously to charity. Together with the Government and others, it helped to build a better Singapore. The SFCCA and SCCCI have been helpful to me personally when I was Prime Minister. Mr Chua Thian Poh, I thank you, your predecessors and members in SFCCA and SCCCI for your support and encouragement, and for hosting this tribute dinner to recognize Mr Lee’s and my contributions to Singapore.)

3 Now, let me continue my speech in English.

4 I never planned to be in politics, least of all to succeed Mr Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister. My father died when I was in Primary Four. At his death-bed, he asked me to study hard, do well and look after my mother and siblings. I took his wish to heart.

5 After graduating from university, I aspired to be an academic. But that was not to be as I had to serve out my bursary bond in government. So I started work in 1964 in the Economic Planning Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office.

6 A few years later, I asked to be seconded to the newly-established Neptune Orient Lines (NOL). Starting as a Planning and Projects Manager, I became Managing Director at the age of 33. I thought I had found my niche in life.

7 One day in mid 1976, Mr Hon Sui Sen, Minister for Finance, asked to see me. He invited me to stand for elections. I was taken aback. I had not shown any political interests. I had no grassroots experience. I had no oratorical skills. He explained that the PAP was looking for people to succeed older Ministers like himself.

8 After thinking over for three days, I told Mr Hon that I would give politics a try. I did so out of a sense of duty and obligation. My university education was paid for with a bursary. I had done well thereafter because of the opportunities available. I appreciated the fair and meritocratic system.

9 I cut my political teeth in Joo Chiat under Dr Yeoh Ghim Seng. But it was Mr Fong Sip Chee who guided and helped me in my first election in 1976. When I was appointed Senior Minister of State for Finance, Mr Hon Sui Sen mentored me. When I became the Minister for Defence, Dr Goh Keng Swee guided me in the initial months. Mr S Rajaratnam and Mr Lim Kim San also gave me political advice from time to time.

10 The second generation leaders were labeled technocrats. Some people felt that we lacked fire in our bellies. We could run Ministries but not make rousing speeches. But we knew we had to run the next lap after the Old Guard retired. We applied ourselves. We learnt the ropes of politics. We worked well together. None of us jostled to be Prime Minister.

11 When I succeeded Mr Lee, my over-riding goal was to keep Singapore going. Many people feared that Singapore would not survive without Lee Kuan Yew. I was quietly determined to make sure that Singapore would continue to grow and prosper. It was an impossible task to step into Mr Lee’s shoes and walk in his footsteps. I decided to be myself, walk in my own pair of shoes, and do my best.

12 Mr Lee handed over the premiership to me but mind you, it was not on a silver platter but a porcelain plate. So it was with a sigh of satisfaction, and relief, when I handed over the trusteeship of Singapore to Lee Hsien Loong after 14 years at the helm. Singapore is like this piece of priceless porcelain. It is our common heirloom which we must hand over in good condition from one generation to another.

13 Tonight’s event is a tribute to Mr Lee and me. I could not have succeeded without the support of many people, especially Mr Lee. He was the best political mentor anyone could ask for. He wanted me to succeed as Prime Minister and he helped me to do so. Outside the formal Cabinet meetings, we lunched and saw each other regularly. We discussed domestic politics, party matters, the urgency of political-self renewal, values, relations with our neighbours, and foreign relations. The central theme was always how to overcome Singapore’s limitations and vulnerabilities, give Singaporeans a better life and secure our long term future. He gave advice but made it clear that I was the Prime Minister and had to take the decisions.

14 Next, I owe much to my cohort of supportive colleagues, in particular Lee Hsien Loong who was my able and loyal Deputy Prime Minister for 14 years. Then, there are the special people in Marine Parade – the voters, residents, grassroots leaders and branch activists. They are like a family to me.

15 I am gratified by the understanding and encouragement of Singaporeans of all races during my tenure as Prime Minister. Together, we brought Singapore to a higher level. Together, we weathered the most difficult crises. I thank them for their support and goodwill.

16 The Chinese community has always supported and worked with me and the government, as did the Malay, Indian and Eurasian communities. I thank SFCCA and SCCCI for organizing this tribute dinner to honour me.

17 Looking forward, the people and the government must bond and work as one to grow Singapore into one of the most beautiful, harmonious and prosperous countries in the world. Only when there is a strong bond between the people and the government, will Singapore be able to overcome crushing challenges. The world has changed fundamentally. The global and domestic forces at work are more difficult to manage. The government on its own cannot overcome these problems. My wish is for everyone to play his or her part and help Singapore succeed as a united, strong and confident nation.

18 Mine is the story of a quiet boy from humble beginnings who was called upon to serve Singapore. Though unprepared, I had left a secure job for the uncertainty of politics. When I look back over the last 35 years, I feel that I have led a useful life.

19 I have told my story to encourage young people now comfortably pursuing their careers and building their families to step forward to serve the community. If you love your family, your home and your friends, if you care for your society and country, play your part to make Singapore the best home for all of us.

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