Monday 27 August 2012

PM Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally 2012

PM Lee's National Day Rally 2012 Speech in English
PM Lee's National Day Rally 2012 Speech in Mandarin
PM Lee's National Day Rally 2012 Speech in Malay
National Day Rally 2012 Highlights

In his speech, the Prime Minister recounted stories of people who made a difference

PM's old SAF friend
By Goh Chin Lian and Matthias Chew, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

THREE Sundays ago, during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was going around the tables at a break fast session in Teck Ghee when a Malay man stood up and said: "Hello, I'm Omar."

Mr Lee recalled yesterday: "I looked at him and my mind went back 40 years - 1975, Taman Jurong Camp, Corporal Omar, my vehicle electrician."

Mr Lee cited Mr Omar Haron, 68, as one of his memories that make Singapore his home, and held the retiree up as an example of the many Singaporeans who had made good in one generation, as the country moved from Third World to First.

Mr Omar told The Straits Times that Mr Lee, now 60, was a platoon commander in his battalion in 1975.

This chance meeting with an old friend from the SAF so delighted Mr Lee that he took a picture with Mr Omar and posted it on his Facebook page.

Mr Omar said he left school after Primary 6, doing odd jobs like washing aquariums for the Sultan of Johor and selling satay before joining the army. But all his children made it to university, including the eldest, Abdul Razakjr Omar, 42, now a cardiologist at Raffles Hospital, whom Mr Lee mentioned in his speech.

Mr Omar also has a daughter, 40, who works as a regional manager at a chemical firm, and another son, 32, who is a headhunter for a multinational firm. He said: "I'm a poor man, but the children shouldn't be poor in education."

Spoons and potatoes were the tools he used to teach his children addition and multiplication - coupled with discipline.

He said: "I saw how successful my neighbours were and I didn't want my children to be like me. I was very happy when I saw my son graduate."

Classmates helped Vietnamese student fit in
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 27 Aug2012

WHEN Ms Le Ha Thanh Mai arrived here from Vietnam on a scholarship, she was 15 and did not know English. Six years on, she was held up as a success story of integration into Singaporean society by the Prime Minister.

Like many foreign students, she found it hard adjusting to life here at first due to the language and the different way lessons are taught here and in Vietnam.

But things improved after she joined Temasek Junior College, where her classmates helped her fit in.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong cited her as an example of how Singaporeans and foreigners should work at integration.

He said: "By the time she went to Singapore Management University (SMU), she was so localised that if you didn't know her name, you wouldn't know she came from somewhere else."

She was even elected as the international students' secretary of the SMU Students' Association to lead efforts to integrate international students.

He quoted her as saying: "I feel as much a Singaporean as I am a Vietnamese.

"I have come to love the hawker food, the Singapore River that I jog along, the fireworks every National Day on the magnificent background of Singapore's skyline, the shopping malls... the cinemas where I spend many nights watching movies, the schools I attended and, most importantly, the friendships I have made."

Last night, Ms Mai, whose family is in Ho Chi Minh City, said Singaporeans can help foreign students to integrate by being more understanding of the difficulties they face being away from home.

Foreign students can also be more thick-skinned and interact with Singaporeans instead of retreating into their comfort zone.

She plans to stay here. "I have a three-year government bond to serve," she said. "And my boyfriend is a Singaporean."

Work, studies and baby too
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

EARLY on in her part-time studies at SIM University (UniSIM) three years ago, Mrs Natalie Toh found she was with child.

It was an unplanned pregnancy and she and her husband Alfred were already juggling work in the day and classes after sunset.

Financially, the couple had to make adjustments, with an extra mouth to feed.

But help will soon be available for couples like the Tohs who are working and want to pursue part-time studies at UniSIM.

Government bursaries and loans, that are available to National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University part-time students, will be extended to their UniSIM counterparts, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

"It needs tremendous commitment and grit to succeed if you go to UniSIM, and we should help people like that," he said.

The Education Ministry will announce details later.

Mr Toh said: "Financial aid will help, as the Government wants Singaporeans like us to upgrade (academically), and also have more babies."

Their son Zhi Xuan is now two years old, and the couple are in their final semesters at UniSIM.

Both are doing well, boasting grade point averages above 4.5, out of a maximum of five.

Recalling the challenges of raising an infant, Mr Toh, a 31-year- old service marketing executive, said: "It was a very tough period for us, coming back to the books after a long break, then having to both work and study, and on top of that, preparing for and then dealing with a baby."

But UniSIM's flexible learning structure helped. Students can study at their own pace, so the couple deferred 10 credits of their modules in the semester during which Mrs Toh delivered.

The 31-year-old lecturer is enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Visual Communication with Business programme, while her husband is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Marketing.

Three active seniors with a zest for life
By Goh Chin Lian and Matthias Chew, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

EVERY day, Madam Chang Ka Fong, 87, makes it a point to turn up at Teck Ghee Community Club to play basketball, shooting 50 hoops each time.

She also stays fit by exercising and watching her diet, she told The Straits Times, taking just porridge and Horlicks for breakfast, and not over-eating.

"Not all of us need to play basketball every day, but daily exercise is good for us," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said of Madam Chang. She was one of the three active seniors whom he cited as role models in his Mandarin speech last night.

Another was chicken rice seller Chung Win Kee, 71, who knew nothing about computers until a few years ago.

But his passion for photography, now digital, spurred him to sign up for computer classes at Radin Mas Community Club.

Today, he is comfortable chatting online with his children and grandchildren. He also surfs for new chicken rice recipes and uses Facebook to make friends and share photographs.

Said PM Lee: "I, too, just started on Facebook recently. Mr Chung is my Facebook senior. I have much to learn from him."

He also praised Mr Chen Woo Teck, 79, a retired Chinese language teacher who is now a PhD student in Chinese language and literature at SIM University.

"His zest for learning is admirable," said the PM.

Mr Chung and Mr Chen said they believe in lifelong learning.

Mr Chung, who also surfs the Net for flight discounts, said: "Going online helps me to broaden my mind."

Mr Chen, who began pursuing his bachelor's degree at UniSIM in 2005, followed by a master's and now a PhD, said of his efforts: "It's a good example for the future generations."

Singapore's 'Usain Bolt' breaks robot world sprint record
By Leonard Lim and Tessa Wong, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

A SINGAPORE sprinter has yet to snag a spot in the Olympic 100m finals but in the field of robotics, the country can now boast of its very own Usain Bolt.

A robot created by a Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) team broke the world record for sprints at the Federation of International Robotic Associations RoboWorld Cup in Bristol, with its time of 32sec over 6m. The BBC dubbed it Usain Bolt.

Such successes by students in polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education speak of a good education at all levels, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The NYP team won 12 medals at the meet, which drew teams from 27 countries.

Mr Joshua Chao recently led a Nanyang Technological University team to sixth place in a US defence agency's crowdsourcing competition to design unmanned aerial vehicles.

Their entry beat 139 others, including from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Family that goes from Third World to First
By Leonard Lim and Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

MR TOH Phee Seng is illiterate and had to rely on a computer to read out the questions when he sat and passed a recent construction safety exam.

His family had been too poor to send him to school, and for more than four decades, the 59-year-old slogged as a construction worker while nursing the hope of giving his children a better life.

"I did not have the chance to go to school; I wanted to make sure it did not happen to my children," he said in Hokkien yesterday, after his family's success story was related by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Mr Toh's son Wei Seong, 33, is a research scientist at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

He first graduated from Singapore Polytechnic; his family then poured their life savings of around $40,000 for him to get a bachelor's degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Melbourne.

He then earned a PhD from the National University of Singapore, and was awarded an Agency for Science, Technology and Research international fellowship for a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University. His sister Huey Sun, 24, is also a graduate and works as an accountant at the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

Said Mr Lee: "So Mr Toh was happy that his children had done much better than himself. His family reflects the experiences of so many other families in Singapore, and epitomises Singapore's transformation in one generation from Third World to First - from somebody illiterate who never had a chance to learn to read but brought up children, been to Harvard, doing well."

Singapore, he added, must always offer hope of a better future, and be a nation "where our children will live better lives than us, as we did our parents".


Malay success stories of overcoming the odds
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

MANY Malay children who grew up in Darul Ma'wa, a children's shelter, have become successful and productive citizens, the Prime Minister noted last night.

Mr Sufian Anuar, a striker currently in the LionsXII soccer team, is one of them.

Another is Mr Zulfadli Nazaluddin, a spacecraft analyst at telco firm SingTel. The polytechnic graduate is now gunning for a degree at the National University of Singapore.

If they can do well, so can others in the Malay/Muslim community, said Mr Lee Hsien Loong in an upbeat Malay speech.

He said the community has made great strides and was confident of its place in Singapore.

More young people were following in the footsteps of late community leader Ridzwan Dzafir and also potter Iskandar Jalil, he noted.

Besides Mr Sufian and Mr Zulfadli, there is Mr Muhammad Kamal Jauhari Zaini (right), who recently graduated with first-class honours in sociology from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and won the Lee Kuan Yew Gold Medal.

"Jauhari smoked and played truant as a young student, and was often caned. But he turned over a new leaf, worked hard and made it to NTU," said Mr Lee.

He also praised Mr Adil Hakeem Mohamad Rafee, a Rafflesian who won the prestigious President's Scholarship this year.

Mr Lee identified several thrusts to ensure continued progress for the community, which he said is an integral part of Singapore's future.

One is to arrest declining birth rates that are also being seen among Malays.

He promised the Government would do its best to encourage couples to marry and have babies. "I hope to hear more sounds of kompang celebrations and babies crying at birth from you soon," he said to laughter from the audience.

Singapore's multi-racial approach to national challenges remains relevant, and efforts to uplift the Malay/Muslim community also have to continue, he said.

Mr Lee added that even as capable people are nurtured, those who are in difficulty must be helped, and those who are managing adequately encouraged to do better.

"If you can do this steadily year after year, I am confident that the community will transform itself and rise to the next level. This is our shared objective."

Referring to the Malay Heritage Centre, whose reopening he will preside at this week, he said: "The Government will back your efforts to progress, and to develop your culture, but you should make full use of this support."


Asian Dragons at 'critical juncture'
By Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2012

SINGAPORE is not alone in worrying about the future, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night. Other East Asian societies including Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea are also searching for a stable new path forward.

"After 30 to 40 years of rapid development, all the 'Four Asian Dragons' are at a critical juncture. The era of rapid growth is over," he said in the Mandarin speech of his National Day Rally.

No country, however, can say it has found the new formula to meet these challenges, he noted.

Borrowing a phrase from Taiwan, he said Singaporeans should not be like a "one-eyed dragon" always focused on the negatives, but should look with "both eyes".

"Singapore is indeed not perfect. But I ask Singaporeans to look at Singapore with both eyes. In reality, we are better off than many other countries," he said.

He said a foundation of jobs, housing and education gives Singapore potential for a bright future, and even earns the praise of observers outside the country.

The media, government and people in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan believe there is more to learn from Singapore, he said.

He noted that Singapore remains an attractive investment destination, there are good job opportunities and unemployment is low. In housing, the Government will continue to provide good quality and affordable public housing.

On education, he noted that nearly all students complete secondary school education, and one in three goes to university. Students also have more tracks to grow in besides universities.

But Mr Lee emphasised the need to build a more compassionate and gracious society as Singapore continues to grow, and the need to create a sense of identity through preserving traditions.

Chinese culture, in particular, is an important pillar of Singapore culture. "It is an emotional anchor and moral compass for many Singaporeans. We should preserve our cultural roots lest we lose ourselves in this ever-changing world," he said. The Government therefore supports proposals for a Chinese Cultural Centre, and a Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Cultural Academy.

Memories are the 'soul of the nation'

AS A child, the young Hsien Loong spent much of his time at his home in Oxley Road and in his school, Nanyang Primary. At food stalls at an Orchard Road carpark, he ate ou luak (oyster omelette) that "has never been better".

Those places have either changed or are no longer around, but the Prime Minister's memories of them remain, along with fond remembrances of the National Day Parades he had attended over the years.

Last night, PM Lee brought up these anecdotes from his personal life to demonstrate the importance of memories in making Singapore the best home for Singaporeans.

"Memories - memories of places, of old friends, of events we've lived through - are also essential to keeping Singapore our best home. It's often in the simple things in life which remind us most of home," he said.

Accumulating and collecting these stories both individually and collectively, he said, will contribute to the telling of the Singapore Story and strengthen people's emotional ties to the nation.

"These memories come together to define the Singapore Story for all of us," he said.

"Individually, these are our life's experiences. Collectively, these bind together to become the soul of the nation. We must cherish them, and build upon them."

One project that is currently doing this is the Singapore Memory Project, a government initiative that aims to amass five million submissions of Singaporeans' memories by 2015.

Spearheaded by the National Library Board, with the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, it continues to seek submissions through various websites, social media sites and roadshows. Started last year, it has collected 300,000 memories so far.

Project director Gene Tan said recently that he was confident of reaching the ambitious goal.

"The culture of memory is an investment in our future," he said.

It was something Mr Lee too had in mind, as he spoke about how shared memories with some old and new friends had helped him to bond with them as fellow Singaporeans.

Recently, he met Mr Omar Haron, 68, a former soldier who served with him in the Singapore Armed Forces, and they were so happy that Mr Lee quickly snapped a picture of them - both grinning - on his mobile phone.

On a private holiday in Vietnam last year, the PM also bumped into several Singaporeans who lived or worked in Ang Mo Kio and Teck Ghee - where Mr Lee is an MP.

They came up to greet him and took pictures with him. "They are proud to be Singaporean, and they make me feel proud to be Singaporean," he said.

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