Saturday, 1 February 2014

PM Lee to invite 1,500 members of pioneer generation to Istana party

By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 31 Jan 2014

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will invite 1,500 people from Singapore's pioneer generation to a garden party at the Istana on Feb 9.

The party will be held to honour the generation that helped build modern Singapore, and who contributed in the early years of independence.

The group will include Singaporeans from all walks of life, including former political leaders, those who have contributed to the uniformed services, unions and community through non-government and voluntary welfare organisations, Mr Lee said on Friday.



Also on the list will be "special groups" such as Singapore's first national service enlistees and officer cadets, he told reporters after his traditional Lunar New Year visit to Singaporeans at work during the festive season.

PM Lee said: "We cannot invite all of the people belonging to this generation, because you are talking about hundreds of thousands.

"But I hope the people whom I have invited will be those who have made greater contributions and also those who are representative of this generation and the many different walks of life, and different responsibilities, professions and groups which worked together in order to build Singapore."

As for those who are not invited, he expects there to be many more occasions in the coming year to pay tribute to them and their nation-building efforts.



Mr Lee is due to unveil the Government's planned Pioneer Generation Package to help seniors pay for the costs of health care, at the Feb 9 event.

He noted yesterday that the package is meant for the first generation who made today's Singapore, even as different measures will be in place to care for other seniors.

"We will look after all our old people, and we will arrange for our old people to be able to look after themselves. But the first generation who brought us here, I think that is our responsibility to honour them. And the 50th anniversary of our independence is an appropriate occasion for us to make a gesture which will be meaningful and, I hope, will be useful to them."

Mr Lee was speaking to reporters after visiting 60 uniformed personnel at the Queenstown Neighbourhood Police Centre and Alexandra Fire Station who had just finished their night shift or were starting their duty.

He was accompanied by Mrs Lee and leaders of the labour movement, including NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say and president Diana Chia.

They handed out mandarin oranges and cookies to the officers, and tossed yu sheng to usher in the Year of the Horse.

Mr Lee thanked the officers for "being on duty and on the watch when the rest of us are peacefully celebrating Chinese New Year".




Proud to be invited to Istana party for pioneers
Some nominations for guest list made based on cut-off age of 70 or older
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 4 Feb 2014

WHEN Singapore was opening up its economy to the communist world two years after independence, former businessman Danny Wong, 82, was there to see it first-hand.

He was part of Singapore's first trade mission to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Others in the 29-member team included businessmen Tan Sri Runme Shaw and his brother, the late media mogul Run Run Shaw.

Now a grandfather of five girls and a volunteer who teaches computer skills to senior citizens, Mr Wong said he is proud to be one of 1,500 members of the country's pioneer generation invited to an Istana garden party on Sunday, to honour those who built modern Singapore and contributed to its early years of independence.

He will be rubbing shoulders with former political leaders, those who have served in the uniformed services, unions and voluntary welfare organisations, as well as Singapore's first national service enlistees and officer cadets.

Mr Wong is also looking forward to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong unveiling the details of the Government's planned Pioneer Generation Package to help seniors with health-care costs.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said he nominated Mr Wong for the event because of his active contributions as a volunteer in the senior citizens' committee. He had also heard from "Uncle Danny" about his role in the 1967 trade mission, led by then Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Sim Kee Boon.

Recalling the historic trip that took more than one month to complete, Mr Wong, then a general manager of a rubber company, said: "We were anti-communist, so for Singapore, that was our opening up to the communist world."

These countries became trading partners with Singapore, he added, through Intraco, a trading company that the Government incorporated in the year after the trip, to promote markets and trade in the early years of the country's industrialisation.

Mr Wong himself went on to start a joint venture shipping company with the Russians.

While he played a part in Singapore's economic progress, other invited pioneer generation members interviewed contributed through educating the young or helping residents with their daily living.

Mr S. Puhaindran, 77, spent 43 years in education. He was a teacher at Raffles Institution, principal of three schools and an inspector of primary schools.

Mr Koh Poh Kwang joined the grassroots movement 46 years ago in Kallang. Then a village teacher, he was often called on to write letters to government agencies on behalf of residents.

"They needed an English-educated person who is bilingual, and most of the grassroots leaders were quite elderly and Chinese-educated. All these government departments always wrote in English," said the 70-year-old, who is principal of Lighthouse School, a special school for children with visual and hearing impairment, and autism.

Last week, an invitation to the Istana party arrived in the post bearing the words: "Thank You... for the years you've spent making a nation, a home. For the laughter, the tears, the sacrifices. For carrying us on your shoulders, and making us feel as tall as giants. For giving us something to aspire to.

"For the courage to dream, so that our children, and their children can live their dreams too. So for being part of the generation that made us, we thank you." The invite said that the event, titled "The Pioneer Generation Tribute", would last two hours, from 10am to noon.

Three members of the Cabinet would play host: Singapore50 steering committee chairman Heng Swee Keat and programme office chairman Lawrence Wong, as well as deputy chairman of the People's Association and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say.

The Straits Times understands some nominations for the guest list were made based on a cut- off age of 70 or older, although Mountbatten MP Lim Biow Chuan said the only criterion he was given was that his nominees should have served the community.

There has been discussion as to how the pioneer generation should be defined, and who will eventually qualify for help or recognition given to this group. Those who are 70 this year would have been 21 in 1965, the year of Singapore's independence.

Mr Koh said he felt honoured his generation's contributions and sacrifices were being recognised, but hoped those in their 60s would be included.

Mr Puhaindran said he would most like to see others in his generation living well, and society stepping in to help, so that no one is left in the dumps.

"It might be (providing) companionship or opportunities to meet others to socialise," he suggested.

At least two others invited, former MP Ong Ah Heng and retired colonel John Morrice, a former president of the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League, said they will not be attending due to health reasons.








Let’s stick together, PM Lee says in CNY message
Chinese New Year is a time to strengthen both family and larger community: Prime Minister
By June Yang, TODAY, 30 Jan 2014

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged Singaporeans to “stick together as one family” to build a brighter future in wishing Singaporeans a happy Chinese New Year today (Jan 30).

In his 2014 Chinese New Year message released this morning — the full message is below — Mr Lee noted that Singaporeans live in peace and harmony because “we have strived to overcome differences in our ethnic or religious backgrounds, and expand the common space where we all interact comfortably”.

He urged Singaporeans to continue nurturing ties with fellow citizens of different races.

“As the majority race, Chinese Singaporeans have to be sensitive to the needs of the minorities, and give them ample space to practise their cultures and ways of life,” Mr Lee said.

Minorities too must give and take, and work with other communities to make progress together, he added.

Mr Lee had touched on racial and religious harmony twice in the past week. On Saturday, the Prime Minister reiterated the Government’s commitment to building a multiracial society in which everyone has full and equal opportunities, after meeting with about 100 leaders and representatives from the Malay-Muslim community for a two-hour closed door dialogue on the tudung issue.

At the NTU Ministerial Forum on Tuesday, he urged Singaporeans to remain civil following the Anton Casey incident, in which an expatriate’s comments about “poor” public transport commuters sparked an outcry.

Mr Lee also focused on two aspects of family in particular: The elderly and the young. He said that Singapore makes a special effort to take care of its elders, particularly the pioneer generation which saw Singapore through its most difficult times.

While the Government is working on a Pioneer Generation Package to thank them for their contributions, Mr Lee also said that he is holding an event at the Istana next month to honour members of this Pioneer Generation.

“It is right and fitting to honour this special group as Singapore approaches our 50th birthday,” he said. “We are preparing a Pioneer Generation Package to thank them for all they have done. I am also holding a special event at the Istana on Feb 9 to honour members of this Pioneer Generation, and hope to present them a little hongbao!”

Mr Lee also called on Singaporeans to boost the total fertility rate, saying that enough children are needed to form the next generation. Chinese Singaporeans, he pointed out, have a particularly low Total Fertility Rate of 1.06. “I hope the Year of the Horse will see some improvement,” he said.

The Prime Minister noted the government is creating a pro-family environment — including more childcare and preschool places — so that families will have the confidence and support to raise children.






The Year of the Snake has been eventful. We made good progress, despite some difficult moments. I am confident that we will continue to we will continue to move forward in the Year of the Horse. The global economy is looking up. At home we still need to improve public transport, but housing queues have shortened and low-wage workers like cleaners are getting more help are getting more help are getting more help. The festive mood is all around us. I visited Chinatown two weeks ago and was cheered to find the shops bustling with families shopping for Chinese New Year decorations and goodies.

IMPORTANCE OF FAMILIES

Chinese New Year is a time to strengthen our family bonds. Families are the foundation of a cohesive, harmonious society. Our families anchor our identity and sense of belonging. They inspire us to reach for the stars, and support us when we are down. Our extended families too provide a valuable network of kinship and mutual support. We are raised to respect our elders, and do our best for our children.

THE PIONEER GENERATION

As a society, we are making a special effort to take care of our elders. Many elders lead active and fulfilling lives. We are promoting healthy living and lifelong learning, and helping those who wish to work do so, so that more people can age happily. We are also addressing retirement and healthcare needs, by increasing medical subsidies, building more hospitals and nursing homes, and expanding home care services. Beyond infrastructure and financial help, we are creating a social environment where people can age with peace of mind, and be valued and respected for their contributions.

One group of elders that deserves special recognition is our Pioneer Generation. They saw Singapore through our most difficult times. They worked hard to build Singapore, and transform it from Third World to First. All of us today benefit from their efforts and achievements.

It is right and fitting to honour this special group as Singapore approaches our 50th birthday. We are preparing a Pioneer Generation Package to thank them for all they have done. I am also holding a special event at the Istana on 9 February to honour members of this Pioneer Generation, and hope to present them a little hongbao!

FUTURE GENERATIONS

While we honour our seniors, we must also keep Singapore the best home to raise our children and fulfil their aspirations. We love our children unconditionally and place great hopes in them. We want to pass on to them a better Singapore than the one we inherited. We hope that our children will build on what they will inherit, and will create a brighter future for themselves and their children, just as the Pioneer Generation did for us.

For this to work, we do need enough children to form the next generation. Unfortunately, despite our efforts to promote marriage and parenthood, our birth rates are still too low. Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR) was 1.19 last year, far below our replacement rate of 2.1. The TFR for Chinese Singaporeans (1.06) was even lower. We must try our best to do better.

I hope the Year of the Horse will see some improvement. This year we will have a “double spring” or “双春”. Valentine’s Day coincides with Chap Goh Mei, the 15th day of Chinese New Year. Almost 300 couples have registered to marry on this auspicious day, so we are off to a galloping start. I hope to hear more wedding bells and newborns’ cries throughout the year.

One important factor when couples decide to start families is access to good childcare and pre-schools. We are creating more places as quickly as we can. We added 7,000 new childcare places last year, and will reach our target of 20,000 new places in all by 2017. MOE has started running five kindergartens, and will expand this to 15 over the next few years. We have just identified three more pre-school Anchor Operators, to add to the two existing ones — PCF and NTUC (My First Skool). We must create a pro-family environment which gives families the confidence and support to raise their children.

INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF THE FAMILY

This year we celebrate the “International Year of the Family”. We have planned many family-friendly activities, including at the River Hongbao and Chingay Parade. The response has been enthusiastic — many families will perform in the “Singapore Celebrates Family” float in Chingay, including 3-G families, families with disabled members and extended families with aunts and nieces. They have spent many weekends practising their dance moves, and treasure the special family moments they have shared together. The events continue throughout the year, including Family Days at places like the zoo and National Family Celebrations. You can find out more at www.iyf2014.sg.

STRENGTHENING OUR SINGAPORE FAMILY

Beyond our own families, we should also strengthen the larger Singapore family. Do look out for the less fortunate and lonely, especially the elderly, during this festive occasion. Also let us nurture our ties with fellow citizens of different races. We live in peace and harmony because we have strived to overcome differences in our ethnic or religious backgrounds, and expand the common space where we all interact comfortably. We must continue to make this effort, to protect what we have achieved and build upon it.

Visitors from other countries are often amazed at what we have achieved, but we ourselves sometimes take our religious harmony for granted. In our multi-racial, secular society, we must all live and let live, and be willing to compromise for the common good. As the majority race, Chinese Singaporeans have to be sensitive to the needs of the minorities, and give them ample space to practise their cultures and ways of life. Minorities too must give and take, and work with other communities to make progress together.

CONCLUSION

Strong families and close ties with our fellow Singaporeans have underpinned our success, and will continue to be the foundations for a brighter future. Next year we celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday. It is a time to celebrate our achievements, and rededicate ourselves to building a better Singapore. The SG50 campaign which we have just launched engages Singaporeans on this shared endeavour. Do join the SG50 campaign, and share your ideas on how we can celebrate our golden jubilee together.

Let us stick together as one family, and work with one another to build a brighter future for all. Together we can ride into the Year of the Horse with confidence. Together we can create an even better Singapore for ourselves and our loved ones.

I wish all Singaporeans a very Happy Chinese New Year!


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