Monday, 10 August 2015

Singapore is IN

Growing sense of national identity, and global standing, as Singapore turns 50
Singapore awoke to a rude shock on Aug 9, 1965.
By Warren Fernandez, The Sunday Times, 9 Aug 2015

At 10am, a voice on the radio revealed that the city state had been turfed out of the Malaysian federation and would "forever be a sovereign, democratic and independent nation".

The headline in The Straits Times, the following day, summed it up simply: "Singapore is out".

The city state had been expelled unceremoniously, cast adrift, bereft of any hinterland, and faced an uncertain future.

Even the redoubtable Prime Minister then, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, famously wept at this "moment of anguish" at his first post-independence press conference that day.

Reflecting this sombre mood, ST's front page editorial decried the "tragic news" as a "cruel shock", which was "sad beyond words".

Few believed the separation could be a lasting solution; many thought Singapore would have little choice but to return to the Malaysian fold, when economic realities kicked in. There were fears that ethnic ties, fraught and fragile, might fray, or worse, flare up in violence.

The editorial's conclusion was striking: "In time, it is to be hoped that the wounds will heal and the logic of Malaysia, unimpaired in its fundamentals, will reassert itself."

But 50 years on, how alien, even odd, those sentiments might seem to a younger generation of Singaporeans. Today, as Singaporeans mark SG50 - their unexpected, improbable nation's Golden Jubilee - not many continue to view Aug 9 as a "moment of anguish".

Fifty years ago, the new-found Republic had no army to defend its new-found independence. This weekend, families braved the rains to watch the dazzling display of aerial acrobatics by the country's very own Black Knights.

Fifty years ago, the top concerns were over high unemployment, low literacy and a shortage of housing for those who lived in slums. Today, the news is dominated by reports of sky-high property prices, tight labour markets, and how Singapore sends more students to top universities like Oxford and Cambridge than any other country outside Britain, apart from China.

Separation Video
50 years ago, on this day, Singapore was thrust into independence. As Mr Lee Kuan Yew said then, every time we look back at what happened, it will be a "moment of anguish". But we picked ourselves up and worked hard to build this nation, with our pioneers leading the way. So today, let us give thanks, rejoice, and celebrate all that we have in our little red dot. Happy National Day to one and all! #SG50 #JubileeWeekend
Posted by Lawrence Wong on Saturday, August 8, 2015

Alluding to this transformation in his National Day message last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted how Singapore had turned "that moment of anguish into a lifetime of determination to forge a path for this island nation".

PM Lee also recounted how Mr Lee Kuan Yew had pledged in 1965 to build a model multiracial nation in Singapore.

"He said: 'We will set an example. This is not a Malay nation; this is not a Chinese nation; this is not an Indian nation. Everyone will have his place, equal: language, culture, religion.'

"From that break, we began building a nation. And what a journey it has been. It started with the first generation of leaders convincing our pioneer generation that Singapore could succeed as a sovereign country. Together, leaders and the people - the lions and the lion-hearted - fought with unwavering determination to secure our foundations. After them, younger generations picked up the baton and took Singapore further...

"Year after year, we have kept the promises that Mr Lee Kuan Yew made on the 9th of August 1965: that we will be 'one united people, regardless of race, language or religion'; that we will always have a bright future ahead of us."

There will be much sadness, perhaps even some tears shed, that Mr Lee did not live just a little longer to savour and share the joyous celebrations with the people he inspired and led to today's Singapore.

NDP 2015 - Tribute to Lee Kuan Yew by Boo Junfeng
<<NDP 2015 – Looking Forward with a Tribute to LKY>>We received many compliments for the NDP and co-celebrations around the Marina Bay last night. My congratulations to BG Melvyn Ong and his team, and Dick Lee and his creative team, for executing the biggest show ever staged in NDP history, probably for a long time to come – more than 200,000 gathered at the Padang, Floating Platform and Marina Bay area. But most of all, my heartfelt thanks to Singaporeans for making it their show. They reminisced over the vintage parade, gushed when SAF fighter planes did their aerial display, sang our songs with gusto and cried at the end of the tribute for LKY. In planning for NDP 2015, soon after the death of Mr Lee, I exhorted the organisers to ensure that we must look forward, and the NDP should end on a high about our future. This is what Mr Lee would have insisted on. But in truth, all of us with aching hearts wished Mr Lee could have joined us for this parade. So we decided a tribute to LKY that included an empty chair with the orchid Aranda named after him could fill up partially that longing. Here’s the video.- Ng Eng HenVideo: MediaCorp Channel 5#NDP2015NDPeepsSingapore50Remembering Lee Kuan Yew
Posted by Ng Eng Hen - Defence Minister on Sunday, August 9, 2015

Yet, ironically, the outpouring of national grief that welled to the surface following his passing in March did more than anything else to remind Singaporeans what this year-long jubilee jamboree was all about. The way Singaporeans responded during the week of national mourning for their founding father made one thing plain to everyone, here and abroad: the idea of Singapore, and the principles that led to it becoming an independent nation - multiracialism, meritocracy, equality before the law, as well as honesty, integrity and efficacy in government - has become ingrained in the people's hearts and minds.

Singapore is out? No actually, the events of the past months, and decades, have shown that Singapore is in.

Fifty years on, Singaporeans today look to their shared past and collective future with pride, and a growing sense of national identity, more than anyone had ever imagined.

Similarly, around the world, the little red dot is no longer viewed as an economic and political non-starter. Rather, the Republic is respected not just for the economic miracle that transformed the city, but also the doggedness of its people to constantly strive to stay ahead and remain relevant to the world.

Concluding his message, delivered from the newly refurbished Victoria Concert Hall, PM Lee noted that it was there that his father and his colleagues launched the People's Action Party and its long struggle for a fair and just society.

"It was here in 1958 that Majulah Singapura was first performed. It was at the Padang nearby, after independence, that we held our National Day Parades, and sang Majulah Singapura together as a nation."

Former art teacher Wong Hiong Boon, 83, recalls in a 52-page National Day special (which comes with your paper today), the emotions he felt when he sang that anthem for the first time on Aug 9, 1965.

"We didn't have the British. We didn't have Malaysia. We were alone and scared. Could we survive by ourselves? Majulah Singapura told us we, the 'rakyat', the people, could... It was the first song we could call our own. It was the first national anthem I sang with so many feelings. It gave us courage and hope."

Today, that same anthem will sound around the island, at a host of community events culminating in a grand parade at the Padang.

The new spirit - or semangat yang baru - that it extols might be taken to reflect the remarkably changed sentiments, both at home and abroad, towards Singapore, its people and their prospects. Today, no more tears are shed, nor is there shock or grave fears aroused, at the thought that "Singapore is out", because, put simply, Singapore is in.

PM Lee, Najib toast good bilateral relations 50 years on
Singapore and Malaysia have looked past differences to work together for the good of their people, say leaders
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Sunday Times, 9 Aug 2015

Singapore and Malaysia decided to go their separate ways 50 years ago today, but the ties between the neighbours have since flourished and grown deeper, the prime ministers of both countries said in messages on the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak wrote of how the countries are linked by history, geography and kinship, and have been able to look beyond differences to work together for the mutual benefit of their people.

Mr Lee noted that Separation was a difficult period, but both sides decided they had to live and work together to create mutual prosperity, and that "our deep historical, social and cultural ties helped us to do so".

Although Singapore was part of Malaysia for less than two years from 1963 to 1965, many in its pioneer generation were born there and the links between people remain strong.

Mr Lee also noted that both sides enjoy a warm relationship, with their prime ministers and ministers meeting regularly to explore areas for collaboration. Both sides are working on exciting projects, including the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail.

They have also helped one another in difficult times, and Mr Lee expressed Singapore's gratitude for the prompt support and help from Malaysia in the search, rescue and recovery efforts after the Sabah earthquake in June, which claimed the lives of 10 Singaporeans.

He said: "Malaysia will always be an important partner for Singapore. When Malaysia does well, Singapore also prospers."

In an article for The Sunday Times, Datuk Seri Najib said Singapore and Malaysia are "like tongue and teeth", destined to be conjoined and cooperate, not compete.

Malaysia had, over the decades, observed Singapore's progress and shared in mourning the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on March 23. "His presence is missed during these landmark celebrations, but his legacy is secure - it is the Singapore of today," he said.

Mr Najib urged Singaporeans not to judge Malaysia by what they might read on social media, or by politically motivated statements from some quarters, saying he will ensure Malaysia remains stable and safe for guests and Malaysians alike.

"The reality is that we share your aspirations for good governance; for a strong, inclusive and sustainable economy based on sound fundamentals; and for stability, harmony and diversity," Mr Najib said.

"Fifty years ago, ties between our two nations were strained. Today, relations have never been better and the results speak for themselves. Happy 50th birthday, Singapore - Malaysia looks forward to toasting many future anniversaries with you."

Lee Hsien Loong
Flourishing ties rooted in shared history
Singapore's Prime Minister has issued a message in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations between Singapore and Malaysia. This is the full text of that message.
The Sunday Times, 9 Aug 2015

Today, on Aug 9, 2015, Singapore celebrates its 50th National Day. This year is also the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Malaysia bilateral relations, a significant milestone for our ties.

On this day 50 years ago, Singapore and Malaysia decided to go our separate ways. It was a difficult period for both countries. Many Singaporeans and Malaysians had friends and family on the other side of the Causeway. Both countries decided that despite the Separation, and whatever our differences, we had to live together and work together to create mutual prosperity. Our deep historical, social and cultural ties helped us to do so.

Our bilateral relations have since flourished. Today, Singapore and Malaysia enjoy a warm relationship and good cooperation at all levels. I met regularly with former Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, and now with Prime Minister Najib Razak, to review our relations and explore new areas of collaboration. Ministers and officials have frequent exchanges on a wide range of issues, including trade and investment, security and telecommunications. The Leaders' Retreat is an annual highlight in our bilateral relationship.

In recent years, we have resolved a number of longstanding bilateral issues. For example, we achieved the full resolution of the Points of Agreement (POA) on Malayan Railway land in Singapore in 2011. Following the POA resolution, the joint-venture projects between Temasek and Khazanah in both Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia are progressing well.

Our economic ties have grown. Malaysia and Singapore are each other's second largest trading partners, with total merchandise trade valued at $111 billion in 2014. Singapore is also the top foreign investor in Iskandar Malaysia.

As of end-2013, Singapore investments into Malaysia totalled $37 billion, while Malaysian investments into Singapore totalled $27 billion.

Singapore and Malaysia also cooperate well regionally. As founding members of Asean, we share an interest in maintaining regional peace and stability and promoting economic integration. Malaysia is Asean chair at a crucial moment: This year, we will establish the Asean Community. Singapore will continue to support Malaysia's chairmanship, and work with Malaysia to foster a more integrated and prosperous region beyond 2015.

The depth of the friendship is evident in our shared family trees, festive seasons and food culture. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people cross the Strait of Johor, whether for work, play or to visit friends and relatives. Our citizens find the other country familiar, yet it also offers a change of scenery.

We have come to each other's assistance during difficult periods, such as the MH370 flight incident last year and the Sabah earthquake on June 5 this year.

We are deeply grateful for the prompt support and assistance of the Malaysian authorities in the search, rescue and recovery efforts on Mount Kinabalu.

Looking ahead, our countries are pursuing many exciting developments together, like the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR). Discussions on the project are making steady progress. The HSR will provide a fast and convenient means of travel between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The Johor Baru-Singapore Rapid Transit System, with co-located checkpoint, immigration and quarantine facilities in Johor Baru and Singapore, will also enhance cross-border connectivity and speed up travel between Singapore and Johor Baru.

Malaysia will always be an important partner for Singapore. When Malaysia does well, Singapore also prospers. Singapore is committed to a strong and mutually beneficial partnership with Malaysia. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Malaysia friendship, I look forward to both sides working together for the betterment of our countries, peoples and region.

Najib Razak
Moving forward in a spirit of mutual benefit
The Malaysian Prime Minister has written an opinion piece for The Sunday Times on the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Malaysia ties
The Sunday Times, 9 Aug 2015

Fifty years ago today, Singapore became an independent state. As a 12-year-old, I was aware of the significance of Malaysia gaining a new neighbour and of our two countries settling our boundaries - both to continue independently on the adventure of independence, with all the opportunities and perils that developing nations faced in the 1960s.

Of course, we had a special interest in Singapore; history and geography bound us together. We have a Malay proverb for it: Sedangkan lidah lagi tergigit, or We are like tongue and teeth.

In other words, we were destined to be conjoined and need to cooperate, not compete.

Over the decades, we observed Singapore's progress. And we too mourned the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in February. His vision underpinned Singapore's advances, and he was admired by friends and critics alike. South-east Asia lost a statesman when he died. His presence is missed during landmark celebrations, but his legacy is secure - it is the Singapore of today.

Malaysia and Singapore have had differences, but we have always achieved the most when we have worked pragmatically together - and we have much to be proud of.

In 1967, we were among the five founders of Asean, an organisation that has kept peace in the most ethnically and religiously diverse region on earth. We came together in the Five Power Defence Arrangement in 1971; we cooperated closely at the UN in the 1980s to ensure a settled future in Indochina; and today we are linked in so many ways.

Take trade cooperation, for instance. We are each other's second largest trading partner after China. In 2014, Singapore was Malaysia's second largest trading partner globally and the largest trading partner in Asean. Singapore was also the second largest source of foreign investment in Malaysia in 2014, and I am pleased that while Iskandar Malaysia and Penang have been the main focus of investment from Singapore, Singaporeans are now also beginning to look further afield, including Sabah and Sarawak.

In terms of tourism, the total number of visits to Malaysia from Singapore in 2014 was 13.9 million - an increase of 5.7 per cent from 2013. But we want even more of you to visit us, and this year, Tourism Malaysia is hoping we can attract 14.5 million guests from Singapore.

The changed approach between our two countries was emphasised soon after I became Prime Minister. The win-win solution of the Points of Agreement in 2010 - after a 20 year deadlock - was an example of how we chose to move forward in a spirit of mutual benefit, and put a longstanding stumbling block behind us.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I agreed that our countries should not be encumbered by any issues associated with the past. The days when some considered agreement to be a form of weakness are gone. Our future is as partners. Indeed, recently there have even been suggestions that our two countries should formulate an Olympic bid together.

On a personal note, the new relationship between Malaysia and Singapore was underlined soon after I became Prime Minister. On a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens in May 2009, I was honoured to be told that a hybrid of the Dendrobium Ronald Imanuel and Dendrobium Jeffrey Tan orchids had been named the Dendrobium Najib Rosmah. The hybrid orchid is a symbol of the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. It needs to be nurtured carefully- for then it will flourish.

I am pleased with the results of our closer relations, and look forward to achieving more. The construction of the High Speed Rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will certainly transform the way Malaysians and Singaporeans interact with each other, facilitating travel between both capital cities, enhancing business linkages and improving people-to-people ties.

At this time of opportunity between our nations, I urge Singaporeans not to judge Malaysia by what you may read on social media, or by politically motivated statements from certain quarters running down our country.

I will ensure that Malaysia remains stable and safe - for guests and Malaysians alike.

The reality is that we share your aspirations for good governance; for a strong, inclusive and sustainable economy based on sound fundamentals; and for stability, harmony and diversity.

That is why we make good partners, and why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I will continue to work closely to bring real benefits to all Malaysians and Singaporeans.

Fifty years ago, ties between our two nations were strained. Today, relations have never been better and the results speak for themselves. Happy 50th birthday, Singapore - Malaysia looks forward to toasting many future anniversaries with you.

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