Wednesday 15 May 2024

Lawrence Wong sworn in as Singapore’s fourth Prime Minister on 15 May 2024

PM Lawrence Wong to Singaporeans: ‘Join me and my team in our journey forward’
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 May 2024

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong called on Singaporeans to join him in the ambitious goal of building a society where everyone matters “and a Singapore that matters to all Singaporeans”.

There will be no easy formulas to apply, and no models to follow in this task, he said on May 15 after being sworn in as Singapore’s fourth prime minister at the Istana.

But he and his fourth-generation political leaders, together with the help of Singaporeans, will experiment to discover fresh solutions and blaze new paths.

“Everyone will have a stake in our nation’s progress. Everyone will play a key role in shaping our future,” he said in his inauguration speech.

Addressing Singaporeans for the first time as their prime minister, he promised to serve with all his heart, to never settle for the status quo, and to “always seek better ways to make tomorrow better than today”.

As prime minister, his mission was clear: To continue defying the odds and to sustain the miracle of Singapore.

“So that we can reach even greater heights. So that we can be a beacon of hope and unity for ourselves and our children,” he added.

Laying out his plans to take Singapore forward amid a more challenging world, PM Wong said there will be those who doubt Singapore’s ability to go further.

But he was sure they would be proven wrong as they have been in the past.

“When the going gets tough, we do not crumble. We press on, with faith in our fellow citizens and in Singapore’s future. We strive harder, reach further, and prove that with determination and hard work, there is no challenge we cannot overcome,” he said.

This is the spirit he will bring to his new role, he added.

In a ceremony before an audience which he said embodied the “rich fabric of our nation”, he solemnly took his affirmation of allegiance and of due execution of office.

Led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, he swore to bear faith and allegiance to Singapore and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. He also swore to faithfully discharge his duties according to law to the best of his knowledge and ability, and without fear or favour, affection or ill will.

Watching on at the Istana lawn were students, teachers, unionists, business leaders, athletes, artists, community volunteers and the front-liners PM Wong had thanked tearily in Parliament in 2020 for their contributions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When he was done, he was handed a scroll, the instrument of appointment, by President Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Then, in order of seniority, Mr Lee Hsien Loong was sworn in as senior minister, Mr Gan Kim Yong and Mr Heng Swee Keat as deputy prime ministers, and Mr Teo Chee Hean as senior minister.

This was followed by 14 ministers, nine senior ministers of state and five ministers of state.

PM Wong, who has been taking classes in Malay and Mandarin, spoke first in the two languages before moving on to English.

The ceremony, held at the Istana at night after a heavy afternoon downpour, marked not just a change in leadership but also in generations.

Citing this, he said his generation have been shaped by their experiences, having seen the vital importance of good leadership, political stability and long-term planning, and have also benefited from the imaginative policies of Singapore’s founding fathers.

Their leadership style will differ from previous generations’, he said.

“We will lead in our own way. We will continue to think boldly and to think far,” he added.

He also pledged to build on the foundations laid by the earlier generations, acknowledging that he and his team stood on “the shoulders of giants”, such as Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team who led the country through independence and established the key pillars of governance; and second prime minister Goh Chok Tong and his team who took the country through the next lap, and nurtured a kinder and gentler society.

For his predecessor, SM Lee, PM Wong reserved a special tribute.

He thanked the outgoing prime minister for his guidance and mentorship, and on behalf of the nation, for his devotion to the service of the country and people, and his stewardship of Singapore.

“Mr Lee spoke often of the need to keep Singapore exceptional. He was exceptional himself – in his devotion, his selflessness, and his dedication to serve,” said PM Wong.

A smiling SM Lee leaned forward in a bow in his front-row seat, to applause from the audience.

President Tharman, in a speech before the swearing-in ceremony, said much could be recalled about SM Lee’s leadership in areas from foreign to security policies. “But it is above all the norms and standards that Mr Lee upheld and reinforced – the intangibles of political leadership – that define his most important legacy,” he added.

“His selflessness and personal integrity, and the expectations of high standards of conduct that he set for those in political office. His making time to listen to people from all walks of life, and different points of view, in making decisions that are fair and in the best interests of Singaporeans. His resolve to tackle difficult issues early, never leaving them to future leaders to resolve, even if it means paying an immediate political price.”

Singapore should never let slide these expectations of integrity, incorruptibility and conduct that SM Lee and his predecessors have established, as there will be no going back when standards slide, said Mr Tharman.

Even as he started out in his new role, PM Wong, who had emerged as the front runner for the role of prime minister in 2022 after the 4G’s earlier choice, DPM Heng, stepped down, had succession on his mind.

One of his key priorities is to identify and persuade younger Singaporeans, men and women in the 30s and 40s, to join his team, he said.

“So I call out tonight to all my fellow citizens: Help me to provide Singaporeans with the government they deserve. Let us make a difference, and serve our nation together,” he said.

Later in the night, PM Wong arrived to an enthusiastic reception in Yew Tee where more than 1,000 people had gathered to watch his swearing-in ceremony.

PM Wong, who has been an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC since 2015, said to them: “The best days of Singapore are still ahead of us, the best chapters of our Singapore story lie ahead – let’s work together to build a better Singapore together.”

Lawrence Wong vows to realise ‘refreshed Singapore dream’ in maiden speech as Prime Minister
By Wong Pei Ting, Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 May 2024

In his maiden speech as the country’s leader, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong vowed to help Singaporeans realise a “refreshed Singapore dream” – one that he said was not defined by material success alone, but also offering meaning and purpose in careers and lives.

PM Wong said younger Singaporeans, in particular, made it clear through the 16-month Forward Singapore consultation exercise to forge a new social compact that they will work hard for their goals, but “do not wish to be trapped in an endless rat race of hyper-competition”.

“I am determined to help Singaporeans realise your dreams,” he said in a 20-minute speech on May 15 shortly after being sworn into office.

More than 870 guests, including foreign ambassadors, healthcare and transport workers, business leaders, teachers and students, attended the televised ceremony at the Istana.

“We will find new ways to be more productive and innovative, and achieve a better balance where work is purposeful, and life is meaningful,” PM Wong, 51, added.

He pledged to foster a fairer, more just and more equal society – one that will look after seniors, the vulnerable, and those with special needs.

The Government will support all Singaporeans in uplifting themselves and leading fulfilling lives, regardless of their starting point in life, age or ability, he said.

While he and his team will do more in these areas, PM Wong rallied Singaporeans to support fellow citizens and renew their commitment to one another. “Then we can build a Singapore where everyone succeeds in being the best possible versions of themselves,” he said. “We can be a people who are more inclusive, gracious and big-hearted.”

Forging unity from diversity

PM Wong said mutual respect and trust embody the ethos that will guide him and his team as they continue to develop and strengthen the Singapore identity.

He noted that the high level of trust among Singaporeans has been the key to Singapore’s success.

While the country has become even more diverse, with many races, religions and languages, Singaporeans have strengthened their bonds as one people by embracing their differences, instead of denying them, he added.

“We have ensured that every community, every religion and every linguistic group, big or small, feels included, respected and valued,” he said.

When issues inevitably arise between communities from time to time, their differences are not accentuated, but accepted, he said. Pragmatic compromises are sought, and common ground found as much as possible.

Unity is forged from diversity, said PM Wong. “It’s never about subtracting, but always about adding,” he said. “It’s never about contracting, but always about expanding.”

This collective striving for unity saw Singaporeans through the Covid-19 pandemic, he noted.

Calling it the “crisis of our generation”, he said the country responded effectively to the pandemic because of the trust among citizens. “The way we dealt with the crisis – together, saving lives and livelihoods – deepened our social capital, and made us a better and stronger people,” he said.

The pandemic, which PM Wong said was “a baptism of fire” for him and his team, reinforced his conviction that the Republic’s exceptional performance as a nation lies not in any single person or institution, but in how well it can work together as one Team Singapore.

Navigating a dangerous and troubled world

As Singapore navigates a world that is in flux, PM Wong said his Government intends to strengthen partnerships near and far, and advance the country’s interests.

A small country like Singapore “cannot escape powerful cross-currents” in a world of conflict and rivalry, where the great powers are competing to shape a new, yet undefined, global order, he said.

PM Wong added that this transition – which is likely to stretch for years, if not decades – will be marked by geopolitical tensions, as well as protectionism and rampant nationalism everywhere.

The implication for Singapore as an open economy is that livelihoods will be hit when multilateralism fractures, he said.

As a diverse society, the country will be vulnerable to external influences that tug it in different directions, he added.

It is fortunate that Singapore’s international standing is high, and its brand is admired and trusted worldwide, he said.

“We seek to be friends with all, while upholding our rights and interests,” he said, noting that he values the centrality of Asean and its efforts to foster regional cooperation and integration.

He also expressed hope for stable US-China relations, and said Singapore will continue engaging both powers, even as issues inevitably arise between them.

The Republic has to adapt to a messier, riskier and more violent world, PM Wong said.

As it does so, the Prime Minister said he would “engage and maximise the combined energies, imaginations and strengths of all Singaporeans”.

“That is how we take our nation forward in this dangerous and troubled world.”

High standards in politicians must be kept: President Tharman at swearing-in of new PM and Cabinet
By Wong Pei Ting, Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 May 2024

Politicians in Singapore are held to high standards of integrity, incorruptibility and conduct, and such standards must never be allowed to slide, said President Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

Upholding and reinforcing these standards defined the most important part of Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s legacy, President Tharman said in a speech minutes before Mr Lee officially passed the baton of leadership to Mr Lawrence Wong.

Noting that Mr Wong has played a key role so far in shaping the Republic’s economic, fiscal and social policies, he expressed full confidence in the new prime minister’s ability to rally Singaporeans to create the next chapter of the Singapore story.

At the swearing-in ceremony at the Istana on May 15, Mr Tharman said Mr Lee had delivered on his promise at his own swearing-in in 2004 – to be a prime minister for all Singaporeans – having transformed the economy and built a more inclusive society. He had also kept the country together through crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But it is above all, the norms and standards that Mr Lee upheld and reinforced – the intangibles of political leadership – that define his most important legacy,” he said.

These were reflected in Mr Lee’s personal integrity, the expectations of high standards of conduct that he set for those in political office, and his resolve to tackle difficult issues early rather than leave them to future leaders, even if it meant paying an immediate political price, said Mr Tharman.

While governments can reverse policies when circumstances change, there is no reversing when standards slide, as unfortunately illustrated by many other countries, he added.

“Public distrust grows, political leaders respond by avoiding essential decisions for their country’s future, those who enter politics lack conviction, and the downward spiral continues,” said Mr Tharman.

“We must never let slide the expectations of integrity, incorruptibility and conduct that Mr Lee and his predecessors established.”

The President said Singapore was once again undergoing a smooth and orderly transition in political leadership, only the third in its six-decade history.

“No lengthy defence is needed for this because it has worked well for Singapore,” he said. “It has preserved political stability and allowed Government to plan for the long term, while enabling a new team to adjust policies to fit the changing times.”

While Mr Wong takes over in a period of growing fractiousness and big power contestation, Mr Tharman noted that the new team comprises both experienced hands and fourth-generation (4G) ministers with years of engagement with their international counterparts. It is well placed to secure Singapore’s national interests amid unpredictable geopolitical currents, he added.

Those who have worked with Mr Wong know that he brings his own set of convictions, life experiences and skills, said Mr Tharman.

“He is, first and foremost, someone who listens, as he did in the Forward Singapore exercise,” he said.

Mr Wong has also worked with the labour movement to advance workers’ interests, showed that he is calm and decisive under pressure during the Covid-19 pandemic, and holds his own with counterparts on the global stage, he added.

“I have full confidence in Mr Lawrence Wong’s ability to lead Singapore as we venture into uncharted waters... He will be his own person, with his own approach to building consensus and finding the best way forward for the country,” he said.

“And he will no doubt do so to his own rhythm and beat.”

The President said he is committed to working with the new PM and his government.

Since he took office eight months ago, Mr Tharman said he has met Mr Lee regularly, and had candid private discussions on key plans and challenges Singapore faces.

Calling theirs a constructive and harmonious relationship with a shared understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities in Singapore’s system of governance, Mr Tharman said he looks forward to maintaining this close and productive relationship with Mr Wong.

“Singaporeans can be assured that our country is in good hands,” he said.

“Mr Lawrence Wong and his team will build on the strong foundations laid by previous prime ministers and governments, and keep our little red dot shining ever more brightly.”

World leaders congratulate PM Wong on appointment
By Lok Jian Wen, The Straits Times, 16 May 2024

A slew of world leaders extended their congratulations to Mr Lawrence Wong after he was sworn in as the Republic’s fourth prime minister on May 15.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang congratulated PM Wong, saying China attaches great importance to the development of China-Singapore relations, reported Xinhua news agency.

Mr Li said that for more than 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1990, China and Singapore have continually deepened mutual political trust and achieved fruitful results in various fields.

He also wishes to maintain close communication and collaboration with PM Wong to promote high-quality bilateral cooperation, and bring about greater contributions to regional peace, stability and prosperity.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on X that he looks forward to working closely with PM Wong to advance both countries’ strategic partnership.

Congratulating PM Wong, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he would like to work with his Singapore counterpart to further strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.

He added that he was looking ahead to the 60th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-Singapore relations in 2026.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak offered his congratulations to PM Wong, noting that Singapore is one of Britain’s most important partners in South-east Asia.

Mr Sunak wrote in a letter that there is enormous potential for both countries to achieve more together, especially in the areas of artificial intelligence, civil nuclear technology and digital defence.

Several leaders from Malaysia also extended their congratulations to PM Wong.

Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi said he is confident that Singapore will continue to thrive and prosper under PM Wong’s “capable leadership”, adding that the strong relationship between Malaysia and Singapore is built on mutual respect and cooperation.

“We look forward to further deepening our partnership in areas of mutual interest, including economic development, education and trade,” he said on X.

He also expressed “profound gratitude” to PM Wong’s predecessor, Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for his visionary leadership and commitment to fostering strong bilateral relations.

Other Malaysian leaders, including Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh, International Trade and Industry Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz and Johor Chief Minister Onn Hafiz Ghazi, also congratulated PM Wong on social media, noting the close ties between neighbours Singapore and Malaysia.

In his post, Datuk Seri Zafrul added a photo of himself and PM Wong jamming on guitars in 2022 when they were both finance ministers.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated PM Wong, saying that the United States looks forward to working with PM Wong to strengthen its strategic partnership with Singapore and uphold international norms and standards in the Indo-Pacific region.

Meanwhile, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu and United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan wrote that they look forward to working with PM Wong and strengthening bilateral ties.

Over 1,000 people turn up to support Prime Minister Lawrence Wong at Yew Tee
By Anjali Raguraman, Ng Keng Gene and Kok Yufeng, The Straits Times, 16 May 2024

Newly minted Prime Minister Lawrence Wong arrived to a jubilant reception on May 15 in Yew Tee, where more than a thousand people had gathered to watch his swearing-in ceremony at the Istana earlier in the evening.

It took PM Wong more than five minutes to make his way from his car to the stage, a mere 30m away, as he inched his way through a crowd eager for photos or a handshake.

PM Wong, who has been an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC since 2015, made Yew Tee his first port of call, arriving at around 10.30pm.

“I decided to rush from the Istana tonight because I wanted my first event as prime minister of Singapore to be an event with all of you, the residents of Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC,” said PM Wong, adding that he will continue to serve as their MP.

“We inherit a Singapore that our forefathers have built, and it’s now our turn to take Singapore forward and make Singapore even better,” he said in a speech to residents.

On stage, he was flanked by his fellow MPs, North West District Mayor Alex Yam, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Manpower Zaqy Mohamad and Ms Hany Soh.

“The best days of Singapore are still ahead of us, the best chapters of our Singapore story lie ahead – let’s work together to build a better Singapore together,” he added.

Following his address, PM Wong stayed for about half an hour more, to greet the residents who had spilled out of the confines of the tent set up for the watch party.

People started arriving from as early as 6pm to get a good seat at the May Day singalong-cum-watch party for PM Wong’s swearing-in ceremony that was organised by the People’s Association at a hard court next to Yew Tee MRT station.

The strains of popular songs such as Taylor Swift’s Love Story and performances by local artistes filled the tent from 7.30pm, as people waited in anticipation to see their district’s anchor minister being sworn in as the Republic’s fourth prime minister, on a big screen set up for the event.

Inflatable clappers, fans and light sticks had been laid across hundreds of seats, adding to the party atmosphere.

By 7.40pm, a sizeable crowd of onlookers had gathered.

Among the first to arrive was Jurong East resident Toh Hoo Kee, 73, who secured a front-row seat.

The part-time private bus cleaner had found out about the watch party on May 13 when he passed by Yew Tee, and decided to drop by to show his support for the Government. Armed with a guitar, he was hoping to sing for PM Wong.

“We’ve come a long way since our first prime minister, the country has had much progress, and we should be appreciative of it,” he said.

Others at the party included Ms Jennifer Muneswary, 44, and her seven-year-old daughter, Heavenly Joy. They were there to witness the historic occasion and soak in the atmosphere.

The healthcare attendant said she believed PM Wong was the best man for the job, citing how hard the 51-year-old had worked to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I use him as motivation for my daughter,” said Ms Muneswary, adding that she told her daughter to make Singapore proud, like PM Wong has.

Ms Muneswary also recounted how PM Wong had assisted in finding an infant care service for her daughter some years back, before he was prime minister.

“If I go to him for anything, he won’t say no,” she added.

Once the live stream began at 8pm, PM Wong received loud cheers whenever he appeared on the screen.

At the start of the ceremony, residents young and old got on their feet to sing the national anthem. But they quietened down when PM Wong took his oaths, whipping out their phones to take pictures and record videos of the big screen.

The party atmosphere returned soon after, with onlookers cheering at every chance, including when PM Wong received the instrument of appointment. Some residents had congratulatory banners, and some groups even had gold balloons spelling out “PM Wong”.

But the loudest cheers were saved for when the master of ceremonies announced that the new prime minister, his wife Loo Tze Lui and the district’s MPs would be making an appearance at the watch party.

Yew Tee resident Aton Buang, 61, said she found out about the viewing party from friends at Masjid Al-Khair in Choa Chu Kang.

Madam Aton, a housewife, said Singapore’s new leaders have many challenges ahead of them, including “understanding the younger ones and their dreams”.

“Not my generation, we’re okay... But people like my daughter and her generation – (Singapore’s leaders) have to serve them.”

First Cabinet meeting, calls with foreign leaders: PM Wong on his first day in new role
By Chin Soo Fang, Senior Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 May 2024

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong hit the ground running a day after he was sworn in as Singapore’s fourth prime minister on May 15.

In posts to his social media platforms on May 16, the first day in his new role, PM Wong said he held his first Cabinet meeting in the afternoon.

“We have a full agenda ahead,” he said alongside a photo of the meeting with his ministers, in what looked to be a different and bigger room at the Istana than where past Cabinet meetings were usually held.

“Look forward to working with all of you to take Singapore forward in our next phase.”

Earlier in the day, he also spoke with foreign counterparts who had phoned him to congratulate him on his new role.

PM Wong said he spoke with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, Indonesian President-elect Prabowo Subianto and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and thanked them for their good wishes.

“I look forward to working with them to boost bilateral and regional cooperation,” he said. “There’s much we can do with like-minded countries to achieve win-win outcomes, and steer developments towards continued peace, stability and prosperity for Asia and the world.”

Among them were Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and several Malaysian leaders.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu and United Arab Emirates President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan also wrote that they look forward to working with PM Wong.

In his first speech as prime minister on May 15, PM Wong had called on Singaporeans to join him in reaching the ambitious goal of building a society where people can be the best version of themselves, and where everyone matters.

There will be no easy formulas to apply or available models to follow in this task, he said. But he and his fourth-generation political leaders, working with Singaporeans, will experiment to discover fresh solutions and blaze new paths.

“Everyone will have a stake in our nation’s progress. Everyone will play a key role in shaping our future,” he said in his inauguration speech.

He also promised to serve with all his heart, to never settle for the status quo, and to “always seek better ways to make tomorrow better than today”.

“My mission is clear: To continue defying the odds and to sustain this miracle called Singapore,” he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment