Sunday, August 09, 2020

Thrive and Prevail: On Singapore's 55th National Day

For our generation, the year 2020, which is marked by an unprecedented global health crisis, will be remembered as a difficult year. The covid-19 pandemic has caused widespread social and economic upheavals around the world, resulting in 723,000 deaths to date, disrupting the normal movement of people and impeding the supply of goods across international borders. Businesses were impacted, capital projects were delayed, events were postponed, cancelled or moved online, jobs were lost.

Singapore is not spared from the detrimental effects of the pandemic. Exceptional measures were taken to muster resources to operate testing, contact tracing, quarantine, community care and recovery facilities across the island state. Existing healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics have had to ramp up their operations to look after extra patients. Additional venues and spaces, even vessels, were sought and transformed into temporary healthcare facilities to house and treat covid-19 patients.

Extraordinary efforts were made to prevent the local transmission of the coronavirus disease, including the distribution of face masks and hand sanitiser. To contain the virus within the community, an eight-week lockdown was imposed, seeing the closure of schools and non-essential workplaces. There was smooth coordination to ensure essential services and goods were provided timely despite the mounting challenges. Financial support was rendered to businesses, families and vulnerable individuals by the government and charitable organisations. Disruption to work and study was minimised through teleconferencing and other online services.

Times may be tough, but the kampung spirit was well exemplified by people displaying generosity, care and love for each other, delivering handmade artworks and dedicating songs to frontline workers in healthcare and essential services. There are those who helped others by sewing face masks, refurbishing used laptops for students, providing hand sanitiser for public, giving out free food, snacks and drinks, distributing meals, and volunteering for frontline duties to ease the burden of healthcare workers. And not to forget those who rallied for the migrant workers requiring additional support from the community.

Education being important to the young ones, students have since returned to schools. Retail and non-essential workplaces have reopened safely. Construction projects are also slowly resuming. Singapore has also joined the international community in the global effort to develop treatment and vaccine for the coronavirus. Even so, uncertainties remain and major challenges lie ahead. Until a vaccine or an effective treatment becomes available, life may not quite return to normal. The virus may flare up any time with little warning. Many countries face a second wave of the virus after successfully containing their first.

Today, on the 9th August 2020, Singapore celebrates its 55th National Day with a smaller parade conducted with safe distancing guidelines. This year's National Day Parade (NDP) pays tribute to our frontline heroes and essential workers for the sacrifice and contributions they made in these troubled times. For the first time since 1972, NDP is being held in the morning. Singaporeans will watch the morning parade and evening show on television or online streaming platforms from their homes.  People will also be able to catch a glimpse of flypasts, mobile columns, parachute performances, maritime sailpast and evening fireworks at multiple locations over the island.

The days ahead may look gloomy, but Singapore is in a strong position to weather the storm brought about by the pandemic. With unity and vigilance, Singapore will overcome these challenges and emerge stronger than before. In the not too distant future, we will once again be following rainbows, realising dreams, and building for a better Singapore.

Happy 55th Birthday, Singapore. Onward Singapore! Majulah Singapura!

Friday, August 09, 2019

Commemorating Singapore's Bicentennial

Happy Birthday, Singapore.  Majulah Singapura!

Dare to Dream.  Scaling Higher Peaks.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

We Are Singapore

The city of Singapore was founded in 1819. When the British first set foot on the island, Singapura (as it was known then) was a simple fishing village. (Most parts of the island were covered by forests and swamps.) The villagers were unaware that they would be witnessing a historic turning point to the island.

The British were then in search of a place to build a trading post to strengthen their trading power in Asia, most notably the Far East. Leading the British expedition was Sir Stamford Raffles from the British East India Company. Raffles was 38 when he landed on Singapore. He quickly realised that Singapore's location was ideal for a new port.

Not long later, the British signed a formal treaty with the Temenggong, or local chief. The British flag was first hoisted on 29 January 1819, thereby establishing Singapore as a British colony for the next one and a half century. Singapore became independent in 1965.

The British set up Singapore as a free port. As maritime trade grew throughout the region, immigrants from different parts of the world arrived in Singapore to find work or do business. Most of them came from China, and they mainly worked in plantations, quarries, warehouses (or godowns) and wharves. The British government and the East India Company sent many people to Singapore to perform adminstrative and other public functions, among them are troops and convicts from the Indian subcontinent to build roads and rail.

In no time, Singapore became a busy harbour for transporting goods between the Far East and Europe. Archaeological evidence suggests that a few centuries prior to the British, a substantial settlement may have already existed. However, this is a story for another time.

It is no mistake that the British founded modern Singapore. For this reason, Singapore is commemorating its bicentennial in 2019 with a year-long calendar of events. Singaporeans are grateful for the foundations the early immigrants have built. Many structures and public spaces built in the colonial days have been preserved till today.

Singapore became an independent country on 9 August, 1965. (Yes, many parts of the island were still covered by forests and swamps.) Under the leadership of founding prime minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the pioneer generation of Singaporeans successfully transformed Singapore into a vibrant first-world nation with a thriving and competitive economy. For Mr. Lee, his government and the pioneer generation, nation building was not an easy task. Indeed, neither would it be easy for the younger generations to bring Singapore to new heights of success. However, Singapore will always be ready for new challenges and opportunites, and scale to greater heights of success.

As we celebrate as one nation, I take this opportunity to wish all Singaporeans and friends:

Happy National Day. Majulah Singapura!