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Woodlands mosque, ISEAS to be renamed after Yusof Ishak

At the National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announces the Institute of South East Asian Studies and a Woodlands mosque will be named after Singapore's first President.

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong kicked off this year's National Day Rally with his speech in Malay. In it, he paid tribute to Singapore's pioneer Malays - who he said, made a choice at independence, to cast their lot with Singapore, allowing the country to become a unique multi-racial and multi-religious society.

Mr Lee said one "outstanding pioneer" is the country's first President - Mr Yusof Ishak. Mr Lee said his contributions will be honoured in three ways going forward, including naming a new mosque in Woodlands after him.

For his commitment to progress through education and efforts in strengthening ties with neighbouring countries - the Institute of South East Asian Studies, or ISEAS, at the National University of Singapore will now be known as "ISEAS - The Yusof Ishak Institute."

A Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences will also be started at the National University of Singapore's Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. In a statement, NUS says the professorship will enable the faculty to attract and appoint leading social science academics who have gained international recognition.

It said the Yusof Ishak Professor will lead research in areas of study such as race, ethnicity and community, as well as studies of religion and religious diversity. All gifts and donations will be channelled to an endowment fund to support this professorship.

"These are ways which we ensure that future generations of Singaporeans will hold dear the memory, ideals and values of Encik Yusof Ishak. Puan Noor Aishah, we are grateful for all the contributions and sacrifices made by your late husband to the nation. Thank you," said Mr Lee to Mr Yusof's widow.

"Our pioneers exemplified this spirit. Pioneer Malays had a choice at Independence, and you cast your lot with Singapore. Your choice enabled Singapore to grow into a unique multi-racial and multi-religious society that is both united and harmonious. Thank you for having faith in Singapore, and working with other communities to set Singapore on a path to development."

Mdm Noor Aishah, was grateful for the tribute to her late husband. And she said he had been driven by a desire to contribute to future generations of Singaporeans.

"Thank you very much to the Prime Minister and the Government for being very kind as to think of him," she said. "I thought that 43 years on, they would have forgotten already. But still they remember him.I'm very grateful to the government. When he was alive, he was very concerned about how to bring up our future generations of people, especially the Malays.

"He was always talking about how to bring up our Malays. Before he died, he told me: 'I am very upset, I still could not do a lot in that time'. He didn't see all these things now. If he could see, he'll be very happy, yes, when the Prime Minister is saying all the Malays are now better."

Mr Lee had said overall, the Malay community has done well despite the challenges and individuals will be able to realise their potential regardless of family background - as long as effort is put in.

In his English speech later, Prime Minister Lee related another personal story of receiving a letter from the journalist son of a man who had worked as a driver for former Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew during the 1960s. Mr Rahmat Yusak drove the Land Rover that Mr Lee rode in while visiting constituencies islandwide to rally the ground against the Communists. Mr Rahmat later received a Public Service Medal (bronze) from President Yusof Ishak. 

In the letter, his son, Mohamed Zulkifli said he hoped people like Mr Rahmat will not be forgotten when Singapore honours its pioneer generation.

"So I say to Mr Zulkifli, we will never forget your father Mr Rahmat Yusak, nor the many pioneers who built Singapore, including Encik Yusof Ishak, our first President, who championed enduring values that helped us to succeed. They boldly wrote the opening chapters of the Singapore Story, and paved the way for their children to do better and write the rest."

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