TOKYO: Singapore is at a turning point as it develops beyond the pioneer generation of Singaporeans who built it, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Sep 27).
Speaking at reception attended by about 400 Singaporeans living in Japan, Mr Lee said that at 50 years, Singapore is neither old nor young. In fact, it is a “a very difficult time for a country, because you’re going beyond the people who remembered the start, and going into a new generation (of people) who are not quite sure where the future is going to be”.
About 400 Singaporeans living in Japan turned up at the reception, where PM Lee Hsien Loong was the guest-of-honour. (Photo: Linette Lim)
Mr Lee added that for the next fifty years and beyond, Singaporeans will have to create the future for themselves – choosing the direction, the approach, and the values which will make the nation succeed in the new world.
“And it’s a dangerous world. But this little red dot has made it for 50 years, and now the young little red dotters will have to make it for many more than another 50 years,” said the Prime Minister.
“Being connected to the world – Japan and China and America and Europe – being confident of ourselves, knowing what we can do and determine to do, and being able to work together – I think if we can keep these values, we can keep this success,” said Mr Lee.
JAPAN AN “IMPORTANT FRIEND” TO SINGAPORE
The Prime Minister, who is in Tokyo for a four-day official visit coinciding with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, also named Japan as an “important friend” of the Republic.
Mr Lee spoke on how Japanese investments “made a big difference” to Singapore’s economy in the early years, and how there are 35,000 Japanese in Singapore, including one of the biggest overseas Japanese schools in the world.
“I think we must have one of the largest number of Japanese restaurants per person, in Singapore,” he quipped.
Touching on the bilateral relations between the two countries, Mr Lee said that this is a good relationship Singapore would like to cultivate and build further, because Japan has “a lot to contribute to the region”.
“We have a free trade agreement with them, it's called JSEPA – Japan-Singapore Economic Partnership Agreement – we hope we can improve that, take it further steps forward… So the long and short of it is, we have a very good relationship at the country-to-country level, and we’re also very happy that individual Singaporeans and Japanese are able to work together with one another,” he added.
In turn, Mr Lee said he hopes that the Singaporeans living in Japan can bring home some of the good values and habits and customs of the Japanese.
“They are very disciplined, they queue up very neatly, they don’t litter the streets, they work very hard, and they work together cohesively as one,” he said, to laughter and applause among the crowd.
“And these are the values we need as Singaporeans, and if we can keep them, and maintain them, then I think for many more years to come, we can celebrate National Day, sing Majulah Singapura and have good reason to rejoice,” Mr Lee said.