Malays who chose to stay helped nation succeed: PM

SINGAPORE — The pioneer generation of Malays who chose to remain in Singapore during the separation from Malaysia enabled Singapore to grow into a unique multi-racial and multi-religious society, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The Separation in 1965 was a moment of choice for the Malay community, between joining Malaysia as part of the majority and remaining in Singapore as a minority, he said.

Many chose to stay and Mr Lee paid tribute to them during his Malay speech at yesterday’s Pioneer Generation event at the Istana, saying that they helped build a modern nation with many opportunities and a high quality of life.

“We are grateful for your confidence, loyalty and contributions,” the Prime Minister said, adding that the community has passed on to its children the values and ethos that will take Singapore forward.

In his Mandarin speech, Mr Lee highlighted that the Pioneer Generation Package’s focus on healthcare would mean people have more resources for other needs, while also helping to reduce the burden on their children.

The package is therefore not just a subsidy, but also a means to help pioneers live better in their old age, Mr Lee said.

One of the guests at yesterday’s event, Mr Chng Bah Bee, 72, said the Package would give seniors assurance. A former port worker, Mr Chng said medication for his high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol cost over S$30 every three months, but that he and his wife, a cancer survivor, exercise daily and are well-covered by insurance bought by their children. “We took care of ourselves, and then the next generation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Lee also said Singapore owes its success to the pioneer generation, noting that the Republic had no natural resources when it became independent and the future was very bleak. But the pioneer generation persevered to ensure Singapore survived and grew, and their hard work set a strong foundation for the country’s development, he said.

In paying tribute to the work of the older generation, Mr Lee said the package cannot fully repay Singapore’s pioneers for their contributions, but he hopes it will be accepted as a sincere gesture of thanks.

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