Monday, August 13, 2012

Singapore: 'Home with a heart'


Straits Times: Sun, Aug 12

More than just HDB flats, MRT lines and sound policies, what makes Singapore home are values like love of country and integrity, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hopes can be strengthened.

To realise his vision of Singapore as "a home with hope and with a heart", Mr Lee said the Government is working to improve both hardware and software, but "most important... is to build and strengthen our heartware, how we feel about Singapore".

"These are the spirit, the values, the emotional ties which make us Singaporeans, make Singapore what it is and make us proud to be Singaporeans," he said in a National Day dinner speech to 2,000 residents of Teck Ghee in Ang Mo Kio GRC.

He spoke of love for the nation and loyalty to Singapore, care and compassion for fellow citizens, mutual respect, sincerity and consideration for one another.

It means giving way to a senior citizen on the MRT so he can sit down, helping someone who falls, and handing a lost wallet to the police with honesty, "things which need to come from the heart, from Singaporeans themselves, which is what makes Singapore a good place to live", he said.

Tourists, too, should be impressed not only by the Marina Bay skyline and HDB estates, but also by the friendly cabby who "can explain to them why he is proud of Singapore", and by helpful Singaporeans.

In the wake of graft scandals involving civil servants, Mr Lee also emphasised integrity and "upholding our system of zero corruption, of high-quality officers, of people carrying out their duty".

Finally, Singapore must remain a meritocracy, where people are recognised by their contributions and what they can do for Singapore, and not by race, language, family background or wealth.

"We must develop these attributes, not through laws or fines, but by nurturing these values in everyone, so that they are reflected in our lives, in our actions, in our concerns, in what we expect of one another and become part of what it means when we say, 'I am a Singaporean'."

He invited Singaporeans to play their part to realise the vision, saying the Government could not do it alone.

A key element is closer families and communities, and he has re-organised government to better focus on these two priorities. Residents also can join in beautifying their neighbourhood, he added.

In Ang Mo Kio GRC, where Mr Lee is an MP, 10 more blocks have been selected for the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme and residents will have a say in the common facilities they want, like senior citizens' corners, playgrounds or street soccer courts.

He asked them to support the programme, and assured them that the Government will fund it fully.

In a speech in Mandarin, he called on residents to welcome residential homes and day-care facilities for the elderly. He signalled that Ang Mo Kio and Teck Ghee wards will need the facilities as residents age, but added that there are no concrete plans for them yet.

His speech in Malay touched on change too. Singapore must keep pace with global developments in the next 20 years, he said, urging Malay-Muslims here to develop together with other communities.

In closing, he rallied everyone to work together, "not only to be a prosperous or a modern society, but (also) a decent and caring people, so that we can be even prouder of being Singaporeans."

After listening to Mr Lee's speech, nurse manager Anbalagam Punithavathi, 46, spoke of what makes her proud to be Singaporean.

She believes people of different races here care for and respect one another. "You don't see this in many other parts of the world."

  
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