PM Lawrence Wong: Tonight marks the passing of the baton across generations

SINGAPORE: In his maiden speech as Prime Minister on May 15, Lawrence Wong spoke mainly in English, but salted his speech with portions in Malay and Mandarin, an acknowledgment of Singapore’s multi-ethnic make-up.

He told the nearly 900 assembled guests that he was deeply honoured to have been appointed Prime Minister, but at the same time, he said that he seeks the support and trust of all Singaporeans.

Addressing the assembly of guests, made up of political leaders, teachers, students, frontline workers, and other Singaporeans, he told them, “You embody the rich fabric of our nation.”

The new Prime Minister, who is 51 years old, underlined the significance of his swearing-in, calling it a significant milestone as it symbolizes the passing of the baton not just from one leader to the next but across generations.

After all, he was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, born after the country gained independence on August 9, 1965.

His generation’s story, he added, is the story of an independent Singapore, having been nurtured in an atmosphere of good leadership, political stability, and long-term planning.

Mr Wong acknowledged that while he and his generation are the beneficiaries of Singapore’s founding leadership, “We will lead in our own way… think boldly and think far.”

He added that he would write the country’s next chapter “not from scratch, but standing on the shoulders of giants,” former Prime Ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

His immediate predecessor, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, received a tribute from Mr Wong, who said, “Tonight I record the nation’s gratitude, and my own,” to Mr Lee.

He noted Mr Lee’s lifetime of public service over half a century and called him “exceptional in his selflessness and dedication to serve.”

“We owe him a great debt of gratitude,” said PM Wong, adding that he is grateful Mr Lee will continue to serve.

He also said his priority is to persuade younger Singaporeans in their 30s and 40s to “join the team” and help him “provide Singaporeans with the government we deserve.”

Mr Wong also touched on the current instability around the globe, as the 30 years of post-Cold War peace are largely over and may never return.

He acknowledged issues of protectionism and rampant nationalism, with Singapore getting affected by the cross-currents.

Nevertheless, he reiterated his promise to advance Singapore’s interests and the centrality of the ASEAN while expressing hopes for a stable relationship between the United States and China.

On Singapore’s improbable success, he said, “Time and again, we have proved the doubters wrong. We will do so again,” and promised, “I will serve you with all my heart. I will never settle for the status quo; I will make tomorrow better than today.”

He invited all Singaporeans to join him on the journey, saying, “Let us take SG forward together.” /TISG

Read also: Lawrence Wong sworn in as Singapore’s 4th Prime Minister; Tharman says the new PM ‘will be his own person in finding the best way forward for the country’

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