Tanjong Pagar residents remember a stalwart MP

Tanjong Pagar residents remember a stalwart MP
From left: Tanjong Pagar MPs Melvin Yong, Indranee Rajah, Chan Chun Sing and Chia Shi-Lu at a remembrance event for Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the Tanjong Pagar Community Club yesterday. Photo: Wee Teck Hian
Published: 4:15 AM, March 24, 2016
Updated: 7:41 AM, March 24, 2016

SINGAPORE — She first spoke in Mandarin about her dreams to be an obstetrician and how stories of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s perseverance and courage inspired her to never give up easily.

Switching effortlessly to English, 11-year-old Nan Hua Primary School student Vera Ang then used a Chinese saying to express gratitude for the bilingual policy driven by the late Mr Lee. “Our ancestors planted the trees and we enjoy the shade,” she said.

“We must continue to stay united and bravely move forward together. Let us not let Mr Lee Kuan Yew down. Let us do our very best to make Singapore an even better place for the next 50 years,” she said, to rapturous applause.

The little girl was among six speakers at a remembrance event at Tanjong Pagar Community Club attended by residents, grassroots volunteers and Members of Parliament (MPs) of Tanjong Pagar on the first death anniversary of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, who was their MP for six decades.

Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing, who are MPs in the constituency, also shared their “poignant” memories of the constituency’s 2013 National Day dinner. At that time, everyone watched with bated breath as the late Mr Lee, who was already feeling unwell, climbed each step up to the podium to deliver his speech.

“I tell you this story because that scene remains indelibly on my memory and it speaks volumes of Mr Lee and the kind of person that he was. It was a struggle. You could see how difficult it was for him do that but you could also see that fierce spirit, that indomitable will,” said Ms Indranee.

“And it is that spirit, it is that strength of character, that fierceness of determination that really marked him as a great leader and it is that spirit that bonded the people of Singapore to him,” she added.

Referring to the same night, Mr Chan recounted how Mr Lee insisted on walking unaided to his car after his speech. “I promised myself that one day when Mr Lee leaves us, that none of us will need to cry or to worry. Because I know Mr Lee would want us to live life as normally as possible, to constantly look forward and not to cry over the past,” he said.

“One year after his passing, our greatest tribute to Mr Lee and the founding generation is to make sure that when they are no longer around, that we can continue to keep Singapore thriving for generations to come,” he added.

Before last night’s remembrance event started — the second of two organised by the Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru Grassroots Organisation — members of the public were seen streaming to the remembrance site at the nearby Duxton Plain Park. Those TODAY interviewed said they took time out to turn up as their way of their paying respects to Mr Lee.

“No matter what we do, we can never repay him,” said an emotional Madam Lui Li Zhen, 35, who was accompanied by her husband.

Madam Mayers Ng, 35, who brought her two young daughters to visit the site for the third time, said: “Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a great man. He has done a lot for Singapore so I think this is a way to honour him in our own little way.”