Lee Kuan Yew told MPs S'pore must always remain clean & incorruptible, & to lead by example: PM Lee

"Otherwise," Lee Kuan Yew said, "we are finished."

Zi Shan Kow | August 20, 2023, 08:58 PM

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During Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech on Aug. 20, he reflected on the values and ideals championed by the founding fathers of Singapore, including founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, whose 100th birth anniversary will be marked in a few weeks.

Ideals of Singapore's founding fathers

PM Lee talked about an ongoing exhibition at the National Museum, "Semangat yang Baru: Forging a New Singapore Spirit".

The exhibition tells the story of the birth of Singapore and showcases the Pioneer Generation's fight for the country.

Beyond building Singapore's skyscrapers and thriving economy, our forefathers have created a nation founded on ideals.

PM Lee named five of these ideals:

  1. Justice and equality
  2. Religious freedom and racial harmony
  3. A commitment to excellence
  4. A fair system of meritocracy
  5. An uncompromising insistence on honest, clean government

He highlighted the final ideal — integrity and incorruptibility — as fundamental to Singapore.

These ideals are the foundation on which we run a clean and effective government and deliver results for Singaporeans, PM Lee explained.

He added that they were also considered the most crucial ideals to our founding Prime Minister.

Lee Kuan Yew reminded parliamentarians to be incorruptible

PM Lee shared that the late Lee had attended the Parliament sitting on his 90th birthday.

His birthday was celebrated in the Members' Room, attended by People's Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament (MP) and ministers, opposition MPs led by Low Thia Khiang, as well as Nominated Members of the Parliament (NMPs).

Lee Kuan Yew was frail and ill and said just a few words.

He spoke only about one thing, PM Lee recounted.

"He reminded us Singapore must always remain clean and incorruptible, and ministers and MPs have to set the example.

Otherwise, he said, we are finished.

I will never forget those brief words."

Keeping the system clean

PM Lee said he will do all he can for the country to "keep faith with [Lee Kuan Yew]'s hope".

"No matter the price, no matter the embarrassment or political cost – I will do my utmost to keep the system clean," he affirmed, adding that "every generation of PAP leaders must also stand by this".

He emphasised that these ideals should guide every decision the government makes as they give meaning and purpose to nation-building, making Singapore stand tall among other nations.

Over the past 58 years, these ideals have also built a "built a high trust society" in Singapore.

It is a society where people of all races, religions and languages trust each other, and the people and the government trust each other as well, PM Lee remarked.

Mutual trust during Covid-19

These ideals have seen Singapore through its ups and downs, including the past three years.

PM Lee said that while the Covid-19 pandemic seems like a "bad dream" now, it could have been a "real nightmare".

Singapore managed to avoid disastrous outcomes and averted the loss of many lives. At the same time, Singapore revived its economy, and the Singapore society has become more united, said PM Lee.

"We owe this to our collective efforts and our strong mutual trust, which we must strengthen and deepen to secure a bright future for our people," he emphasised.

Top images via PM Lee/Facebook and Seng Han Thong - 成汉通/Facebook.