Thought of the day

I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul. / I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul. ~William Ernest Henley, Invictus

Government's promises are like the Ringgit, they depreciate with time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Happy National Day, Malaysia

Wishing all my countrymen and countrywomen, Happy National Day.

My wishlist to forge a better Malaysia:
  • Promote unity
  • Be fair to all
  • Crush corruption
  • Beef up public security

As you can see, it is a simple list. Because only when we achieve all these, can we talk about economy, healthcare, education...etc.

Eee? Did Utusan Melayu miss this??

If Allah is watching this, he would be shaking his head in disbelief. The teachings which was passed down for so many centuries, has been grotesquely disfigured by sheer imbecility, ignorance and stupidity. Jahiliyah!

And I was chagrin that Utusan Melayu, together with other major (government-linked) press actually miss this. When Utusan Melayu is forever so fast and furious in reprimanding, and sometimes maligning others for insulting Islam and taking advantage of the Malays, I wonder why it stays mum this time...

For my Indian friends, please stay cool ya. This might be one of Najib's tactic to raise a riot, like what his father (Tun Razak) did back in May 13, 1969, to reseize the regime in Selangor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I hope the government understands this

The government should understand that the people, irregardless of ethnic groups, just want to survive, not to become millionaires. We merely want to have a job with steady income stream, sufficient to feed our family, to support our basic needs, and to provide education for our offsprings. Is this too much to ask for? If not, why is it that after a few decades since the implementation of NEP and numerous Rancangan Malaysia, the people are still living in dire condition? Ok, not everyone is in hot soup, but you couldn't argue that the standard of living gets harsher by the day in Malaysia.

Why? The following clips may shed some lights, and I sincerely hope that the government will at least try to understand...

This is the spirit that we want, helping each other irregardless of skin colour and religion.

Don't start something if you are insincere and undetermined to sustain it. It's a waste of our money.

The "genuine bumiputra" story.

Please give us what we need, not develop for the sake of spending and corruption.

Yes, we don't care if it is PAS or UMNO, as long as they benefit all.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Our Mascots

Yey, went home for the weekend. It's been like what...2 months? Will be back probably during the pre-National Day weekend (keeping my fingers crossed) if the preparation for the meeting is smooth and crisp, so that I can meet up with my sisters:) A short trip back, a home cooked meal with hot lotus root soup (caren must be drooling now.), dinner at "Boss" mamak stall, rawa tosai and teh tarik for breakfast - the perfect concoction to rejuvenate the mind and body for those who are working or studying away from home. SY and Caren fret not, here are some shots for you to "watch plums, quench thirst".

View out of the living room window.

The skylight.

Nice lighting in the washroom.

Warm blanket at home.

Okay, let me introduce you to our super duper environment friendly "lawn-mowers". It needs no gas, release no fumes, and is noise-free (except the cute munching sound when it's beak crunches the stem of the water spinach.) With the pair, we not only cut down on the cost to buy a commercial lawn-mower, mom also cut down wastage on unused vegetables.

CM and I decided not to mistreat our family's mascots, the tank is really too small for two half-footers, so we decided to replace it with a more spacious tank. Hopefully they will not outgrow the new tank too soon.

Ok, the one on the left urinated on CM's hand. I think it's just their way of saying "thanks", haha.

See ya, sis, drive carefully ya. Ok, time to start work. Ganbate ne.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Don't sue me for promoting our local production: 1BlackMalaysia

Fulamak, the conspiracy thickens...
Who is the mysterious man? Is Khir Toyol involve in this?
The local drama is getting more and more exciting than a combo of Prison Break, CSI and 24.
Stay tune to Malaysia Today!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

What I can do after I graduate...

Taxi Driver.

I took my time and pored over his entries, seeing the Singapore from a different perspective.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Insider Tip: Fastest Growth Blue Chips on KLSE....shhh

Don't say I never reveal any juicy stock tips ya...

Here is one for you, insider information says that this stock will hit over 100 by end of August, so better start to pile up on this counter. Many analysts out there overlooked this counter and since I have some insights, might as well share it here so that everyone can reap a fat profit from it.

"This is a multi-national corporation, with its operation in more than 100 countries around the world. Despite the drag in growth since July'09 due to the global economy slow down, its operation in Malaysia has grown more than 50% since July, unsurprisingly outpacing Singapore and Hong Kong. A giant in the pharmaceutical discipline, this MNC has also spurred the growth of some associated industries, top on the list are some prominent mask manufacturers in the SEA region. Nonetheless, a spokeperson from N95 expressed that the growth in sales volume may not necessary be materialized as earnings due to the Malaysian government's effort to impose a celing price for their products."

More information about the counter can be found here. It's already hit 67 today, better act fast! Good luck.
Click on the image to view the company name.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

National Day Rally speech (Part 4 - How we've transformed Singapore)

If we stay cohesive then we can overcome our economic challenges and continue to grow. We can strengthen our society safety nets. We can shape Singapore together. And this is how we've transformed Singapore over the last half century- solving problems together, growing together, improving our lives.

Words fail when you want to describe such an enormous change. So best to see the changes through pictures. I've gathered some assembled from the archives, from the media who were very generous, from the ministries and agencies. I also got a few from Mediacorp which ran a Then and Now contest, which lots of Singaporeans participated and they gave some very nice pictures and stories which I hope to share with you. Let's see what has happened to Singapore over the last 5 decades.

We will start where it all began, with the Singapore River. This is what it looked like. Lots of dirt. I'm afraid I can't bring the smell with me to show you. But our mother's office used to be near the Singapore River. Malacca Street still there.The street that is. And she used to have a blind telephone operator who came to work by bus every day. And the telephone operator told her that he always knew when to get off the bus! Because he could smell the Singapore River.

There were coolies on the Singapore River slogging away, carrying heavy loads, rubber, copra, rice from the tongkangs to the godowns and back slogging for a better life for themselves, at the same time the basis of prosperity for Singapore's entrepot.

Today this is all gone. The river has become transformed. The skyline has changed. No more tongkangs. We have got electric boats on the water. Boat Quay has no more coolies. You go there to enjoy yourself and have a drink, vibrantly. This must be early in the evening because everybody still looks sober! Coolies are also gone. But just to remind ourselves of where we came from, I suggested to STB and they did. They built some bronze sculptures of the people who used to work there, so we can remember them.

Housing has completely changed. Singaporeans used to live in terrible living conditions. This is Chinatown in the 1970s. People were desperately poor and families often squeezed into miserable tiny cubicles. This is not a double-decker bed. This is one cubicle below and another cubicle above, another family.

Mr Lim Kim San used to tell a story of how he went to visit these cubicles because he was chairman of HDB and he wanted to understand what the conditions were like. And he met a man living in one of these cubicles in Chinatown and he was seated in a bed covered with a blanket. And he said to the man, is something the matter with you? Are you sick? It's so hot, why are you covered with a blanket? And the man says, no, I'm not sick, I'm doing this out of respect for you because my friend and I share on pair of trousers and he has gone to work wearing the trousers.

So the PAP was quite determined to move people out of slums and to build public housing for all Singaporeans and one of the first projects it built was Tanjong Pagar Duxton Plain, Cantonment Road, to show the voters in Tanjong Pagar and in Singapore what the PAP government could do. And these buildings were coming up in 1963 during the elections, this is the opening in 1964 and you see pictures of MM visiting the houses such as MPs do now.

They were very pleased with those little flats. But it showed people what we could do and it helped to win Tanjong Pagar in the 1962 general election, without which Singapore's history might have become different. Duxton Plain today has changed again. These blocks of flats have gone. Today we have the Pinnacle. This is a photograph, not a computer visualisation. The building will be ready by the end of the year, the tallest and I think the most valuable HDB flats in Singapore.

We went ahead to build entire new towns and among the earliest of our new towns was Toa Payoh. Originally just market gardens, some squatters, some villages, we cleared the vegetable farms and the kampongs, we put up a modern town taking shape, high-rise living, and we moved people into the high-rise flats.

And they brought with them their kampong spirit. So if you went to the flats, their doors were open, neighbours knew one another, they shared food, they chit-chatted, sometimes extended families on several floors in the same building. And here you see them friends with one another, this is good but sometimes they also brought their kampong chickens upstairs.

HDB and the MPs worked hard to improve the estates, to raise the standards of social behaviour. We are still trying but we have made progress and with continuous upgrading, Toa Payoh now has a vibrant town centre, Toa Payoh Central and with MUP, SERS, IUP and all the other initials, the new housing blocks look quite good too.

So we've transformed Singapore physically. As the economy prospered our lives have improved. For the residents of the HDB flats, what's most important is not just what's outside the flat but what is inside their flat and the kitchen is the closest to people's heart.

So I have a very interesting pair of pictures sent in by Mr Ivan Kang to "Then and Now". And he used to live in a kampong house in Jalan Sembawang Kechil. And here you can see him starting to, trying to light a fire in the traditional way. I think it must be a charcoal fire or wood and he's taken a new picture of his current HDB flat in Yishun. He looks as trim as ever.

Toilets tell an even more dramatic story. Used to be like this. This is then and now. This is what's called a jamban. And the lady lived in a place like this till 1985. Fifty metres to the house and inside that there's a tiny space, a hole in the ground and a bucket. Minister Yaacob tells me the last bucket in Singapore is now in a museum in MEWR. To bath, the families would just use an open area. So you see a little girl and she's sitting in a pail, standing in a pail and this is what the Cantonese used to called pei tan gong. If you're old enough, that means "century egg jar" which is what it was, came from China and we used to use this to bath. I used to use this too. Now, contrast this with a standard issue HDB toilet today, the toddler is not included.

To build a nation we not only house the people but also strengthen the ties with one another. So we built community centres all over Singapore. The early ones were very basic, just a simple building, zinc roof and inside you have a ping pong table, a community hall, maybe you can play carom or checkers. Star attraction, black and white TV set with benches outside, whole families, whole kampong gathered because people didn't have TV sets. They came to watch. You don't need a lot of TV sets because at first there was only one channel, so we can all share the same channel.

Now, today's Community Centres (CC), sometimes you see them, you don't know what they are. I won't ask you but this is Marine Parade CC and if you go inside the CC, you can see people doing line dancing and wine tasting. There's the wine there and the line dancing there and many other exciting things. It's quite different.

Our mosques have changed. Once upon a time, we had suraus, simple, primitive structure. A surau is a little prayer house. This one was, picture was provided by Muis. Muis told me this was at Jln Angkap. I said, where is Jln Angkap. Muis says they didn't know. So I checked up. Jln Angkap is where there was once a gang fight and we think that it's somewhere in Kranji but I think it's gone now.

Today with the MBF we have new modern mosques and the most pretty one, I think, is the one I visited recently, the Singapore Islamic Hub and the Muhajirin Mosque, newly rebuilt. This is the Muhajirin Mosque. This is Muis and behind that, there's Madrasah Irsyad. Greatly admired by overseas visitors. Not just as places for prayers but also social centres for the community. So many things happened. This was Al Amin Mosque at Bukit Panjang. I visited them last year. They had a Rahmatan Lil Alamin event, Blessings To All Day, so children dancing, they were taking, doing blood pressure tests, doing blood donations and so on. Vibrant centre.

We've created opportunities for our people. In the past, young people had to find their own ways to amuse themselves. So when it's flooded, there was a chance to take a swim. This is Then and Now and the picture was sent in by Ruhaya who is the girl on the right-hand side. Today our young people still swim but now they train in covered pools and they excel and win medals. Asian Youth Games this year, we hope similar photograph, YOG next year. Please take note, national teams. And I hope many more young people will volunteer to become YOG volunteers next year and show the world what Singaporeans can do.

Our youth are already volunteering, fulfilling their ideals, venturing out, helping people all round the region. Here you see them in Chiang Rai in northern Thailand building a community hall. They're on the YEP, the Youth Expeditionary Programme.

So Singapore has changed. And what has enabled us to make this change and kept us safe and sound all these years is the SAF. We've prospered in peace, we've managed to maintain confidence in Singapore and we've deterred any potential aggressors. In the old days, we had the SAF but we depended on the soldiers and what they carry. And the firepower you could carry was a rifle. If you wanted more, you had the machine gun, if you wanted more, the biggest thing you could carry was the 120mm mortar. And this is, I used to be in the Artillery so this is, I chose this picture.

Today, we have the 3G SAF and if you see the soldier, which you shouldn't because he's wearing new camouflage uniform, he's just one soldier. Advanced Combat Man System and he's linked up and he should be able to call upon the firepower of the whole of the SAF. He should have a UAV somewhere, should see what's happening. He should be able to have an F15 on call, if not enough, Apache helicopters. Not enough you have a stealth frigate. Not easy to see because stealth. If still not enough then we will bring our big guns, the Leopard tanks.

And it's not just words. It's a network system all connected together, all integrated able to fight as one tri-service combined armed force. We've invested in the hardware. But the key is the man or woman, his training, his courage, his commitment.

The regulars and the NSmen have served the nation well and we're particularly grateful for the services of generations of NSmen who have sacrificed and endured considerable hardships and inconveniences for the country. From time to time we have a committee to recognise the contributions of Operationally Ready National Servicemen to Total Defence. Very long name but it's the Record committee. And the Record committee has convened every few years and they've had good ideas on how we can recognise and reward NSmen.

For example, they've recommended us to build Safra Clubhouses. And we've built a number. The most recent one, this one is at Mt Faber. And you see the National NSmen. I chose this picture because behind every NSman there's a wife and children, and they carry maybe more half the burden of the NSman service. More than just ironing the uniform. Providing him moral support and encouragement to do his duty.

RECORD V, chaired by Prof Koo Tsai Kee, has been meeting this year. The committee is completing its work finalising its recommendations. It should have some good news to announce soon. So we should look forward to announcement within a couple of weeks.

We're continuing to renew our city, to build our future Singapore. Even in the middle of this recession we're working hard at it. And again it's not just the hardware but also the opportunities, the institutions, the heart-ware, the memories which we are creating, which is what makes Singapore tick.

Let me give you an update on what's happening right now. We're delivering a first-class education system. We've made heavy investments in education at all levels, building new schools, equipping them with computers, labs and so on.

I'll just show you 2 things which schools today which we never imagined. Media Production studios - so that even primary school children can make movies and productions and DVDs. Indoor sports halls - big enough, roomy enough to play all kinds of activities. Hence you see all the different coloured markings on the ground because all games possible. Beyond the schools we are investing in our ITEs and polys to provide a first class post-secondary education. This is ITE College East. It looks like a university. It's as good as a university in many other countries in the world. Republic Polytechnic in Woodlands, set in beautiful gracious grounds. Here they are doing some adventure training.

But even beyond schools we want Singaporeans to seek out and absorb knowledge because you must keep on learning and relearning. Therefore we are building modern libraries in our new towns. You may not have seen this one but this is in Bishan. And this is also a photograph, because it looks so perfect but inside there are people and we can see them in a good environment. Somebody is browsing WiFi presumably, reading, chatting, finding a good spot to absorb information to keep up to date with the world, and maybe to chat with their boyfriends and girlfriends.

We're making a Singapore which is clean, efficient, reliable, safe. A train system which is clean, efficient, reliable, safe. MRTs in Singapore if you go on them you can sit on any chair, no chewing gum. And it's safe, it's on time. We've opened 5 Circle Line stations. This is Serangoon station, just opened in May. But we are building a lot more because the Circle Line will be completed within the next couple of years. These are the existing lines.

We are going to have many more within the next few years and by 2020 we will have even more - Tuas Extension, Thomson Line, Eastern Region Line, North-South Line Extension - doubling the network which we have in Singapore. But you don't have to be underground all the time.

We need fresh air, green spaces, parks and gardens all over the island and that's what Environment is doing, NParks is doing. We have Park Connectors or this one, Telok Blangah along the southern ridges. The parks will be green, the waters will be blue. ABC Waters (Active, Beautiful and Clean). This is Kallang River which used to be the same standard as the Singapore River but now it's clean with the banks landscaped and beautiful. I know this because I walked there. The last time I was on leave I walked all along from Bishan down to Kallang and it does look like this. But the water itself I think the public still needs to be a little bit cleaner. Don't drop so much rubbish in.

The city centre is becoming vibrant. I show you one of the buildings. This is a real building. It's Orchard Central, colourful but the attraction is the road and the activities and the life along the street - buskers playing, people seeing and be seen, seen and being seen, all times of day and night. The centrepiece of our city is a new Marina Bay. Last time I told you about it, it was a gleam in our artist's imaginations and impressions. Now we can see a new skyline taking shape. This is the existing buildings but if you go around the Bay, the Sail is here, NTUC Building is here with a U, the banking and financial centre is taking shape and if you turn round a bit more, this is what you would have seen - the IRs - already reaching the top and getting joined up.

I will show you how the Bay will look soon but rather than showing you more photographs, let me take you on a sail by and fly around starting on the Singapore River.

Here we are going down the Singapore River, under Anderson Bridge and the Esplanade Bridge into the Bay. So you can see the IR and all round. And you fly out, the Grandstand, the floating platform, Flyer, coming out to the Marina Barrage down here. And next to that you have the Gardens by the Bay including the cool houses which will be interesting features. Trees, you see the instant trees have all arrived. And up to the top of the IRs where they have the Sky Park with a splendour view, I'm getting dizzy looking at this. That's Art Science Museum and this is the Double Helix Bridge which you could have seen from the parade the other day. Along the bridge and you can take a view.

The IRs, you don't have to go in to gamble,
you can enjoy yourself outside on the Event Plaza. They'll have mist-ers to keep you cool, fountains to amuse you, fountains there. And you go across the Bay and we will have here between the BFC and the Sail a green chunk with a promontory where you can have a party.

And some of these things are built. One on the bun is already in Clifford Pier, this is a floating restaurant, this is One Fullerton, the Merlion is still there, the Durian and you come back to the Promenade and you enjoy the sunset, courtesy of URA.

From the Singapore River to Marina Bay, we've totally transformed Singapore over the last half century. 1959 was a moment of great change but nobody at the Padang in June 1959 imagined the change in today's, to today's Singapore. It was not possible. We will continue to improve our lives, provided we work together and remain a harmonious and a cohesive society so that in another 50 years, we will have built another Singapore which is equally unimaginable today. The key is to stay united through rain or shine.

We just celebrated a special National Day, not just at the floating platform but all over Singapore and in many other places too. And even on the Web where 100,000 Singaporeans left birthday wishes for the nation. Many memorable moments.

Take the first National Education show last month. They projected a clip of me recounting several rallies ago how it had rained on the 1968 parade but the participants marched on and we showed the world. They were tempting fate because as soon as they finished showing that clip, it rained on them. Poured, but even the rain couldn't dampen their spirit and the young participants stayed through the show, braved the storm together and said the Pledge.

The show on 9th August was impressive but what was most impressive is not just the performance but what it takes to put on such a show and what the show says about the sort of nation we are. The imagination and creativity which had to go into conceiving the show, the ability to organise, to execute, to make it happen.

Many national servicemen spent a lot of time packing these bags and volunteers too and organising everything so you went there, everything was exactly what it was meant to be. The commitment to excellence in all that we do and the spirit of one people celebrating our nationhood together. All this was epitomised in the Pledge moment.

Singaporeans from all walks of life, all over the island, and overseas too, said the Pledge together at 8.22 pm. All united, one voice, saying what it means to be a Singaporean and as one united people, we can continue to upgrade and build this city and make this place our home, our future and our Singapore.

Good night.

National Day Rally speech (Part 3 - Social cohesion)

Critical to our long-term success other than building the social safety nets like health care is maintaining our social cohesion and particularly looking after our racial and religious harmony.

We've discussed potential fault lines in our society quite often, between the rich and the poor, between Singaporeans and new-arrivals. You see letters in the newspapers all the time.

But the most visceral and dangerous fault line is race and religion. And people don't discuss that so much. So I asked myself why. And I think there are two possible reasons opposite to each other.

One is they may think we have no problem because we are living peacefully and harmoniously for so long. But two, perhaps people know this is a very sensitive subject and they are awkward to talk about it, maybe to tread on some sensitive ground, shy away from it.

I think there's some truth in both explanations. Yes, we are in a good position but, yes, we are aware of the sensitivities.
Yet, from time to time, we have to discuss it honestly but tactfully to assess the progress we've made, to address the trends, recognise the trends in our society and the world around us and to remind ourselves to do better and to tell ourselves where we need to do better.

We've made a lot of progress over the last 40 years in building our harmony and cohesion.

We've integrated our people, we've enabled all communities to move ahead. We've built a stronger sense of Singaporean identity and the religious groups have contributed a great deal to this progress.

The leaders of the groups have guided their flocks wisely, they've helped to set a wholesome and moral tone to our society.

And they do a lot of good work, not just for their own flocks but for all groups. And they've respected and accommodated one another, made practical compromises so that all can live harmoniously together in a uniquely Singaporean way.

I know it first-hand. I went to a Catholic school, it gave me a good education and now as an MP seeing cases I know the good work which the church groups, the mosque groups, the temple groups do.

Recently, I saw a case, man came to see me. He had a house problem. He said, please help me solve this problem. I have spent 23 years in jail in and out. I've now turned over a new leaf. Please don't let me go back to where I was again.
And he showed me his proudest possession, a certificate of completion of a Bible study course which had helped him to turn over and know what is right and what is wrong. So I tried my best to help him. I'm not sure whether the problem will finally be solved but here was one man whose life had been changed vastly for the better.

We may take this for granted in Singapore but our visitors are astonished.

Recently I met the Grand Mufti of Syria. He came here to deliver the Muis Lecture and I spent some time with him. I learnt a lot from him.

He told me that racial and religious diversity was a great treasure for a nation state. He was deeply impressed by how we had embraced diversity in Singapore. And he shared with me this parable.

He said, imagine a mother with 4 children, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Jew, 4 children. Which child should the mother love most? So he says, it's an impossible question. Of course the mother will love all of them equally because they are all her children but she will most approve of the one who takes best care of his or her other three siblings.

So I replied to him, I said, thank you very much for your compliment but I didn't feel that Singapore had completely arrived and we still have to be careful because racial and religious conflicts can still pull us apart.

So let me explain why this is so, from a micro point of view and from a macro point of view.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a programme on TV, Discovery Channel's Six Degrees, Lonely Planet Six Degrees on the Discovery channel.

It was about Singapore and all the things you can do, food, entertainment and so on and the climax of the programme, the presenter was going to watch a Malay band perform at a Malay wedding in a void deck and the band leader was guiding the lady to the location.

On the way, they saw some tentage put up. He said, what's that? Is that the wedding. So the band leader, he was a Malay boy, said, no, that's not the wedding, that's a Chinese funeral, in the same void deck.

And he explained, he says, a void deck can be used for weddings, funerals, also to play soccer. I think the last part's not quite right. But he said, you can't watch pornography and other things.

But he added, Malays, Chinese and Indians, we stay together in the same block so when you have your cultural events, it all comes together. And that is what usually happens in Singapore. But sometimes things go wrong, like the case which I described in my Chinese speech just now.

Two families both want the same place. Malay family wants a wedding, Chinese family wants a funeral, then there's a tussle.

In the incident which I described, fortunately the Malay family graciously agreed to move nearby to a different void deck even they had the first claim after mediation by the grassroots leaders and the MP and the Town Council facilitated this, they waved charges and they put up posters to inform the wedding guests to go to the right place. And so everything ended amicably. But it could easily have been otherwise.

I cite this example not to criticise one group or another but to point out that such sensitive incidents are bound to arise from time to time in Singapore.

They are very rare, many one incident in 300 funerals.

How do I know?

We collect statistics on everything.

Ya, it is about one every 300 funerals. Usually it's handled uneventfully by the Town Councils, sometimes the Malay wedding moves, sometimes the Chinese funeral moves.

This case was unusual because both parties stood firm at the beginning. Fortunately after mediation, one side decided to give way.

But if such an incident had been wrongly handled, and you have a case which escalates into a racial or religious conflict, then one case is bad enough.

To solve such problems, to live peacefully together we need good sense and tolerance on all sides, and a willingness to give and take because otherwise whatever the rules, there will be no end of possible causes of friction - noise, auction 7th moon, parking because of the mosque or because of the church, joss sticks because the stray ashes will blow somewhere, dog hair. I was briefing our MPs on this case and this background recently and one MP says: "They had a case, resident e-mailed him, Malay resident.Upstairs neighbour, dog hair dropping on their clothes. Very angry."

I said I would be very angry too. I'm not Malay but I would be upset too.

So cheek by jowl there will be no end of episodes where we will rub against one another. And without tolerance and forbearance we will have a problem. That's the micro point of view. You don't see it because we don't report a lot in the newspapers.

We keep it quiet, we deal with it in a low key way. So you see the peaceful calm of Singapore harmoniously progressing, which in fact it is harmoniously progressing. It's like a swan. You see it sailing across the water beautifully, graciously, underneath paddling away furiously.

That's what MPs are doing when you don't know what they are doing.

From a macro point of view at the same time, if you look beyond Singapore and ask what's our overall environment like, I think that has some relevance to this question too.

We see a global trend of rising religiosity all over the world. Groups have become more organized, more active. The followers have become more fervent in their faiths, stronger in their faiths. And it's true of all faiths, all over the world. And let me give you just a few examples which are relevant to us.

The US - strong religious country. More than 90% of Americans believe in God by this survey, more than 80% consider, and consider religion important in their lives. And about 80% are Christians. So it's a very strongly religious country and there's a wave of revival - mega-churches and tele-evangelism.

So in person you have enormous building where services are held and you have television channels. You have it all on the Internet. The new media is much more advanced than my new media.

And US politics is strongly influenced by religion in the Republican Party and in the Democrats. With the Republicans the Christian right are a powerful influence, setting the agenda, influencing who can be elected, what policies they pursue. The Democrats on the other side, they also need Christian support.
So in the last presidential election, Barack Obama's middle name became an issue. His middle name is Hussein. But he's not a Muslim. He's a Christian. And he spent a long time trying to explain to people that I'm not a Muslim, I'm a Christian and pls vote for me.

So religion and politics are supposed to be separated in America but in reality they are closely entangled together. And there's a fierce struggle between the conservatives and the liberals in America over moral and cultural issues.

They call them the Culture Wars. They argue over abortion, they argue over stem cell research, they argue over gay rights, gay marriages, and so on.

A fierce struggle both sides striving to set the agenda, not just for their own followers but for the country. With Muslims, there's an intense revival worldwide. It's also visible in South East Asia.

There's a strong sense of umma of the worldwide Muslim community, of all Muslims all around the world. You see it around us in Msia. In one generation big change. Rules on dress, on food. on alcohol, contact between men and women. Very strict rules prevail now which did not use to prevail a generation ago.

If you watch P. Ramlee movies from the 1950s and 60s, the way they dress, the way they act, the way they perform, it's like an American sit-com, but it was a society then, a different kind of Muslim society.

Today you cannot imagine a P. Ramlee movie being produced and shown over Malaysian television. It's become a conservative, more rigorously Islamic society amongst the Malays and Muslims and Islam has become a major factor in Malaysian politics.

In Indonesia, there it's a similar trend, not as advanced but similar. And the DPR, their Parliament is right now considering a law to require businesses to seek halal certification, not voluntary but compulsory.

If you are doing business, you must get a halal certification. Indonesia is based on Pancasila, that means belief in one God regardless of which religion you belong to. And yet this is happening. In Indonesia the society is changing and they feel a sense of ummah too, of the global Muslim community.

So recently when the Xinjiang riots happened which were between the Uighurs and the Han Chinese, Uighurs are Muslim, the Han Chinese are not Muslim, the Indonesian Majilis Ulama Indonesia, their Ulama Council issued a statement in support of the Muslim Uighurs.

It's not their struggle in Indonesia but they felt a sense of togetherness with the Muslims far away.

In South Korea, East Asian country, Buddhists originally but Christianity has become a major religion. And the Christians have been successful.

They've risen, they occupy important positions in business, in politics. The President is Christian. Mr Lee Myung-bak, he is a Presbyterian elder in his church. And he's got many of, some of his advisers who are also Christian and the Buddhist community has raised concerns.

So last year thousands of Buddhist monks stage a protest against what they saw as Christians discriminating against Buddhists in Korea.
The result was President Lee subsequently expressed regret that the Buddhists had been offended, the Buddhists have taken this positively, so there's some reconciliation and temperatures have come down.

These are things happening around us but Singapore is carried along by this global tide. On Fridays mosques overflow, on Sundays churches overflow, cinemas overflow, many halls over Singapore overflow with Christian services of all kinds.

Buddhists too are active, reaching out to a younger English-speaking generation. And some have introduced music to spread their teachings. Hindus too are celebrating more religious festivals and events.

In itself, there's nothing wrong with people becoming more religious because religion is a positive force in human societies, it provides spiritual strength, guidance, solace, a sense of support for many people, especially in a fast changing and uncertain world.

But at the same time, stronger religious fervour can have side effects which have to be managed carefully, especially in a multi-racial and multi-religious society.
So what are these risks? Let me just highlight three of them.

Aggressive preaching - proselytisation. You push your own religion on others, you cause nuisance and offence. You have read in the papers recently on couple who surreptitiously distributed Christian tracts which are offensive of other faiths, not just of non-Christians but even of Catholics because it said Catholics are not Christians and they were charged and sentenced to jail. But there are less extreme cases too which can cause problems.

For example, we hear from time to time complaints of groups trying to convert very ill patients in our hospitals who don't want to be converted and who don't want to have their private difficult moments in their lives intruded upon. But sometimes it happens.So aggressive preaching is one problem.

Intolerance is another problem. Not respecting the beliefs of others or not accommodating others who belong to different religions.

You think of this as me versus somebody else, one group versus another group but sometimes it happens within the same family.

Sometimes we have parents who are traditional religions, children have converted away. Then when the parents die, they've asked to be buried according to traditional rites and the children stay away from the funeral or the wake. It's very sad.

From a traditional point of view, it's the ultimate unfilial act but it does happen, occasionally. So intolerance.

Extremism is another problem, exclusiveness is a 3rd problem. Segregating into separate exclusive circles, not integrating with other faiths.

What does that mean? That means you mix with your own people, you don't mix with others, you'll end up as separate communities.

It could be a direct preference to stay among your own group, it could be indirectly unintended but you prefer not to share meals with others or maybe you disapprove of yoga or taiji because you think there's something religious there and so instead of doing an activity jointly together, you end up with each group, separate activities.

Yoga, e.g. was an issue in Malaysia recently because there was a ruling that yoga was not halal and the PM then, Abdullah Badawi, had to come out and say yoga is ok as long as there's no chanting or religious component to it.
We foresaw these dangers 20 years ago. So we presented a White Paper on religious harmony, maintenance of religious harmony in parliament.

We passed the Bill, Maintenance of Religious Harmony, in 1989/1990.

Before we did that, the PM, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and the key ministers met all the religious leaders. We had a closed door session at MCYS. We spoke candidly, we explained our concerns, why we wanted to move this Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act.

The religious leaders spoke up candidly, they gave us their support. We moved with their support. And we continue to keep in close touch with them, to meet them regularly.

I do that personally, exchange views, how to maintain harmony, keep the line warm and the confidence on both sides so that I know you, you know me, if there is a problem, we are not dealing with strangers but with somebody we know and trust.

And once or twice, I've had to meet them over specific difficult cases, not general discussion of religious harmony in Singapore but dealing with specific difficult issues.

No publicity, relying on mutual trust and the wisdom of our religious leaders to diffuse tensions and I'm very grateful for their wisdom and for their support.

So because of this active work behind the scenes, we've not needed to invoke the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act for 20 years but it's something which is important to us which we must keep for a long time.

We can never take our racial and religious harmony for granted. We will look after the issues but at the same time we must observe some basic principles to keep it the way it is. And let me tell you a few of these basic principles.

First, that all groups have to exercise tolerance and restraint. Christians cannot expect this to be a Christian society, Muslims cannot expect this to be a Muslim society, ditto with the Buddhists, the Hindus and the other groups.

Many faiths share this country, share this island. Each has different teachings, different practices. Rules which only apply to one group cannot become laws which are enforced on everyone.

So Muslims don't drink alcohol but alcohol is not banned. Ditto gambling which many religions disapprove of but gambling is not banned. If we have to live together in peace, then all have to adopt 'live and let live' as our principle.

Secondly, we have to keep religion separate from politics. Religion in Singapore cannot be the same as religion in America or religion in an Islamic country.

Take Iran for example. Islamic country, in fact, Shia, all Shia.Recently they had a presidential election which was fiercely contested and the outcome was disputed. Ahmadinejad and Moussavi. Both sides invoked Islam in their support.

So Moussavi his supporters had a battle cry -Allahu Akbar (God is Great). But Iran is Islamic, is Shi'ite. So after the battles they come back, it is one society.

In Singapore, if one group invokes religion this way, other groups are bound to say I also need powerful support. We'll also push back invoking their faith.

One side insists I'm doing God's work. The other side says I'm doing my God's work. And both sides say I cannot compromise. These are absolute imperatives, duties.

The result will be a clash between different religious groups which will tear us apart. We take this very seriously.

The PAP ourselves, we remind our candidates when we field them, bring your friends and supporters. Don't bring all the friends from your own religious group. Don't mobilise your church or your temple or your mosque to campaign for you.
Bring a multiracial, multireligious group of supporters. And when you are elected, represent the interest of all your constituents, not just your religiou group in Parliament. Speak for all your constituents.

Thirdly, The government has to remain secular. The government authority comes from the people. The laws are passed by parliament, elected by the people. They don't come from a sacred book.

The government has to be neutral, fair. We are not against religion. We uphold sound moral values. We hold the ring so that all groups can practise their faiths freely without colliding with one another in Singapore. And that's the way Singapore has to be.

You may ask: Does this mean that religious groups have no views, cannot have views on national issues? Or that religious individuals cannot participate in politics?

Obviously not. Because religious groups are free to propagate their teachings on social and moral issues, and they have done so on the IRs, on organ transplants, on 377A, homosexuality. And obviously many Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists participate in politics.

In Parliament we have people of all faiths in Cabinet too. And people who have a religion approach a national issue, they will often have views which are informed by their religious beliefs. It's natural because it's part of you, it's part of your individual, your personality.

But you must accept that other groups may have different views informed by different beliefs and you have to accept that and respect that.

And the public debate cannot be on whose religion is right and whose religion is wrong. It has to be on secular, rational considerations of public interest - what makes sense for Singapore.

The final requirement for us to live peacefully together is to maintain our common space that all Singaporeans share. It has to be neutral, secular because that's the only way all of us can feel at home in Singapore and at ease.

And let me explain to you not based on argument but examples, specific examples what I mean.

Sharing meal. We have different food requirements. Muslims need halal food. Hindus don't eat beef. Buddhists sometimes are vegetarian. So if we must serve everybody food which is halal , no beef and vegetarian, I think we will have a problem.

We will never eat meals together.

So there will be halal food on one side, vegetarian food for those who need it, no beef for those who don't eat beef.
Let's share a meal together acknowledging that we are not the same. Don't discourage people from interacting. Don't make it difficult for us to be one people.

Our schools are another example where we are common space and all races and religions interact. Governmentt schools naturally but even mission schools, even church schools run by religious groups, there are clear rules which MOE has set, so that students of all faiths will feel comfortable.

You might ask: Why not allow mission schools to introduce prayers or Bible studies as compulsory parts of the school activity or as part of the school activity or as part of school assembly.

Why not?

Then why not let those who are not Christian or don't want a Christian environment, go to a government school or go to a Buddhist school.

Well, the reason why not is because if they do that then we'll have Christians in Christian schools, Buddhists in Buddhist schools, Muslims in schools with only Muslim children and so on and I think that is not good for Singapore.

Therefore, we have rules to keep all our schools secular and the religious groups understand and accept this.

Take, for example, SJI, St Joseph's, Catholic brother school but it has many non-Catholic students, including quite a number of Malay students who study there.
And one year the Josephian of the year in 2003 was a Malay student - Salman Mohamed Khair.

And he told Berita Harian that initially his family was somewhat worried about admitting him to a Catholic school and he himself was worried, afraid because he didn't know what to expect but he still went because of SJI's good record.

"Now I feel fortunate to be in SJI. Although I was educated in a Catholic environment, religion never became an issue."

So indeed that's how it should work and I know it works because I understand that Malay students in SJI often attend Friday prayers at Baalwie Mosque nearby still wearing their school uniforms.

And SJI thinks it's fine, the mosque thinks it's fine, the students think it's fine and I think it's fine too. That's the way it should be.

Another example of common space - work. The office environment should be one which all groups feel comfortable with.

Staff have to be confident that they will get equal treatment even if they belong to a different faith from their managers, especially so of course in government departments but also in the private sector.

And I think it can be done because I think even religious community service organisations often have people who don't belong to that religion working comfortably and happily in that organisation.

And this is one very important aspect of our meritocratic society.
Whatever other countries may do, this is what we have to do in Singapore - maintain these principles, tolerance, keep religion separate from politics, keep a secular government, maintain our common space.

The basis for this is practical reality in our society, it's not any abstract political theory, it's not any divine revelation. This is the only way all groups in Singapore can live in peace and harmony in Singapore.

So this is the background to the way the Government looked at one recent issue which I'm sure you're waiting for me to talk about which is Aware.

We were not concerned who would control Aware because it's just one of so many NGOs in Singapore. On homosexuality policy or sexuality education in schools, there can be strong differences in view but the Government's position was quite clear.

It was not abstained. But what worried us what that this was an attempt by a religiously motivated group who shared a strong religious fervour to enter civil space, take over an NGO it disapproved of and impose their agenda.

And it was bound to invoke, to provoke a push back from groups who held the opposite view which happened vociferously and stridently as a fierce battle.
The media coverage got caught up and I think the amplifier was turned up a bit high. People talk about mature civil society, this was hardly the way to conduct a mature discussion of a sensitive matter where views are deeply divided.

But most critically of all this risk a broader spillover into relations between different religions.

I know many Singaporeans were worried about this including many Christians. They ma not have spoken out aloud but they raised on eyebrow and they kept their thoughts to themselves.

Therefore, I'm very grateful for the very responsible stand which was taken by the church leaders, the statement by the National Council of Churches of Singapore that it didn't support churches getting involved and also the statement by the Catholic Archbishop because had these statements not been made, we would have had a very serious problem.

The government stayed out of this but after it was over, after the dust had settled, I spoke to the religious leaders, first the Christians and then all the religious leaders, all faiths, including the Christians again so that everybody understood where we stood and what our concerns were, so that we can continue to work together to strengthen our racial and religious harmony.

This is an unusually serious and heavy subject for a ND Rally.

Normally you talk about babies, hong baos, bonuses. No bonuses tonight but a bonus lecture on a serious subject. But we discussed this in Cabinet at length and decided that I should talk about this.

I crafted the points carefully, circulated them many times.

Different presentations in Chinese, Malay, English because different groups have different concerns but consistent message, so that there's no misunderstanding.
And I also invited the religious leaders to come and spend the evening with us tonight and listen to the rest of the speech as well.

But with a serious purpose, so that I can explain face to face, so that you can help us to help your flocks to understand our limitations, to guide them to practise their faiths, taking into account the context of our society.

Please teach them accommodation which is what all faiths teach and I look forward to all the religious groups continuing to do a lot of good work for Singapore for many years to come.

Finally on religion, let me share with you one story, true story which was in an Indian newspaper recently, The Asian Age, picked up in the Straits Times, about a young man from Gujarat, Muslim, who migrated to Singapore after Hindu/Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002.

You may remember that there were very bad Hindu/Muslim riots. A train carrying Hindu pilgrims was stopped in Ahmadebad, set on fire, circumstances unclear but 50-odd men, women and children burnt to death, trapped in the train.

So the Hindus rioted, they had no doubt what the cause was and one thousand people died, mostly Muslims because Ahmadebad has a large Muslim community.
So this person was a Muslim who experienced that riot. And he decided to come to Singapore after the riots. We call him Mohammed Sheikh.

It's not his real name because he still has family there and he said, this is what happened: During the bloody riots, he watched three of his family members, including his father, getting butchered.

His family had to pay for being Muslim. Besides losing his family and home, Mohammed lost confidence and faith in the civil society. He didn't want to spend the rest of his life cursing his destiny. He wanted to move on.

So seven years ago, Mohammed came to Singapore and got a diploma in hospitality management. Now he is working in an eatery and he hopes to open his own business one day.

He told the interviewer, had he stayed in Gujarat, I would have been hating all Hindus and baying for their blood, perhaps. Now he loves it when his children bring home Hindu friends and share snacks. And he told the interviewer proudly, my children have Christian, Buddhist, Hindu friends.

And he even hopes to bring his mother to Singapore so that she can see for herself that people of different races, different faiths can be friends and can co-exist peacefully.

So the interviewer asked him what Muslim sect he belonged to, which mosque he went to in India. He says, I don't want to get into all that. Now I am just a Singaporean. And I am proud of it.

So this story reminds us that while we must not neglect to strengthen our harmonious society, we are in a good position. If the Garden of Eden state is one where you are happy where things are working and where if you leave the Garden of Eden you cannot get back in again.
So please stay there.

The Grand Mufti of Syria as well as many overseas visitors and diplomats have made the same point to us.

It is what most impressed them when they watched our National Day Parade and our National Day celebrations in their constituencies.

Not the shows and the demonstrations and so on. They can see grander shows elsewhere. But the fact that in Singapore we live peacefully together harmoniously.

And one of them said to me you can have a minority Muslim representing a constituency majority non-Muslims. Unimaginable in the country he came from. And he was a European.

So let us rejoice in our harmony but let us never forget what being a Singaporean means. It's not just tolerating other groups but opening our hearts to all our fellow citizens.

National Day Rally speech (Part 2 - Healthcare)

We are preparing for our long-term future by strengthening our social safety nets. After food and shelter, I think good health is one of the most important basic requirements which human needs have.

It's more important than money. Singaporeans know that we have good doctors, good hospitals. Their worry is whether they can afford it, especially in the future after they retire and grow old. Actually it should be after they grow old and retire.
We have done many things to mitigate this worry. We have a 3M (Medisave, MediShield, Medifund) system designed precisely to keep healthcare affordable to all, even and especially the low income group.

And we've steadily improved & upgraded & extended the 3M system so Medisave now covers long term outpatient treatment, MediShield now provides higher insurance payouts, Medifund, we've increased the amounts, it's giving more help to the needy to settle their outstanding hospital bills.

So as a result MPs see fewer cases of residents unable to afford health care and medical social workers report that the Medifund is adequate to cover hospital bills.

We will continue to improve this and to widen the 3Ms progressively but we have to do it carefully because we want to keep the system working and there are pitfalls.

But I know that Singaporeans are still concerned. We see medical science advancing, we see new technologies, new drugs, new procedures, people can live longer, but it costs more.

And those who are in their 50s looking after aged parents, they feel the burden and they wonder what will happen to me when my turn comes. They ask: 'I'm all right now, what about the future?'

We need to gear up our health care systems to prepare for this ageing population and we are doing that.

So today I'd like to explain the implications of our ageing population and how we are preparing our health care system to cope. What does it mean when we say our population will be older? It means there will be more demand on health care because older people are sick more often.
But also means it's a different pattern of health care. Younger patients don't go to hospital so often. When they go to hospital it's an acute problem which can be treated within a few days and then they go home well.

I remember I was admitted to hospital once as a teenager for an appendicitis operation and my doctor who was a wise old man said, I'm so happy to treat you because you're a young man, I treat you, you will go home well.

When I treat my older patients, I see them, they get better, after a while they come back again and I have to treat them again. It's much more complicated.
But now we have many more older patients who are admitted more frequently with multiple complaints. After a few days in hospital their acute condition probably has stabilised, they no longer need intensive and complex treatment but they are still not well enough to go home.

You may not need to have their heart monitor, you may not need to have the blood, oxygen monitor, you may not need to have the nurse look at your every two hours or the doctor look at you twice or three times a day but you're not quite ready to go home and you still need several weeks to recuperate and to get better before you can be discharged.

After they go home they may still need continuing medication for underlying long-term conditions. Maybe they have diabetes, maybe they have heart disease, they may need aspirin, they may need statin, so many things which you have to take not just when you are sick but for the rest of your life. And even when you're at home, you may get sick again and you may have to come back again.

So we have to respond to this by putting in more resources into our hospital system, building new hospitals. We got the Khoo Teck Phuat Hospital coming up in Nee Soon, we've got Jurong General Hospital coming up in the west, and that's good.

Well, the buildings are easy to do, getting the people to man them, the doctors, nurses, specialists, physiotherapists, that takes more doing but we are in the process of doing that. It needs money. We are in the process of increasing the budget too.

We need to improve our 3M system. We're doing that too. All these are necessary but by itself more is not the solution to the problem. Because we also have to get the whole system to be structured properly so that it will be adapted to cater to the ageing population and to structure it properly, it means we need step-down care.

What is step-down care? I think Khaw Boon Wan has been talking about this for some time but let me explain it again because it's a vital idea and a crucial part of our solution.

Step-down care means slow medicine: community hospitals, nursing homes, GPs doing more work, home care, people taking care of sick people at home, organised properly. all this can provide competent, appropriate care especially for the elderly patients.

Step down care today is provided mostly by VWOs. They do an excellent job but they will need government help to deal with more elderly patients.

And one key thing we must do with this step-down care is to link up our acute hospitals, Tan Tock Seng, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital and so on with community hospitals, together.

And that they can, so that you can have the best of both worlds. Patients are sick, they go to the acute hospitals, they need fast medicine, ICU, MRI, surgery, all the, in cases, intervention and high tech medicine.

Then after they get better, they go to the community hospitals, Ren Ci, St Andrews Community Hospital where there are doctors and nurses who can look after the patients and you have physiotherapy and occupational therapy and rehab but they don't need the high-end medicine.

The patients go there, they receive slow medicine, they take some time, get well enough to go home. If in the slow medicine case, you need fast medicine, you shift back to the acute hospital, doctor can see to you.

And that way you get appropriate care, you save money & we also free up beds in the acute hospitals for more cases which need to be admitted.

This is all in principle but just to understand what it really meant, I decided to go and have a look by myself. So I went to visit the new Ren Ci Hosp which is co-located with Tan Tock Seng.

And here you can see Ren Ci on the left and Tan Tock Seng in the background on the right hand side and behind. Ren Ci has new management and they are working with Tan Tock Seng to realise this new arrangement.

Tan Tock Seng will guide the medical care of patients at Ren Ci, the 2 hospitals will be connected together soon with a bridge so you can just wheel the patients across, you don't need an ambulance & Ren Ci will maintain its community outreach.

It's got many volunteers and these volunteers do a very valuable job helping to keep patients active and happy. And here you see the volunteers helping the elderly lady get her muscles controlled and built up again, practising fishing for something, and cheering her up.

So I think Tan Tock Seng, Ren Ci is a good model. Other acute hospitals should also tie up with community hospitals in the same way.

Changi already partnering St Andrews Community Hosp in the east. We will build similar sister community hospitals to match Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in the north, to match Jurong General Hospital in the west.

And this arrangement will draw on the strengths of both parties - govt professional teams delivering high quality care & VWOs, good at pastoral care, community outreach.

But the community hospitals cannot be the end of the story because you cannot stay in hospital forever, you must go home.

You want to go home. And patients are best discharged home as soon as possible so that they can be with their families, so that they can be in familiar surroundings, they'll be more comfortable, happier, much better & cheaper than leaving them in the hospital.

I think families want this too but at the same time, families tell us and we know that it can, they need some help and support at home very often because they need caregivers and maids and the caregivers and maids may need some professional training to look after the seniors.

They could require nurses to visit them more frequently, check on the patient's condition, refer back to doctors in the hospital if necessary.

Nowadays nurses can do many things. Nurse comes, attaches the sensors, reads an ECG, emails back to the doctor, doctor can make a reading & then adjust the prescription or if need be, call the patient back.

Home Nursing Foundation is doing good work in this respect and I think they need to ramp up, we need more of this. GPs need to do more things with patients at home, monitoring and supervising their care.

So we want people at home, we would like to help you to have your patients at home and we are working on upgrading home care. It's one of MOH's priorities.

This is not sexy, glamorous medicine but this is how we can help Singaporeans look after their elderly, look after ourselves when we are elderly, look after our healthcare costs. We have to think about the whole system, provide the right treatment at the right place to patients with different needs.

So I hope that doctors will give full support to this. I hope the step-down care and VWOs will also work together with this because they are crucial.

And we also need the patients' cooperation & support. Please don't insist on being in the high acute hospital getting high-tech fast medicine.

If the doctor advises you that you'd be ok, go to the community hospital, it's more suitable, you get better, more appropriate treatment. So we need everybody to cooperate so that we can deliver good, affordable healthcare & benefit all our patients.

This is what the doctors and the hospitals can do.

But I think one important business in medicine, in healthcare is what we ourselves can do to stay healthy, by maintaining healthy lifestyles.

I think you know what to do because every teacher tells children in school, and we tell you this all the time: eat more fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, don't smoke, keep your weight down.

It's easy to say, very hard to do. And I was reading one doctor lamenting how difficult it is to persuade people to lose weight in America where they have a big problem.

And she said: I advise my patients to lose weight. Then my patients look at me. And I said: Yes, I know but please try.

So please try. It's a change in attitude. You need lifestyle changes. It requires discipline, perseverance. So lectures & speeches won't work. Necessary but won't be enough. The best way is to harness social links & interests to help individuals to stick to their good habits.

So we have community programmes which combine fitness with fun, with social activities. Brisk walking clubs. I think Northwest CDC has got a very popular activity going.

Qigong groups. Here's one group, all races participate. And so on.

One innovative scheme which encapsulates neatly what we need to do is the Wellness programme which Lim Boon Heng has been promoting & piloting in Jurong as well as a few other constituencies, with three components:
Medical check-ups, regular exercise and social networking. So it becomes fun. And here you see the seniors are the ones who are dancing, not the ones who are looking.

I think they are enjoying themselves. Successful, popular. I went to visit the one in Jurong.

And what really struck me was that all the seniors were cheerful & enjoying themselves, happy.

So we will progressively expand this to cover the whole island. And we will reach out to more seniors so that we will help them to stay well & stay healthy.

Before I leave healthcare, let me just talk briefly about H1N1. That was at the beginning. That has been a big challenge for us these four months.
I'm very glad that Singaporeans have responded well to this unexpected virus. We were very worried when the news first broke in April of Swine Flu in Mexico. We knew it would reach us very soon but we knew very little else - How dangerous was it? How treatable was it? How badly would we be affected?

So at the onset we reacted strongly. We raised our alert status to Orange. We did temperature scanning at entry points, masks and gowns in hospitals and clinics, we did home quarantine for suspects. And many people home quarantined themselves after they came back from overseas.

Very soon it became clear that H1N1 was different from SARS - more contagious, fortunately less deadly. So we stepped down, orange to yellow, but we kept up our efforts to block the virus, to delay community spread, to buy time. So we wouldn't be overwhelmed by a huge spike of cases overnight.

The whole of Singapore responded. The whole of the population responded. We had learnt our lessons from Sars. And we succeeded in delaying community spread, and slowing the impact on us.

Perhaps we were lucky but I think what we did made a difference. I'd like to thank everyone who was involved in this - the doctors and nurses, the hospital staff and GPs, those taking temperatures at the entry points, teachers & principals in our schools & kindergartens health officials and so many more, you worked under a lot of stress, there must have been some worry, concern over what the dangers might have been, but you didn't shirk from your responsibilities, you continued to perform under pressure.

There was even one case where neurosurgery had to be carried out and the surgeon carried out the neurosurgery fully garbed up in PPE (personal protective equipment): gown, N95 mask and did brain surgery.

I think Singapore owes this team and all of them a debt of gratitude.

This is how our health care system should work, not just against flu but all the time and for our long-term well-being.

We have a good health care system, universally available and affordable to all. It is the envy of many countries.

The Americans spend five or six times as much as us, their outcomes are worse, the British spend maybe double or three times what we do, their outcomes also not as good, and when they analyse their systems they tell their people: the closest model to what they want to be is what Singapore is, with the 3Ms.

So we have a good system, we must improve it but don't upset it and discard it because we are doing right and good by our people.

We will be ready for an ageing population. Each of us will also play our part to stay healthy and well and that's the way for Singaporeans to enjoy not just long life but good health and active golden years.

National Day Rally Speech (Part 1 - State of the economy)

PM Lee: This is a significant year for Singapore. It's the 50th anniversary of our self-government. It's also the year when we've been hit by the most serious recession in half a century. Day to day we watch keenly the economic numbers - growth data, unemployment data, trade data, all the statistics. It's like monitoring the temperature chart of an H1N1 patient.

But we need to step back and see things in the longer perspective. Over the last five decades we have met many challenges successfully. And when we started out we had much less than we have today.

Singapore achieved self-government on 3 June 1959. That evening Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his new PAP team held a huge rally on the Padang. And MM spoke.

He told the crowd: "Once in a long while in the history of a people there comes a moment of great change. And tonight is such a night, such a moment in our lives." It was quite a different mood from tonight's National Day Rally. It was a moment of great excitement. And it was also indeed the start of a long period of enormous change for Spore. In the course of the next 50 years we developed our economy, we created jobs for Singaporeans, we housed and educated our population, we forged our different communities into one united people.

And therefore we are quite confident that we will overcome this present economic challenge. We need to tackle the immediate situation. But we also must also look ahead to the longer term. And provided we can do both our future is bright.

How can we do this? Tonight I will talk about four issues: the economy, healthcare, harmony in our society and shaping Singapore together. Let me start with the economy.

The global economic crisis has been a major challenge for us. The first hint of this was two national days ago when it was just one little black cloud on the horizon. And as we prepared the National Day messages, we inserted a warning just to tell people, watch out, keep an eye open.

Last year we could see the storm approaching. So I spent some time in the rally explaining the risks. But as it turned out it was much much worse than anybody had expected. Certainly much worse than we had expected. Dec, Jan, Feb - to see our GDP go down -10 per cent, something unimaginable.

Now the eye of the storm has passed. First half we did - 6.5 per cent. Less bad than we had feared although usually you wouldn't have a minus sign down there. But now the global situation is stabilising, and including in the US, where the problems are the largest. So we're looking ahead cautiously towards the rest of the year.

Our labour situation has stabilised. Unemployment is not too high. Companies, some of them are hiring again, although still in not large numbers. Third quarter should be all right. Beyond that the outlook is still not so clear. No signs of Christmas orders pouring in yet. And there are some companies which are still on short time, compulsory leave, shorter work week and so on.

So what's happened? Their output has gone down, their headcount hasn't gone down, so they are really carrying some surplus workers for the time being helped by the Spur programmes, spent sending them for training, helped by the Government carrying the Jobs Credit cost for them. It's all right for the short term but it's not clear how long they can hold on to these extra workers because if the recovery is delayed, then sooner or later they'll have to right-size, they'll have to let go of some of these workers and there could be more job losses. So we have to be prepared. We will also see some job losses from restructuring. As companies move upstream, they will shed some old jobs, old jobs keep on going to other countries, lower cost, maybe not quite so skilled but improving and we moving upstream. So as they lose their old jobs we hope they will continue to upgrade their operations here, create new and good jobs to replace the ones lost.

For example, Seagate is closing their hard disk drive assembly factory by the end of next year. It was in the news a couple of weeks ago. Seagate is a very big employer, has been a very big employer in Singapore for many years. So they are closing their disk drive assembly factory, losing a couple of thousand workers but they will still employ 6,000 people here in high-value work - hard-disk media manufacturing, R&D, international headquarters operations. So instead of making the disk drive, the box, you're making the media, the material on which the recording is made, the high-tech part of the box.

So, my overall assessment of the state of the economy is that the Resilience Package which we introduced in January is working, no need for a new prescription now. Before the end of the year we will review and we will decide what we need to do for next year.

Beyond this year, I expect the global recovery to be a subdued one. It will pick up but it will not pick up in a hurry. But even in that environment, it doesn't mean that we can't grow because we are small and the world markets may not be expanding fast but we can grow by sharpening our skills, enlarging our market share. And even now we can see good signs. You can call them green shoots if you like but good signs of what's happening because local companies are doing well, we have new business areas blossoming nicely, multinationals continuing to invest good quality projects here and workers re-skilling and upgrading in Singapore.

Let me give you some examples, just briefly.

Local companies with strong capabilities are building, expanding, gaining a march on their competitors, like Hyflux. I recently met an engineer from Hyflux at a function. I asked how is the company doing. He says it's doing very well, many opportunities to build water facilities all over the world. I asked him which is your most challenging project. He thought a while, he said Algeria. They're building the world's largest desalination plant, seawater desalination plant in Algeria, not in a big city but at a small village next to the Mediterranean Sea, in the middle of nowhere. That's a picture of the middle of nowhere. The nearest town is three hours' drive away on a bad road. So I said can you get Singaporeans to go to these places to stay? He said yes. We have 22 Singaporeans there working, including two women. They got spunk.

I said what do they do, how do you, what happens after you finish working in a place like that. Where do you live? Said, well, they live in dorms, so these big buildings must be the dorms and as for entertainment, no alcohol because it's an Islamic country, so they play basketball and computer games. And here they are.

"Hyflux team in Algeria wishes everyone in Singapore a happy National Day!"

So with the Internet we can still talk to them. I hope they're listening over webcast to the speech tonight. Because of this and other projects, Hyflux is doing well & still hiring engineers & it shows that there's still work to be done, provided we are prepared to rough it out and take the jobs which are available, which are good jobs.

We are also growing entirely new activities here, like interactive & digital media, IDM. What does it mean? Games, visual effects, animation.

When you go to a movie and you see fireworks or you see explosions or you see a storm or even you see a beautiful actress, it may not be real, it may be the computer graphics engineer hard at work. And it may be a Spore engineer hard at work. The leading players have established operations here, Electronic Arts. It's the world's largest game company. They make 'The Sims'.
Lucasfilm is here from the US and we've got European and Japanese companies too. And the pool of local talent is growing. All our polys, the NUS, NTU, NAFA, LaSalle, they are all offering courses because the demand is there, the students want to do it and the students are doing quite interesting work. Nanyang Poly final year students, last year they did a project, PC racing game, F1 Marina Bay. That's one scene at Supreme Court and I think they have another scene to show you which is the Durian.

So we are producing game programmers, visual effects artists, computer graphics artists, all in demand. It's still young, green shoot, but it's produced some quite impressive work. Lucasfilm, they make one production here from concept to completion. It's called 'Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance'. This is Yoda. If you know about Star Wars, you will know who he is. I think we will produce more of such movies & this should grow into another interesting segment of our economy.

We are also attracting MNCs to Singapore, still. They are using this downtime to think deeply about their future. They are keen to do more in Spore, in Asia, which they see as a key growth engine for the world and they see Singapore as a base for them to do their Asia business.

So EDB has been engaged these companies in a strategic dialogue to encourage them to put their high-end manufacturing, their HQ operations, their 'control tower' functions here to service the region, control tower like Changi Airport's control tower tracking what's happening all over Asia, logistics, money, manpower, research or production, the whole lot. And EDB is working out with them 5 to 10-year plans.

For example Rolls Royce, they make jet engines, marine engines. They moved their marine division global HQ to Spore this year, not just an Asian HQ but for that part of the business, their global HQ, controlling things all over the world is based in Spore. And they are also building a facility here to test and assemble Trent aero engines and to manufacture the fan blades.
This is the engine which they are making in Spore. It's meant for their big wide-body jets so if you are on an Airbus 380, you may have one of these. It's taller than the man and the fan blades, these massive things, are high tech products which they are going to make here and their first factory outside the UK to do it. And it's going to give us 500 mostly skilled jobs when fully operational, in Seletar Aviation Park.

So we are getting good projects, long term projects here and one key benefit and one key strength we have in attracting these projects is the Singapore brand name. It benefits local companies when they go overseas because they say, ah, you are from Singapore, I can depend on you, and it gives overseas companies confidence when they come here and invest here.

So we should never compromise or lose this advantage. It's not just a name but it depends on a united people, best workforce in the world, good leadership, first class govt. When companies like Rolls Royce decide to site projects here and put a plant here, they spent years to study and decide but they are really betting on Singapore, not just for five or 10 years but for the next 20 or 30 years. In other words, the next four, five or six elections. So take it seriously.

As we transform our economy workers will need to update and adapt themselves. The government is spending millions of dollars on programmes to help workers to do this, to upgrade within their jobs if they've lost jobs, to help them to become job-ready to learn new skills, to find new jobs.
The facilities are all there. The programmes are there. Please take advantage of these opportunities if you're out of a job, even if you're in a job. Don't wait till you're unemployed. It may mean effort, it may mean a mindset change. But we have progammes even to help people to make this mindset change, to overcome the psychological hurdles, to rebuild their self-confidence, improve their interview skills and to give one another encouragement and moral support. I've a picture here and this is a prog, PMET career workshop run by one of the CDCs.

And I've watched the participants. It takes a while to overcome the shyness, the embarrassment, the awkwardness to let your hair down, to speak and to be prepared to take a new path. But it's worthwhile and it's productive.

Let me just quote you one example from Northwest CDC career centre. This was a person, Mr Mohd Amin, who was 48 years old when he was retrenched. And he went for help.

And this is what he told us afterwards. "...After the retrenchment, I feared I can't find another job because of my age...all interviews I attended were unsuccessful for three months. I was very worried as I am sole breadwinner with three schooling children. The career centre coached me to learn a skill and start a new career path. I felt supported... I attended the job placement event and I successfully found a job as an Enforcement Specialist. The training allowed me to do my job confidently. I'm doing well. I am so happy now as I am earning more than before."

And finally the message: "I will ask my friends to go to career centre for support and help. Tell them to be flexible and not choosy."

So that's a real message. I think it's a convincing one. We should invest in this and do more. And we will enhance the training infrastructure to support continuous training and re-training which we will need to continue to do even after the recession.

We have currently almost 50 training centres scattered all across the island. There's great demand. Many of them are bursting at the seams. So we will invest more and build two national Continuing Education and Training campuses. One will be the East Campus at Paya Lebar Central.

The other one is the West Campus at Jurong Lake District. Next to MRT stations, convenient for workers. And they will become one-stop shops for training and retraining, and job matching. And I think we will be able to get even more workers helped and trained. MOM (Ministry of Manpower) will give you more of the details later on.

Because of the way we've responded comprehensively and decisively to the downturn, we can be confident of our future. It is a deep trough, but we are coping with it. It's taken quite long. It may take some time more. But eventually the global economy will turn around, and Asia will sustain its recovery. And by then, our new strategies, our new investments, our workers' upgrading will have taken effect. And we will be ready to pick up strongly again.