Our Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew has passed on. My Ministry has lost its greatest mentor and inspiration.
Mr Lee devoted his whole life to Singapore. Singaporeans owe much of what we have in Singapore today to Mr Lee. He was a rare talent and few people could see further ahead than he did. He used his tremendous foresight to position Singapore well and created an endearing home for all.
My Ministry has especially benefited from Mr Lee’s immense foresight and strategic insights. He inspired many policies in MND: HDB, Garden City, Clean & Green, urban planning, the Singapore Botanic Gardens, heritage conservation, Marina Bay, etc.
It was not too long ago, in the early 60s, that Singapore was filthy, disorderly, with slums and squatters and high homelessness. Mr Lee set up the HDB and started on the ambitious task to house a nation. Through the Home Ownership for the People Scheme”, he encouraged families to own their HDB flats, to have a stake in Singapore and its future.
50 years on, Singapore has achieved one of the highest home ownership rates in the world. Our endearing HDB towns are a lasting imprint of Mr Lee. Today, a third generation of Singaporeans is embarking on their own homeownership journey. The hugely successful story of home ownership in Singapore mirrors the successful story of Singapore as a nation.
The pervasive greenery around us which transforms Singapore into a City in a Garden is another lasting legacy of Mr Lee. In 1963, he planted the first Mempat Tree at Farrer Circus, kickstarting the annual nation-wide tree planting campaign which continues till this day. Even after he retired from the Cabinet, Mr Lee asked to be updated on the work done by the Garden City Action Committee. And whenever Mr Lee was free, he would visit the Botanic Gardens with the late Mrs Lee, and later to Gardens by the Bay after it was completed in 2012.
Mr Lee clearly took pride in what Singapore has achieved as a clean and green city. To him, greenery is not just sound policy that makes sense, but also a personal passion and lifelong commitment. In 2013, in celebration of our 50 years of greening, we invited Mr Lee to plant a rain tree at Holland Village Park. We were so glad that Mr Lee could join us on that momentous occasion.
As we mourn the loss of our Founding PM, let’s reflect on his achievements and be grateful to Mr Lee for starting Singapore on the right footing and building Singapore into what it is today. Mr Lee and his vision put Singapore on the global map of world-class cities. His life and work have touched the lives of generations of Singaporeans. Let us build on his legacy and make Singapore even better for future generations of Singaporeans.
At this time, our prayers and thoughts are with PM Lee and his family. We wish them strength and peace in this time of sorrow.
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