Lee Kuan Yew takes to stage where he founded PAP

Lee Kuan Yew takes to stage where he founded PAP

For a full minute last night, Victoria Concert Hall reverberated with applause as 700 members of the People's Action Party (PAP) stood and cheered founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

They rose to their feet and applauded as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to the party's pioneer activists and leaders for their hard work throughout the party's 60-year history.

"Most of all, we are grateful to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, our first secretary-general who founded the party, made it a national movement, led it to build Singapore and continued building it beyond the founding generation of leaders," said PM Lee, who, as party chief, gave the address at the PAP's 60th anniversary celebration.

Taking to the same stage he stood on six decades ago at the founding of the PAP, the elder Mr Lee waved in acknowledgment.

The 91-year-old was flanked by the party's central executive committee members and others from the pioneer generation of MPs.

They included Singapore's first Home Affairs minister Ong Pang Boon, Mr Mahmud Awang, who co-founded the National Trades Union Congress, former senior parliamentary secretary Chan Chee Seng and former Ang Mo Kio MP Yeo Toon Chia.

PM Lee paid tribute to these party leaders and other "key lieutenants" of Mr Lee Kuan Yew such as Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr Othman Wok, Dr Toh Chin Chye and Mr Devan Nair.

He also thanked the activists for serving on the ground, taking care of residents and keeping the party close to the people.

In another reference to the party's history, PM Lee said: "In July 1965, a crucial by-election was held in Hong Lim.

"Today, in Hong Lim Green Speakers' Corner, people make all kinds of speeches - the world will not change. But in those days, in Hong Lim Green, you have a rally, the place is filled, and everybody knew that Singapore's future depended on them."

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who chairs the organising committee for the PAP's 60th anniversary celebrations, also spoke on the importance of the party's past, which "holds lessons for the present and future".

Outside the hall, where photographs of the party's defining moments in history were exhibited, the atmosphere was one of celebration, happy reunions and nostalgia.

Former MP Wan Hussin Zoohri, 77, said: "The party has a new generation today. Tonight, they are being transported back to the 1950s when the party was first formed, to reflect that it is because of that inauguration that we are here today.

"It is good to return to that and let the young generation be conscious of the first generation of leaders, who were flag-bearers."

Said Sembawang assistant branch secretary Goh Peng Hong, 46, of the chance to meet the party's pioneers: "To see them in person is very meaningful for younger activists like myself.

"Their early years were one of struggling to make Singapore the safe, harmonious place it is today. I am inspired by their energy."

charyong@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 8, 2014.
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