Plans to mark key events in formative years

Plans to mark key events in formative years

Singapore plans to commemorate key episodes in its formative years as it moves towards its 50th anniversary next year.

Next Thursday, The Battle For Merger, a book compiling former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's radio talks in 1961 - aimed at exposing the communists and rallying people to support the merger with Malaya - will be republished.

A marker is also being planned to honour those who fought the communists in Singapore's early years.

Meanwhile, a memorial to the victims of Konfrontasi will be erected opposite MacDonald House in Orchard Road. The building was bombed by two Indonesian marines in 1965, killing three people and injuring more than 30.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in making these announcements last night, said: "We ourselves must know our history to understand how Singapore works and why we do the things we do."

Though the 1950s and 1960s are within living memory, events are receding into the past, he said in a National University of Singapore Society lecture, marking its 60th anniversary.

Schools have worked hard to teach students about Singapore's journey towards nationhood, but many Singaporeans "only have the vaguest idea" of what the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation from 1963 to 1966 was about, and struggle to tell the difference between communists and communalists.

"The lessons of history need to be reinforced because if we don't remember them, we may not learn the hard-won lessons and may fail to value what we have painstakingly built," said PM Lee.

With the country poised to celebrate its golden jubilee next year, it is also time to look ahead and recognise that opportunities are opening up.

Young Singaporeans may wring their hands worrying about the future, but Mr Lee is optimistic about what lies ahead.

He brought up how young people in China - where life has been improving faster than nearly anywhere else in the world, at any time in human history - feel pressured and anxious.

Even young graduates with good jobs in thriving cities, such as Chongqing and Shanghai, also "feel this existential angst and worry that the best years have passed and they won't have it as good as their parents", he added.

But Singaporeans should have confidence in the future.

"If we understand the opportunities opening up and realise what we can do to get ready for them, then far from being anxious, we should be eager and ready to go."

This article was first published on Oct 4, 2014.
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