PM remembers Yusof Ishak, an extraordinary pioneer

PM remembers Yusof Ishak, an extraordinary pioneer
PAYING TRIBUTE: PM Lee called Mr Yusof "a president for all Singaporeans".

SINGAPORE - Singapore's first president, Yusof Ishak, was an outstanding member of the pioneer generation and stood for values that underpinned Singapore's success: meritocracy, multiracialism and modernisation.

"He was a president for all Singaporeans," added Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Paying tribute to Mr Yusof yesterday in his National Day Rally speech, PM Lee said that the president would be honoured in three ways for his contributions to the country.

The new mosque in Woodlands will be named Masjid Yusof Ishak and the Institute of South East Asian Studies (Iseas) will be renamed "Iseas - The Yusof Ishak Institute".

A Yusof Ishak Professorship in Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore will also be created, he said.

"Encik Yusof showed that, in Singapore, you can rise to the top if you work hard," said Mr Lee.

He also shared with the audience his first meeting with Mr Yusof when he was seven years old.

"My family was on holiday in Fraser's Hill at the Singapore House, and Yusof and his wife came up from Kuala Lumpur to visit, and brought toys for us children. I still remember he gave me a model airplane powered by a rubber-band," he said.

Mr Lee described Mr Yusof as not just a national leader, but also a person one could get to know and get close to.

He got to know Mr Yusof's family better after Mr Yusof became Yang di-Pertuan Negara - head of state - and they lived in the Istana grounds.

Mr Lee used to play with his son, Imran, and it was Imran who had taught him how to ride a bicycle, said the PM.

Mr Yusof was appointed Singapore's Yang di-Pertuan Negara six months after it gained self-government in 1959. He became the first president of Singapore in 1965 after it gained independence.

Other pioneers were also recognised at the rally yesterday. Fifty pioneer generation citizens were invited to the rally to represent the 450,000 pioneer-generation Singaporeans.

"Our pioneers were ordinary people who worked together to do extraordinary things," said Mr Lee.

"They overcame difficult and dangerous situations to build a sovereign, independent country. They transformed Singapore from Third World to First, and they always looked to the future and strove to give their children better lives than themselves."

During his speech, PM Lee also highlighted some pioneer-generation events that have taken place all over Singapore. These included inviting 50 tables of pioneer-generation residents for the National Day dinner in Teck Ghee and the Ministry of Education's Pioneer Tribute Dinner.

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