The seat left empty in remembrance of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Sunday's National Day Parade was especially poignant for Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Heng Chee How.
Mr Heng said he had the "honour" of sitting beside Mr Lee at previous parades.
"A seat was left empty with flowers," he said yesterday. "As I looked at that empty chair, it is not just the regret that we cannot have that man with us.
"What is more important is, what does he represent?"
Mr Heng was speaking at an observance ceremony held by Sembcorp Marine at Tanjong Kling Yard that was attended by 800 employees, partners and union representatives. He said that while Singaporeans would feel sadness and regret that Mr Lee had died before he could celebrate the country's Golden Jubilee, it was important to reflect on his legacy, as well as that left behind by other leaders and his generation of Singaporeans.
Echoing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day tribute that Singapore's first-generation leaders and people were "the lions" and "the lion-hearted", Mr Heng said: "It is a generation of people not afraid of difficulties... (They) took up the challenge and we have today's Singapore built on those foundations."
Mr Heng added that this indomitable spirit has similarly allowed the local marine and offshore industry to continue to play a role in Singapore's economy, even when naysayers questioned its future.
Last year, the industry posted a total turnover of $17 billion and provided more than 106,000 jobs.
Mr Heng, the deputy secretary- general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), said that tripartism has been vital to Singapore's success, calling it a "true partnership" between the Government, companies and unions, which has led to a better life for workers and Singaporeans.
Calling for this relationship to continue, he said: "There is no substitute, when you are trying to find your way forward in some foggy environment, to stay united and have confidence in one another."
This article was first published on August 12, 2015.
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