Toasting Singapore's golden jubilee

SINGAPORE: Malaysia joined Singapore in toasting to the republic's golden jubilee with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak attending the celebrations that has been tagged as SG50.

The Prime Minister was among top leaders who congratulated Singapore for the milestone it has achieved as a "little red dot".

(The little red dot, supposedly uttered by a previous Indonesian leader as an insult to Singapore, has been embraced down south as their emblem of sorts.)

Most of the Singaporeans wore red for the "Majulah Singapura" occasion at the Padang, the venue of its first national day parade.

Lee Kuan Yew was on their mind.

"I believe he would have been moved to tears seeing today's parade. We have come a long way," said C.K. Cheah, 60.

Lee, Singapore's founding father, died at the age of 91 in March.

Other Singaporeans, when met by The Star, also voiced their sadness that senior Lee was not around to witness the historic do.

To help those who needed to get to the Padang yesterday, bus and MRT services were free yesterday.

However, not all citizens could attend while foreigners were barred with the exception of those who had obtained special passes.

Expatriate Rupert Clifton Bligh, 50, said he shared their joy.

"This is an amazing place to work and live in with friendly people," he said.

His wife Sonia Clifton Bligh, 49, said she enjoyed Singapore's lifestyle and both their children Alexander, 17, and Isabella, 12, had no problems adapting.

Software developer Evgemi Bashmakov, 25, and girlfriend Marta Iarotskaiq, 23, cycled to the venue as many roads were closed.

Bashmakov said they had spent nine months here and fell in love with the city.

"It's great to be able to share this euphoria," he said.

Australian Rodney Cousins, 67, said he had just arrived here for a holiday and found out about the occasion upon touching down.

"It is a coincidence to be able to be part of the celebrations. Seeing the nation becoming one and the people working together for the future are pretty amazing," he said.

Aircraft technician Ang Seng Hock, 59, said he built a pedaling bike to celebrate the special occasion.

His only regret was that his three children could not join him.

"I love cycling but they don't."

But for taxi driver Au Soo Hai, 67, earning a living was much more important to him.

"What for?" he retorted when asked whether he was going to the Padang.

"Are they going to waive my rental? I need to support myself. We are the pioneer generation who works hard for a living," Au said.

Au drives at least eight hours a day to pay the taxi rental of S$128 a day.

He said his take home income after deducting petrol was only S$50.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk Husni Zai Yaacob said this had been a significant year for Malaysia and Singapore as both countries marked the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations.

"We hope that Malaysia and Singapore will continue to build on their strong foundations towards a more fruitful and mutually beneficial partnership," he told Bernama.