From the heart: 5 emotional moments from Lee Hsien Loong’s final speech as PM

06/05/2024

IT WAS the bow seen all around Singapore. Near the end of his May Day Rally speech last week (May 1), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stopped, took a moment, and bowed deeply to the Singaporeans watching, and to the crowd of unionists present. 

PM Lee has only bowed one other time in public before; in March 2015 when Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew lay in state.  

Petir.sg relives that May Day Rally moment, as well as other heartfelt moments from Mr Lee’s last major speech as Singapore’s Prime Minister.    

Bowing in deep gratitude 

“Most of all, I am humbled by and grateful for Singaporeans’ trust, confidence, and support. To all of you, I say a very big ‘Thank you!’” 

These were PM Lee’s words before he left the podium during his speech for his headline-making bow.  

He was showing gratitude, deeply-felt, towards the Singaporeans who trusted him during his 20-year tenure as Prime Minister.  

But PM Lee’s journey in public service is not over.    

“I will continue to support the new PM and his team, and to help Singapore to succeed in every way I can,” he immediately said when resuming his speech. 

Confidently endorsing Lawrence Wong and the 4G team

Source: Ministry of Communications and Information 

PM Lee also shared how he feels these days, as the May 15 handover of the Prime Ministership to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong draws closer. 

“As I prepare to hand over Singapore in good order to my successor, I feel a sense of satisfaction and completeness. I have done my duty, and I am very happy I chose this path of public service all those many years ago,” he said. 

“I have every confidence in Lawrence and his team. The 4G will have their hands full dealing with issues which will arise, and realising their Forward SG agenda. I ask all Singaporeans to rally behind them, and work together to make Singapore succeed, for your sake. That is our path forward,” PM Lee added. 

Sharing the family story about his birth  

You are likely familiar with the beginnings of our Party; how our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s political activism began when he successfully represented the postmen’s union in 1952 against the colonial government. 

“But you may not know that when the postmen’s union approached Mr Lee to act for them in 1952, when they first approached him, it was just around the time that I was being born,” said PM Lee. “And so when my father visited my mother and me in KKH (Kandang Kerbau Hospital), instead of admiring his new baby, he was telling my mother all about the postmen’s union and his plans!”     

Source: Ministry of Communications and Information 

Sharing a fond laugh with the unionist crowd, PM Lee turned to how the unions worked together with the PAP over the years to get Singapore through difficult times like the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.    

“Most recently, we endured the crisis of a generation — the COVID-19 pandemic. But by now the tripartite partners knew what to do, and each time we pulled through, with our workers safe, and our partnership strengthened,” said PM Lee, thanking the unions for their enduring support to help Singaporeans thrive. 

Pride in Punggol’s long-term development 

Source: Prime Minister’s Office 

It is no secret that Punggol today is unrecognisable from when PM Lee first took office.  

It was undeveloped and remote; “ulu — the older ones amongst you will remember exactly what I mean,” said PM Lee. 

PM Lee’s Punggol 21 vision, delivered at the 2007 National Day Rally, as well as the decades of development which followed, changed that. Punggol today is where Singaporean families enjoy a new standard of urban living. It is one of the many places in Singapore where the benefits of the PAP’s long-term planning can be seen.   

“We have Punggol Waterway, we have Coney Island, and park connectors which offer lush greenery and welcome relief from the urban hustle and bustle. If you are looking for a beautiful place to take your wedding photos, or perhaps somewhere romantic to propose to your girlfriend or boyfriend, Punggol Waterway is a great choice!” said PM Lee. 

Frankly looking at the challenges ahead 

While PM Lee is handing over Singapore’s leadership in good order to DPM Wong, challenges remain in our little red dot’s future. He has spoken about these challenges before — a less trusting and less globalised world, economic pressures, rivalry between the great powers, hot wars and the existential threat of climate change.  

“If you were not worried, I will be worried. Because as a small and open country, we will inevitably be caught up by powerful external forces and geopolitical currents. Our diverse society makes us especially vulnerable to what happens around us, outside Singapore,” said PM Lee. 

Regardless, Singapore can thrive. This is so long as we remember that whatever our differences, we are Singaporeans first and foremost, said PM Lee. We also need to think long-term; having faith in Singapore’s future beyond our own generation, and build towards that better place with patience and determination. 

Political stability and trust are necessary for these two imperatives, added PM Lee. A fractured political system and politicians that divide Singaporeans cannot sustain long-term plans. Nor foster this trust.  

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.  

“We have built a strong foundation for our future generations: with adequate reserves to tide over extreme difficulties; with international respect that gives us a seat at the table; with a cohesive society that hangs together in the darkest hours; and a vibrant and inclusive economy that creates opportunities and hope for all Singaporeans,” said PM Lee as he wrapped up his historic speech. 

“Make the most of these advantages. Never throw them away. Stay united, think long term, and maintain our political stability. That is the way forward for Singapore.” 

To learn more about how Singaporeans can solve the challenges of the future , click here.