Lawrence Wong sworn in as S’pore’s fourth Prime Minister, calls on S’poreans to take the country forward  

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, beside President Tharman Shanmugaratnam (middle) and Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (right), taking his oath of office at the Istana on May 15. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

Lawrence Wong is officially Singapore’s fourth prime minister. In his first speech after taking over as head of the Government, Prime Minister Wong emphasised that every Singaporean has a stake in the nation’s progress. He called on Singaporeans to join him and his team to take Singapore forward together.

“Everyone will have a stake in our nation’s progress. Everyone will play a key role in shaping our future,” he said. “As Prime Minister, I believe and bear responsibility for the decisions I take. But I will also engage and maximise the combined energies, imaginations, and strengths of all Singaporeans. That is how we will take our nation forward in this dangerous and troubled world.”

Calling it his mission to continue defying the odds and sustaining the Singapore miracle, he promised he and his team will do their utmost to serve Singaporeans and Singapore while seeking their support and trust.

Led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Mr Wong, 51, took his oath for due execution of office of Prime Minister and oath of allegiance on May 15 evening at the Istana lawn in the presence of President Tharman Shanmugaratnam and before an audience which he said embodied the “rich fabric of our nation”. This marked the third handover of leadership since Singapore gained independence from Malaysia in 1965.

He succeeded Lee Hsien Loong who led the country for 20 years and is now Senior Minister in his Cabinet.

Along with Mr Wong, his deputies Gan Kim Yong and Heng Swee Keat were sworn in. The two Senior Ministers, Mr Lee and Teo Chee Hean, also took their oaths with the 14 Ministers, as well as nine Senior Ministers of State and five Ministers of State. The Senior Parliamentary Secretaries will be sworn in at a separate session on May 24.  

‘We will lead in our own way’: PM Wong

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

The ceremony marked not just a change in leadership, but also across generations.

Mr Wong is the first Prime Minister of Singapore to be born after the country’s independence in 1965, as are most all his colleagues in the 4G team. Citing his generation’s story as the story of independent Singapore, he said: “Our lives are testimony to the values that forged our nation: incorruptibility, meritocracy, multiracialism, justice and equality. These principles are deeply ingrained in us all.”   

They understood the vital importance of good leadership, political stability, and long term planning and have benefitted from the imaginative policies of Singapore’s founding fathers, he said.

“Shaped by these experiences, our leadership style will differ from that of previous generations,” said Mr Wong. “We will lead in our own way. We will continue to think boldly and to think far. We know that there is still much more to do… and the best chapters of our Singapore Story lie ahead.”

PM Wong will build upon the work of predecessors to write the next chapter of Singapore Story

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

Mr Wong pledged to build on the foundations laid by previous generations of leaders. He said he and his team were not starting from scratch, instead they stood on “the shoulders of giants”.

Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team led Singaporeans through independence and established key pillars of governance, he noted.  Singapore’s second Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and his team took the country through the next lap and nurtured a kinder and gentler society.

PM Wong also thanked his predecessor Mr Lee, whom he said “devoted every measure of his being” to serving Singapore and Singaporeans over more than five decades of public service.

“Mr Lee spoke often of the need to keep Singapore exceptional.  He was exceptional himself – in his devotion, his selflessness, and his dedication to serve. We owe him a great debt of gratitude,” he added.

PM Wong calls on Singaporeans to join his team to serve the nation together

PM Wong said he was grateful that Mr Lee and the more experienced ministers would continue to serve in his Cabinet, ensuring continuity as he renewed and strengthened the team with new members.

He reiterated his call to younger Singaporeans in their 30s and 40s to join his team to lead Singapore. He first spoke about this when he announced his new Cabinet on May 13.  

“I call out tonight to fellow citizens: Help me to provide Singaporeans with the government Singaporeans deserve. Let us make a difference and serve our nation together.”

We can build a Singapore that is more inclusive, gracious, and big-hearted: PM Wong

PM Wong said he is determined to help Singaporeans realise their dreams and outlined areas his team will focus on.

“With our tripartite partners, we will continue to build a vibrant economy and create good jobs for all,” he said.

“We will find new ways to be productive and innovative and achieve a better balance where work is purposeful, and life is meaningful.”

Mr Wong said his team will foster a fairer, more just and more equal society where seniors, the vulnerable and those with special needs will be looked after.

“We will support all Singaporeans regardless of their start points in life, age or ability to uplift themselves and lead fulfilling lives.”

While his team will do more in these areas, he said Singaporeans too have to play a part to support their fellow citizens.

“Then we can build a Singapore where everyone succeeds in being the best possible version of themselves. We can be a people who are more inclusive, gracious, and big hearted. We can be a society where every Singaporean matters and a Singapore that matters to every Singaporean.”

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong

Acknowledging that there are no easy formulas to apply or available models to follow in pursuing these ambitious goals, he said: “We will have to experiment, discover fresh solutions, and blaze new paths.”

While there are some who doubt Singapore’s ability to go further, such scepticism is nothing new, and the country will prove its doubters wrong again, Mr Wong said.

“When the going gets tough, we do not crumble. We press on, with faith in our fellow citizens and in Singapore’s future,” he said. “We strive harder, reach further, and prove that with determination and hard work, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.”

Mr Wong said he will bring this same spirit in his new role.

“This is my promise to all Singaporeans: I will serve you with all my heart. I will never settle for the status quo. I will always seek better ways to make tomorrow better than today.”

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong

PM Wong: “We accept our differences and seek pragmatic compromises.”

On building unity, Mr Wong said accepting differences, seeking pragmatic compromises, and finding as much common ground as possible between communities, with mutual respect and trust, is an ethos that will guide his team.  

“This is how we will continue to evolve and strengthen our Singapore identity,” he said.

“It’s never about subtracting, but always about adding. It’s never about contracting, but always about expanding. So, from our diversity, we forge unity. From many, we become one united people, regardless of race, language, or religion.”

Prime Minister Lawrence Wong

He said this collective striving for unity helped Singaporean weather the Covid-19 pandemic which was the “crisis of our generation”. 

The new Prime Minister said the key to the country’s success has been the high level of trust Singaporeans have in one another and the ability to work well together.

Singapore has always been a diverse country with many races, religions, and languages, and it is increasingly so now, PM Wong noted. Yet, Singaporeans have strengthened their bonds as one people. 

He said: “We have achieved this not by denying our differences but by embracing them. We have ensured that every community, every religion, and every linguistic group, big or small, feels included, respected, and valued.”

When issues arise between communities from time to time, Mr Wong said, the differences between the groups are accepted instead of accentuated.

PM Wong: Singapore seeks to be friends with all while “upholding our rights and interests” 

Turning to the topic of foreign policy, Mr Wong said that while Singapore is in a strong position currently, the world is in flux. 

“For 30 years since the Cold War ended, we enjoyed unprecedented peace and stability in the Asia Pacific. Unfortunately, that era is over. It will not return.”

Singapore faces a world marked by conflict and rivalry as major powers compete to shape a new global order, yet to be defined, he noted. This transition, marked by geopolitical tensions, protectionism, and nationalism, could last for years, if not decades.

“As a small country, we cannot escape these powerful cross currents.  As an open economy, our livelihoods will be hit when multilateralism fractures,” he cautioned. “As a diverse society, we will be vulnerable to external influences that tasked us in different directions.” 

Singapore must therefore brace itself to these new realities and adapt to a messier, riskier, and more violent world, he added. 

He reiterated that Singapore seeks to be friends with all while “upholding our rights and interests”. 

Singapore values the centrality of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its efforts to foster regional cooperation and integration. The country will also continue to engage both the United States and China while hoping for stable relations between the two, PM Wong said. 

“We will strengthen our partnerships, near and far; and advance Singapore’s interests, so as to shape better outcomes for ourselves as well as the world,” he said.  

Concluding his speech, Mr Wong called on Singaporeans to join him and his team in the journey forward.

“Let us unite with common purpose and shared resolve. Let us take Singapore forward together,” he said.

“My mission is clear: To continue defying the odds and to sustain this miracle called Singapore so that we can reach even greater heights. So that we can be a beacon of hope and unity for ourselves and our children.”

Singapore is in good hands under the stewardship of Lawrence Wong: President Tharman

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

Speaking before Mr Wong took his oath, President Tharman said the new Prime Minister and his team will build on the strong foundations laid by previous leaders and governments, and “keep our little red dot shining ever more brightly”.

“Our best years still lie ahead of us,” he said. 

The President said he has full confidence in Mr Wong’s ability to lead the nation. 

“He will be his own person, with his own approach to building consensus and finding the best way forward for the country. And he will no doubt do so to his own rhythm and beat.”

President Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Mr Tharman said he is committed to working with the Prime Minister and his government, and that he has had candid private discussions with Mr Lee in the past eight months.

“We have had a shared understanding of our respective roles and responsibilities in Singapore’s system of governance. I look forward to maintaining this close and productive relationship with Mr Wong.”

The President also thanked Mr Lee for his service to Singapore and his “exceptional leadership” as Prime Minister for two decades.

Approximately 900 people from diverse backgrounds attended PM Wong’s inauguration ceremony. They included students and educators, union members and executives, athletes and artists, volunteers, and frontline workers.