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The Legacy of Our War Heroes

Speech by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law, at the launch of the “War Heroes - Echoes of Courage and Strength” Exhibition on 29 June 2024

  1. Good afternoon everyone.
  2. Thank you very much to all of you – family members, and those who remember the war so intimately, for being part of today’s special occasion to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the death of one of our national heroes, Mr Lim Bo Seng.
  3. It is a great honour to officiate the opening of “War Heroes - Echoes of Courage and Strength”.
    1. I extend my sincere congratulations to Tang Renaissance and the co-organisers – Lam Ann Association, Singapore Lim See Tai Chong Soo Kiu Leong Tong Family Self-Management Association, Goh Loo Club and Rain Studio, who have been instrumental in this exhibition, to showcase the works and bring this into our awareness, understanding, memory, and also commemoration.
    2. I want to acknowledge the many partners who made this possible, to support and be part of this project, and to be partners in making this come alive for many Singaporeans, generations to come.
  4. This exhibition vividly portrays the events and impact of World War II on daily life. It is something that is still fresh in the memories of some Singaporeans, and I think we have to continue to cherish and remember this with the perspective of those who have done so much for Singapore.
  5. This exhibition spotlights our local war heroes, such as:
    1. Lieutenant Adnan Saidi,
    2. Mdm Elizabeth Choy,
    3. Mr Tan Chong Tee,
    4. And of course, Mr Lim Bo Seng.
  6. It is important that we remember our war heroes. They emerged not by choice – in fact, it was against their choice that they were thrusted in those circumstances, but emerged as heroic people who stood up with courage and conviction. They were unwavering in their dedication to their beliefs, and their people. They believed the people around them and fought for them. Without them, Singapore would not be the same nation as it is today.
  7. While we recognise our heroes, I also want to acknowledge and recognise the countless ordinary Singaporeans, whose quiet bravery is often unnoticed, unheralded, but their determination sustained our community throughout those challenging times. Their collective spirit and sacrifices laid the foundation for the decades of peace and prosperity that we enjoy today. This is something that we cannot, for a moment, take for granted.
  8. We are all beneficiaries of this peace, and must be also looking forward to give back and pay it forward. Let us protect the freedom and prosperity we have enjoyed by continuing to enshrine the principles of unity, fostering diversity, and resilience in our society.
  9. Sometimes, it is only by remembering the past that we can chart our path forward and invest in a better tomorrow for Singapore, honour the legacy of our war heroes and safeguard the Singaporean spirit for generations to come.
  10. Reflecting on our history, I am often reminded of the fragile nature of peace especially if we look around the world today. When you pick up the newspaper, you will inevitably see bad news. You will see regions torn apart by conflict, and the conflict often revolves deep, ideological and identity differences. We are all lucky in Singapore that we are not a community that is torn apart by that strife. But in an era of increasing global instability and conflict, it is all the more crucial than ever for us to always foster cooperation and build resilient institutions based on a sense of openness, diversity, inclusion and mutual respect and trust.
  11. We often hear the Chinese proverb "居安思危", which urges us to remain vigilant, always conscious and on-guard even in times of stability. In Singapore, it is wise for us to have that attitude to always be mindful, conscious, and a little bit anxious about the peace that we enjoy here. It does not come by chance – our multicultural, multiethnic, multi-religious society, where there is space for everyone to thrive. Every religion to do its best; every ethnicity to have the equal opportunity to strive and reach the top. We have to always ensure that we remain a little bit nervous of this being taken away from us, and look around us to ensure that we always include our neighbours, not just during festive occasions but in our day-to-day lives at our workplaces, homes and places we enjoy as a community.
  12. Building peace that sustains does not happen overnight, but is a continuous work-in-progress, and we can never be sure that we are there because threats remain all around us. It is hard to make up this peace, but breaking it apart can be also easy. I hope that by exploring the inspiring stories of wartime resilience showcased in this exhibition, we can find it in us to deepen our appreciation for the enduring peace we enjoy today.
  13. To the organisers and various supporting organisations that made today happen, thank you once again for the opportunity to commemorate and reflect on the legacy of Mr Lim Bo Seng and our war heroes. May their stories, even though from decades ago, continue to inspire and guide us as we strive to build a better future of peace, harmony and stability for Singapore.
  14. I would also like to commend the organisers for thinking out of the box by using traditional Chinese art forms such as the Yue Opera to recount the stories. It is in different forms of culture that speaks to us differently that we can sometimes appreciate something as painful but also as inspiring as the stories that we see. Told in different ways, invoking culture is the best way to speak to the heart and speak to different audiences. I hope that this exhibition will inspire more groups to explore more ways to incorporate Singaporean elements into their practice, and further develop our unique Singapore Chinese culture to the fore.
  15. Once again, thank you very much for being here and congratulations to everyone involved in this remarkable endeavour.
Last updated on 04 July 2024