Friday, October 23, 2009

Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2009

19 October 2009

The theme for this Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum (KRMF) 2009 is, "What will the next 50 years have in store for Singapore?" 2009 marks Singapore's 50th year of self-governance, and marks a checkpoint for us to reflect and ponder about what lies ahead.

In 2007, when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the guest speaker for KRMF, the queue was so long that I had to sit in a different room to watch a live screening of the forum. Thus, I went early this year. I was the first to queue up to enter the University Cultural Centre.

It was worth queuing because the guest speaker this year is one of the most influential person in this world. He is none other than Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. My patience paid back when I got to sit at the centre seat at the most front rows for the audience.

Ambassador-at-large Prof Tommy Koh arrived early and did some arrangements before the forum commenced. He was the moderator for this year's KRMF.

Thunderous applause and cheers greeted MM Lee when he entered the auditorium.

When students registered for the forum online, they wrote their questions they want to raise. From all the questions, the NUS Students' Political Association organising committee sieved out the best 20 questions and submitted them to Prof Tommy Koh. Prof Tommy Koh then conducted an interview with the students and the best 9 questions were chosen (some were merged since they are similar).

During the 2-hour forum, MM Lee spoke on environmental issues, values that the youth should embrace, population policies and about his legacy.

In several occasions, MM Lee's humorous interactions with the students generated laughters.

When answering to a question raised about too many foreigners in Singapore, MM Lee asked the student if he is a Singaporean. When he said yes, MM Lee mentioned that he is a Singaporean himself too, pure and bred here. MM Lee understands the concerns by locals but Singaporeans are not reproducing enough.

MM Lee pointed out that while Singapore could embrace foreign immigrants, other countries might not be able to do it easily. Using Malaysia as an example, he noted that in fifty years, the Chinese population will decrease and become an insignificant political force. As a Muslim-majority country, Malaysia could only draw in migrants from the Middle East, which would in turn result in a more Islamic Malaysia.

Speaking on the values that Singapore youths should embrace, MM Lee shared that youths should have the same values that their parents and grandparents had. He noted that youths should not take the stability and peace in Singapore as granted.

And what does MM Lee think of his legacy?

MM Lee said he never thought about his legacy. He believed that if you want to do something, you follow it through and give in your best. He frankly pointed out that obituaries are written by people younger than the deceased, and journalists would most probably have prepared his. He believes that one's legacy can only be determined 20, 30 years after one's passing, when students go to the library and read about one's work, and they will decide for themselves what legacy one leaves behind.

When the forum ended and MM Lee took his leave, the applause stopped only when he left the auditorium. I find myself fortunate to be able to have listened to the sharing of the founding father of Singapore.

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