Creating a New Chapter of the Singapore Story: President Tharman's speech at Swearing-In Ceremony on 15 May 2024

15 May 2024
  1. Tonight, we begin a new chapter in Singapore’s history, as the baton of leadership is passed from our third to our fourth Prime Minister.


  2. I speak for all Singaporeans in thanking Mr Lee Hsien Loong for a life dedicated to the service of our country, and his exceptional leadership as Prime Minister over the last twenty years.


  3. In 2004, when Mr Lee was sworn in, he promised to “be a Prime Minister for all Singaporeans”, and to leave no one behind. He delivered on this promise.


  4. Today, Singapore has a transformed economy, with good jobs in every sector and substantially higher real incomes across the workforce. We have a more inclusive society, from assuring every child a good start in life to affording our seniors greater peace of mind. Income inequality has eased, and community contributions to uplift every group with disadvantage have expanded significantly alongside the government’s.


  5. Mr Lee also kept the population’s spirits intact through the Global Financial Crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, the major crises that divided many other societies. And he steered us through contentious issues like the repeal of s377A, strengthening understanding and acceptance of each other and preserving cohesion.


  6. Much can be recalled about Mr Lee’s leadership in these areas, and in foreign and security policies.But it is above all the norms and standards that Mr Lee upheld and reinforced - the intangibles of political leadership - that define his most important legacy. His selflessness and personal integrity, and the expectations of high standards of conduct that he set for those in political office. His making time to listen to people from all walks of life, and different points of view, in making decisions that are fair and in the best interests of Singaporeans. His resolve to tackle difficult issues early, never leaving them to future leaders to resolve, even if it means paying an immediate political price.


  7. Government policies will be reviewed from time to time, improved, and even revised fundamentally as circumstances change. But while governments can reverse policies, there is no reversing whenstandards slide, as unfortunately illustrated by many other countries. Public distrust grows, political leaders respond by avoiding essential decisions for the country’s future, those who enter politics lack conviction, and the downward spiral continues.


  8. We must never let slide the expectations of integrity, incorruptibility and conduct that Mr Lee and his predecessors established.


  9. As Prime Minister, leadership succession has been at the top of Mr Lee’s mind. In his own words, his service as Prime Minister is now made complete with the appointment of Mr Lawrence Wong as his successor.


  10. This is once again a smooth and orderly transition in political leadership in Singapore, and only the third in our six-decade history. No lengthy defence is needed for this, because it has worked well for Singapore. It has preserved political stability and allowed government to plan for the long term, while enabling a new team to adjust policies to fit the changing times.


  11. Mr Lawrence Wong takes over as Prime Minister in a period of growing global fractiousness and big power contestation, and a weakening international order. Mr Wong and his team, comprising both experienced hands and 4G ministers who have had several years of engagement with their international counterparts, are well-placed to secure our national interests amid these unpredictable geopolitical currents and to help advance ASEAN unity.


  12. Domestically, Mr Wong and his 4G team are determined to refresh our social compact. They have laid out their Forward SG roadmap for a more inclusive, resilient, and united Singapore. They will have to find creative ways to deepen our connections as fellow Singaporeans, as our society continues to evolve and people have more diverse views and interests.


  13. Those who have worked with Mr Wong, in government and in the community, know that he brings his own package of convictions, life experiences and skills.


  14. He is first and foremost someone who listens, as he did in the Forward Singapore exercise.


  15. He has played a key role in shaping our economic, fiscal, and social policies. He has worked with the Labour Movement to advance the interests of workers.As co-chair of the COVID-19 taskforce, he was calm and decisive under pressure. And on the global stage, he holds his own with international leaders.


  16. I have full confidence in Mr Lawrence Wong’s ability to lead Singapore as we venture into uncharted waters internationally, and to rally Singaporeans from all walks of life to create the next chapter of the Singapore story together. 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.


  17. As President, I am committed to working with the Prime Minister and his government. Mr Lee and I embarked on a constructive and harmonious relationship since I took office as President eight months ago. We met regularly and had candid private discussions on key developments, plans, and the international challenges Singapore faces. 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.


  18. Singaporeans can be assured that our country is in good hands. Mr Lawrence Wong and his team will build on the strong foundations laid by previous Prime Ministers and governments, and keep our little red dot shining ever more brightly. Our best years still lie ahead of us.


  19. I now ask Mr Lawrence Wong to come forward and take his oath of office as Prime Minister, followed by the Ministers he has designated as members of his Cabinet.

You may want to read about