23 March 2016
A Moment of Reflection
Peter Ong

Build on the legacy of our founding leaders and work towards a brighter future for Singapore – a note from Mr Peter Ong, Head, Civil Service, to public officers, on the anniversary of the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

On this day a year ago, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, our founding Prime Minister, passed away. The memories of the period of National Mourning that followed remain deeply etched in my mind. It was a time that brought all of us closer together, as a country, and as a Public Service.

It is timely, one year on, to pause and reflect on what we learnt about ourselves through it all, and how we have continued to sustain Mr Lee’s legacy. Last week, I was at the launch of a book on Mr Lee. It brought afresh to me the key experiences I went through one year ago – seeing the long queues along the banks of the Singapore River and at the Padang, the fully drenched Singaporeans who lined the streets when the gun carriage carrying Mr Lee left Parliament House and listening to the eulogies at the solemn and dignified funeral service at the University Cultural Centre.

Mr Lee and his team of founding leaders led our pioneer generation in transforming Singapore with vision and gumption. They also played an integral role in shaping the ethos which underpins our work in the Public Service – incorruptibility, pragmatism, thinking strategically ahead and indeed, in being exceptional. These enduring principles continue to guide the way we work as we seek to improve the lives of Singaporeans.


As I reflect on what we have inherited from Mr Lee and his team, what stood out to me was their solidarity founded on a clarity of purpose. It enabled our founding leaders to rally our people towards achieving seemingly impossible feats, and making them everyday realities that we now take for granted.

Mr Lee and his first Cabinet also understood deeply that policies were only as good as their implementation. And for effective implementation that would earn the trust of Singaporeans, public officers needed to reach out to understand the ground. In the early days of Independence, Mr Lee took public officers along on his regular community visits so they could better grasp problems faced by citizens from all walks of life. In this way, he and the founding leaders established a Government that put Singaporeans at the centre in all they did.


On this first anniversary of Mr Lee’s passing, we stand on solid foundations to face the future as a Public Service. We know that despite the challenges we may face, we have many opportunities to seize, many ideas to nurture and many dreams to chase. The Committee on the Future Economy is a key effort to position Singapore to seize such opportunities and overcome challenges we face, and we are partnering the business community, unions and workers, among others in this. The ongoing SGfuture dialogue series and the recently concluded Future of Us exhibition serve as national platforms for Singaporeans to collectively discuss our dreams and aspirations, reach common ground on issues, and work together as one people towards our future.

These efforts speak to our new way of galvanising citizens and other stakeholders to co-create the future, and we will also be starting a similar effort within the Public Service, inviting our fellow colleagues to shape the Public Service of the future that we can all be proud of. More details will be announced shortly, so do look out for that.

The Public Service we have today is the legacy our founding leaders have entrusted to us. Let us honour them by our continued service to Singaporeans in building an even better Singapore in the decades to come.

Do take a moment today, to reflect on the ethos and values that they have left us with, and how as one trusted Public Service, we can work for a bright future for Singapore and Singaporeans.

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