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Location: Singapore, Singapore

A "recycled teenager" learning to blog.

Aug 16, 2011

National Day Rally 2011 - Building Our Singapore

Photo courtesy of Prime Minister's Office, Singapore

The New Paper photo by Kua Chee Siong.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his National Day Rally 2011 speech on Sunday August 14, 2011 at the University Cultural Centre at the National University of Singapore.

On this personal blog, the relevant excerpts are from the Prime Minister's Office website below:
73. More diverse society is a challenge

a. We must strengthen the forces that unite us

b. We are Singaporeans together on a small island

c. Anchored by

i. Emotional links with our family and friends

ii. Shared sense of our history and common destiny

74. Crucial to remember where we came from and how we got here

a. Many human stories, of ordinary people who struggled to improve their lives

i. Lived through the war, hardship, or the turbulent early years of Independence

ii. Worked with able leaders to achieve extraordinary results

iii. Led fulfilling lives and made Singapore special

b. Made a speech about these human stories recently at launch of Singapore HeritageFest

c. Prompted a response in Today by Angeline Koh:

“What are memories and shared experiences but stories. And storytelling is what Singapore as a nation needs … There are unsung heroes in our midst – they are people we meet each day in our homes and in our schools, at work and at play. Our children need to realise they are heroes in the making. They have the power to become heroes by the brave and sacrificial choices they make – to live well and for the good of

75. Singapore Memory Project by MICA

a. To capture, preserve and showcase memories of Singapore

b. Hope to collect five million memories by 2015, when Singapore turns 50

c. Stories from any person, community, group or institution that has experienced Singapore

d. Together these individual stories weave the tapestry of our nation

e. Started in July, and so far collected over 33,000 stories. Pick up two memorable accounts

76. Memories of Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961, by Mr James Seah

There was a dark billowing smoke in the sky, the smell was toxic. People were shouting “Fire, Fire”, screaming, shouting…

My mother and I ran as fast as we could to flee away from the burnt houses. There was a stampede [picture]. The older and weaker people were carried by younger and stronger ones. I noticed my neighbour's daughter knelt down on the ground to pray, staring at a darkened sky of smoke.

(They ended up at Kim Seng School)

The school compound was crowded with thousands of fire victims, police, military personnel, doctors, nurses and helpers. Tents were erected for registration of fire victims, cooking utensils to cook on the spot and supply meals. There was also milk powder for babies.

My family visited the fire site and saw the shocking scene of the aftermath of the fire the following day.

Within the week, my family was allocated a HDB 2-room flat at Margaret Drive.
The webcast of the National Day Rally 2011 for the quoted sections:

The transcript and outline of the Prime Minister's rally speech available at the PMO website.

The "How a Nation Rebuilt Itself - Overcoming the Bukit Ho Swee Tragedy" blog by James Seah at irememberSG.

The audience in the crowd...the guy with prominent "hairless style"...not hairstyle ;)

There was a dark billowing smoke in the sky...

"My family visited the fire site and saw the shocking scene of the aftermath of the fire the following day..."

"The school compound was crowded with thousands of fire victims..."

A flashback to the Bukit Ho Swee fire 50 years ago...unforgettable "real" not "reel" scenarios...surreal indeed!

"Greetings Mr Prime Minister. It is my pleasure and honour to meet you. Thank you".

PM Lee express with hand gestures and descriptions to the delight of his guests. TNP photo by Kua Chee Siong.
COWBOY towns may be infamous for being rough and tough, but at least they have sheriffs to maintain law and order.

However, that's not the case online.

Some sites resemble the Gunfight at the OK Corral (the iconic gunfight in Arizona, US, in 1881), where netizens post lies, spark inflammatory comments and harass individuals.

In his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong underlined the need to engage Singaporeans online to foster online platforms that can labelled as reliable and balanced.
I grew up as a "street urchin of Bukit Ho Swee kampong" as a childhood, but abstained from joining ganghood. My mother was strict and she was aware that Bukit Ho Swee was triad society infested and notorious with gangsters, but never to look down upon "juvenile delinquents" or "bad boys".

I was taught not to stare at the "bold, brave and loud people" in the neighborbood.

Just walk pass them quietly in the street and leave them alone; and I knew how many gang-fights started with "staring incidents" almost daily in Bukit Ho Swee. Just ask a "kua nimpeh si-mi" ("what to look at your father" in Hokkien) to start a fight.

I learnt to use the phrase "kow peh kow boo" in Hokkien from a Bukit Ho Swee childhood buddy to teach me the meaning of "parents" in English.

"Parents means father and mother", so the parents of cowboy's father and mother is called "cow peh cow boo"....woohahaha ;)

Anyways, the Bukit Ho Swee kampong where I grew up has become history and gone fifty years ago!

As a "Singapore Memory Ambassador", every Singaporean is invited to be a member of Singapore Memory Corps . Please "remember us not to forget"...something a forgetful person like me used to remind myself. The pun is intended though.

About the Singapore Memory Project

irememberSG is an initiative of the Singapore Memory Project (SMP). The SMP is a national initiative to collect, preserve and provide access to the memory of our nation through the documentation and collection of memory contributions on Singapore from various eras. It aims to build a national collection of contents in diverse formats (including print, audio and video), to preserve them in digital form, and make them available for discovery and research.

With the use of new media or social media for old memories about Bukit Ho Swee, I discovered a fun and interesting way to learn and blog. I asked myself: Why Blog? .

Excerpt from The Straits Times, Monday, August 15, 2011 (Page A7):

"Stories to weave tapestry of a nation"
An initiative to capture Singaporeans' recollections of their country has gathered more than 33,000 stories in the short span of a month.

Called irememberSG, the initiative is part of the Singapore Memory Project, which aims to collect five million memories by 2015, when nation turns 50.

The project underscores the importance of capturing memories of ordinary people who lived through events that defined Singapore, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Building a sense of ownership and belonging is crucial as the society grows more diverse, he said. While it would be a challenge, Singaporeans would have to "strengthen the forces that unite us and overcome the forces that pull us apart".

Said PM Lee: "We are Singaporeans together on a small island. We are anchored by our emotional links with family and friends by our shared sense of our history and our common destiny."

Singapore did not "materialise out of nowhere", he said. "We came here somewhere, some time, there was a history to it. And it's crucial to remember where we came from and how we got here."

Reiterating a point he made when he launched Singapore HeritageFest last month, PM Lee said it was important to preserve what he called "human stories".

These are the stories of ordinary people who struggled to improve their lives and lived through defining moments such as World War II and the turbulent years of independence.

It is precisely such stories that the Singapore Memory Project hopes to capture, he added, stressing that the stories can come from any person, organisation or institution which has experienced Singapore. "Together, all these individual stories will weave the tapestry of our nation," he said.

The project was launched by the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts last year, irememberSG, one part of the project, started last month. Singaporeans contributed stories and photos via Facebook and e-mail, among others.

irememberSG's Facebook page and blog were officially launched yesterday.

From the 33,000 stories collected so far, PM Lee selected two to showcase last night. Against the backdrop of video footage and slides of photos, he read out a first-hand account of the 1961 Bukit Ho Swee fire by retired Finance Supervisor James Seah, 62.

He also read out 33-year-old videographer Muhammad Raydza's recollection of watching the thrilling showdown between Singapore and Pahang in the 1994 Malaysia Cup final, which Singapore won 4-0.

Said PM Lee: "When we talk about history and national education and a sense of belonging, it's not just words and abstract concepts. It's really the stories of people, real people, what they lived through, what it meant for them."

Mr Raydza's story also stirred feelings of national pride in last night's audience, who clapped fervently when PM Lee played a clip of the final goal of the 1994 away match. It was scored by local football legend Fandi Ahmad.

Mr Raydza also said he looked forward to the camaraderie among fans when Singapore returns to the Malaysia Cup next year and "not so much of the win".

"But," Mr Lee quipped, "I hope the Lions win too."

Looking ahead, as Singapore strengthens its roots and sense of a common past, it must also work on creating a shared future, he said.

Painting his vision of Singapore's future, PM Lee said it would have a "fair and just" society that nurtures and inspires the human spirit and encourages people to "go forth and do well for themselves and do good for the community".


"As we strengthen the sense of our common past, we must look ahead to create our shared future. We aim to be a fair and just society that nurtures and inspires the human spirit - a society that encourages people to go forth and do well for themselves and do good for their community. It depends on Singaporeans, believing that we have created something special and precious that we must protect and improve; striving not just for material success but for ideals and dreams, serving with passion and the heart, as well as the mind." - PM Lee

Incidentally, please watch yours truly on "Foodage TV" produced by Sitting in Pictures and my nostalgia blogger friends every Thursday on OKTO (Channel 108) at 10:00 pm. The following is Episode 2 on my walk down memory lane at Bukit Ho Swee with Dick Yip and Peter Chan for your viewing pleasure. Please sit back, relax, and enjoy our showtime! Thank you.



Blogger Tomyng said...

James, You are second person linked with Spore Microcomputer Society mentioned by the PM in the National Day Rally speech. Ng Hon Wing was the first who is working diligently at SGH past the official retirement age.
Your efforts are recognised in capturing the valuable past of Singapore fabric. Keep going..
Chee Seng

August 17, 2011 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Congrats James. You deserve this recognition.

Keep on blogging man!

August 18, 2011 at 12:49 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Chee Seng and Andy, thank you for your good wishes and encouragement and to share the joy of blogging for everyone to join the Singapore Memory Corps. Cheers!

August 19, 2011 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger HOME AWAY HOME said...

Great Wonderful. Well Done friend

September 22, 2011 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you my dear friend. Home is in your heart wherever geographically located away from home. With love.

September 22, 2011 at 8:19 PM  

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