Professor Tommy Koh's Speech - Launch of the official book for SG50

May 15, 2015


1.    Mr President, Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister Heng Swee Keat, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

2.    A very warm welcome.  As a book lover, it has been a pleasure and privilege to have been involved in the SG50 book project.


Product of Tripartitism

3.    Singapore is famous for tripartitism.  I am happy to say that the book we are about to launch this evening is the product of a successful tripartite endeavour among the National Library, the Singapore Press Holdings and the Editorial Advisory Committee, which I had the privilege to chair.

4.    First, the National Library team consists of Elaine Ng, Gene Tan, Francis Dorai, Stephanie Pee and Masamah Ahmad.

5.    Second, the SPH team consists of Han Fook Kwang, Angelina Choy, Cheong Suk-Wai, Cassandra Chew, Jennani Durai, Lock Hong Liang, Bryan van der Beek, Susan Long, Shova Loh and Clara Wong.

6.    Third, the Editorial Advisory Committee consists of Ang Bee Lian, Chia Yong Yong, Chua Ai Lin, Gretchen Liu, Han Fook Kwang, Ho Meng Kit, Kwek Leng Joo, Liew Mun Leong, Lim Teck Yin, Mahdev Mohan, Mohd Saat bin Abdul Rahman, Noor Effendy Ibrahim, Wong Mun Summ, Yam Ah Mee and Zuraidah Ibrahim.  The committee is a microcosm of Singapore.


Concept of the Book

7.    After much brainstorming, we arrived at a consensus on the content of the book.  We wanted to tell the story of our miraculous journey in the last 50 years in a balanced, thoughtful and engaging manner.  It should be inspiring but not boastful.  We wanted to acknowledge that the extraordinary success of Singapore has been due to the combination of good leaders and an exceptional people.  We wanted the larger story of Singapore to be told through the individual stories of ordinary Singaporeans.  Of the 58 story tellers featured in the book, the majority would be unknown to the public.  It is the stories of these Singaporeans and their virtues of hard work, discipline, courage, self-sacrifice, willingness to embrace change and can-do spirit which we wish to celebrate.  I am happy to say that many of the people featured in the book are here.  Let us give them a warm round of applause.

8.    The book is an engaging combination of text and visuals.  We have sought to make the book accessible, easy to read and visually attractive.  This is a book about the people of Singapore and we hope that it will be embraced by Singaporeans as their book.  In addition, we have priced the book at $19.65 in order to make it affordable to all Singaporeans.

9.    We have chosen as the book’s title, “Living the Singapore Story:  Celebrating our 50 Years”.  We had a long discussion about the book’s cover and considered several alternatives.  In the end, we decided to use a photo of a HDB block on our cover because 83 per cent of our population lives in HDB estates.  This is where most of us live.  This is our home.  And this is our story.



10.    I shall conclude.  Mr President, Ministers and distinguished guests, my colleagues and I have worked hard to produce a book that is both inspiring and thoughtful, a book that tells the remarkable story of Singapore in the last 50 years, from the people’s point of view.  We want this to be a book that the people of Singapore can identify with and call their own.  I hope we have been successful.

11.    Thank you.




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