Majulah PAP, Majulah Singapura
A sea of white filled the stately Victoria Concert Hall on November 7, 2014. The white came from more than 700 party members who were clad in their party attire and were gathered to commemorate the 60th founding year of their People's Action Party. The choice of venue was apt - it was at the same place, (then Victoria Memorial Hall) that the party was founded on November 21, 1954.
The inaugural party meeting in 1954 was attended by about 1,500 student supporters and union members. Shouts of "Merdeka!" (Independence) punctuated the meeting as its founding party Secretary-General Lee Kuan Yew pledged to bring an end to colonial rule in Singapore.
Sixty years on, speaking from the very same vintage microphone and the same stage, the party's current Secretary-General Lee Hsien Loong led the party to reaffirm the values which have always been at the core of the party. Also in attendance on that November 7 evening were Comrade Lee Kuan Yew, his successor Comrade Goh Chok Tong, cabinet ministers, former ministers and MPs, branch leaders and party cadres.
Cutting across different generations, (some from the early days in the 1950s) they were there with one single-minded purpose: to re-dedicate themselves to the party and to Singapore.
The evening was filled with "Long time no see'' greetings, accompanied by warm handshakes, lots of photo-taking (some were selfies), all underpinned by a strong sense of camaraderie among comrades who have gone through thick and thin together. Local delicacies like putu mayam, rojak, kachang putih and teh tarik were served, exactly the way they were those decades ago.
To commemorate the inaugural meeting of the PAP, Comrade Lee Hsien Loong, together with Comrade Lee Kuan Yew and Comrade Goh Chok Tong, unveiled an updated marker at the refurbished Victoria Concert Hall.
Accompanying the milestone event was the launch of the PAP60, Forward Together book.
The book is part of the party's effort to capture the PAP spirit. It chronicles 60 defining moments in the party's history. The theme of the PAP60 celebration is "Forward Together, A Brighter Tomorrow".
The event drew to a close when party members, their fists punching the air, shouted: "Majulah PAP, Majulah Singapura'', a rally cry which surely resonated loudly not only in the hall but also in their hearts.
Birthday wishes for PAP
"Sixty years is a long time, and today is a big day for the party. I wish that PAP will continue the good work to serve the people of Singapore for the next sixty years to come."
Mr Chandra Das, 74, former MP and chairman NTUC Fair Price
"It is very important that we continue to build on what we have achieved, so that Singapore will continue to be a prosperous, stable and harmonious nation, and that is what PAP is all about. Living in a world that has changed so much, the party must work even harder than before to meet the expectations of the people."
Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed, 67, former MP and non-resident ambassador to Kuwait
"I grew up in a family where many family members were involved in party work. From young, I observed how they served the people. However, it was only four years ago that I took interest in what they have been doing. With two young kids aged eight and six, I share with them the core values of the party through what we actually deliver to our people. "
Mr Chew Boon Hong, 42, assistant secretary, Ulu Pandan branch
"It is such a great occasion today to meet up with our Ministers, MPs, former MPs and my good old friends, whom I have worked with. I wish there will be many good years for the PAP to bring prosperity and peace to Singapore and its people. In order to achieve this, the party must constantly reach out to the people and understand their needs. "
Mr Koh Poh Kwang, 70, vice chairman, Whampoa branch
This article was first published in the November 2014 issue of Petir Magazine.