Asia

CNY a time to celebrate family as strong ties make for a strong nation: PM Lee Hsien Loong

As Chinese families in Singapore gather for their reunion dinner this evening, it is a good time to reflect on the importance of strong kindred ties, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Family members are the ones people turn to in good and hard times, and it is the reason most people cherish close ties with their extended family, even if they do not live together, PM Lee said in his annual Chinese New Year message today.

Strong families also make for a strong nation, he added.

“Singapore should be a society where families are celebrated and supported, especially young families starting out.”

This is why the Government has introduced a slew of initiatives in the past year to support and encourage young families, he said.

These include increased pre-school subsidies to lighten the financial load of raising a child, and a larger government budget to help companies offer flexible work arrangements to parents and caregivers.

While he hoped the initiatives would spur more young couples to start families or add to their growing families, PM Lee said he also understood that choosing a life partner or having a child is a deeply personal decision.

“But from my own experience, there is no greater joy than hearing the laughter of our children and grandchildren, especially on festive occasions like Chinese New Year.”

He noted that Chinese New Year this year comes amid anxiety around the world and sobering events such as the floods in Jakarta, bush fires in Australia, turbulence in the Middle East, Hong Kong and France, and the new coronavirus in China.

“We wish these societies well as they heal and recover,” he added.

It was the first time in years that PM Lee had sent his Chinese New Year greetings from overseas.

He returns from Switzerland tomorrow after attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, an annual gathering of global leaders in politics, industry and civil society.

PM Lee said he has been closely tracking Singapore’s preparations against the Wuhan virus while abroad. “We have just had our first cases in Singapore. This was to be expected, given the high volume of international travel” in Singapore.

But the country is well prepared because it has been gearing up for such a situation since it dealt with Sars in 2003, he said.

“MOH has now activated plans to counter the spread of the virus, which so far does not appear to be as deadly as Sars was. Singaporeans should be calm but watchful as we implement measures to keep everybody safe and healthy.”

PM Lee also said it was unfortunate he would miss his own reunion dinner, but added that a highlight of his trip was the chance to celebrate with the Singaporean community in Zurich.

“No matter where in the world we may be, there is something special and heartwarming that bonds Singaporeans together, and a special place in our hearts for Singapore,” he said.

As Singaporeans usher in the Year of the Rat, the first in the Chinese zodiac cycle, he said it is an opportunity to refresh and start anew.

“Let us learn something from the proverbial nimbleness, creativity and wit of the rat.

“These qualities will help us to overcome future challenges, and build a better Singapore for ourselves and our children,” he said.

PM Lee wished all Singaporeans a very happy and healthy Chinese New Year.

President’s greetings

President Halimah Yacob has wished Singaporeans a happy and prosperous Chinese New Year.

In a video posted on Facebook yesterday, the President said that Chinese New Year is an occasion for Chinese Singaporeans to celebrate, bond with family and friends, and keep cherished traditions alive.

“Traditions bring people together, help in the transmission of values and create stability in our society. No matter how busy we are, we must never forget our traditions,” said Madam Halimah.

“In multiracial Singapore, I am glad that Chinese New Year celebrations also involve other races, and I have fond memories of visiting friends during Chinese New Year and enjoying their culture.”

The President’s official residence, the Istana, will have a Chinese New Year open house on Sunday for the public to visit.

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