Speech by Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communications and Information at Special Parliamentary Sitting - Tribute to the Founding Prime Minister of Singapore, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, 26 March 2015

Published Date: 26 March 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1.     我想从两个角度来表达对建国总理李光耀先生的敬意。一个是妇女的地位,一个是双语政策。

2.     李先生虽不曾说自己是女权运动者,但他所推行的政策却为新加坡女性的地位做出了巨大贡献。

3.     李先生向来重视培育人才,就算是在国家资源最不充裕的时期也没有少拨款给教育界。这个理念,造就无数妇女进入学堂,踏进社会。在各行各业,我们都可以看到许多杰出的妇女。

4.     新加坡妇女宪章,为妇女保障财产权益,确保有公平的待遇。良好的治安,让我国妇女享有在目前许多国家仍未完全实现的人身自由,走在大街上无需前瞻后顾、提心吊胆。

5.     李先生与李夫人恩爱一世,鹣鲽情深,为许多家庭树立了楷模。

6.     最重要的是,李先生对妇女的根本态度是尊重的,为我们的社会定下了男女平等的基调。他认为,传统社会中男尊女卑、 上嫁下娶的这些旧观念都必须跟着时代的进步而有所改变。

7.     如果没有李先生,新加坡的妇女不会在这么短的时间内迈出这么多步。

8.     双语政策,可能是李先生推行的无数政策中最前卫、最果断、也是最具争议性的。我们在国会内外为这个政策争辩过多次,相信以后也会继续辩下去。

9.     李先生在建国之初就意识到,新加坡的各族群如果持续使用不同的语言,会把本来就非常狭小的生存空间分割成多个小世界。为了团结各族人民,扩大共有空间,同世界接轨,李先生决定以英语作为工作语言。可是,为了保存我们文化的根,李先生也坚持各族必须学习自己的母语。至于华族,李先生也提倡多讲华语,少说方言。

10.     对于一个语言使用复杂多元的年轻国家来说,这些要求是高难度的。要让人学习一种平时家里不讲的语言,本来就不容易。要让一个人在平日语言使用上作出调整,甚至是颠覆性的改变,简直难乎其难,从身份认同的观点来说更是锥心之痛。

11.     但,对于一个语言使用复杂多元却又渴望和平团结的年轻国家来说,这些要求也是必要的。李先生的主张是理性的:长痛不如短痛。在各族群里都有一些人觉得双语政策难以适应,甚至至今耿耿于怀。但,无可否认的,双语政策为我们扩大了共同空间,打下了各族和睦沟通的基础。我碰到过不少和我同龄或更年轻的各族新加坡人,向我表示他们现在能在东西方语言、文化之间游刃有余,完全是拜双语政策所赐。

12.     政策虽是理性的,但李先生归根究底,是一位心系民众的好总理、好资政。这就体现在他在语言政策上耗费了大半辈子的心血。他不断关注学生的学习情况,向专家学者讨教。1975年,为了调整并落实双语教育方针,他甚至亲自当了四个月的教育部长。他设立了总理书籍奖,鼓励双语学习成绩优异的学生。到了晚年,还发起李光耀双语基金,帮助幼儿打下学习双语的基础。他把毕生投注于双语政策的心血,凝聚成一部书 — 《我一生的挑战:新加坡双语之路》。

13.     李先生曾坦言,在英文加母语的搭配当中,同时学好英文和华文是最难的。李先生为了学好华文,身体力行,孜孜不倦。很多人都知道,他上华语课,从不间断。

14.     今天早上,海峡时报报导了一名前来国会大厦向李先生致敬的49岁的生意人。他说,“我来自华校, 曾经认为双语政策让我吃了亏。但是现在 ,掌握英语的我,可以将半导体企业扩展至美国等地。双语的政策改变了我的一生。”我想李先生若是泉下有知,也会感到欣慰的。

15.     李先生带领我们踏上了追求卓越的漫长旅程。他离开我们之后,我们会坚持走下去。

16.     (In English) Madam, Mr Lee’s language policy stands among the iconic legacies he has created for Singaporeans. It has left a deep impact on many, especially on educators and language professionals. This includes the men and women who are sitting in our interpreter booths, who ensure that what transpires in this House can be understood in the four official languages. He has led us on the road to bilingualism, in pursuit of unity as one people, the preservation of our cultural ballast, and ease of interaction with the world at large. It is a long journey which we will continue long after he has left us.


Speech by Ms Sim Ann at Special Parliamentary Sitting - Tribute to the Founding Prime Minister of Singapore, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew (English Translation of Speech Delivered in Mandarin)

1.     I wish to pay tribute to Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew in two particular aspects - his contributions to women’s advancement, and to bilingualism.

2.     Mr Lee has never described himself as a feminist, and yet his policies had made an immense difference to women.

3.     Mr Lee had always valued education, ensuring that a good part of the national budget went towards education even when our country’s resources were meagre.

4.     This has helped many women get educated and get jobs. We now see successful women in many fields.

5.     The Women’s Charter has given women in Singapore the right to property, and to be treated fairly. Women can walk on our streets without fearing for our personal safety, enjoying a degree of freedom yet to be fully realised in many other societies.

6.     Mr Lee’s loving and lasting union with Mrs Lee has set an excellent example for many families.

7.     But more importantly, Mr Lee’s basic attitude towards women was one of respect, and set the tone for gender equality in society. He believed that traditional notions of male dominance and men refusing to marry their equals were outdated, and must change with the times.

8.     Without Mr Lee, the women of Singapore would not have enjoyed so many gains in so short a time.

9.     Bilingualism could well be Mr Lee’s boldest and most radical policy. It could also be his most controversial. Debates have taken place many times on this topic within and outside of this House. We can expect such debates to continue into the future.

10.     Mr Lee had realised in the early days of nation-building that, if different groups of Singaporeans were to continue using different languages, then our already limited shared space would be fragmented into separate little worlds. To unite all races and to expand the common space, and to connect with the wider world, Mr Lee decided on English as our working language. But, to preserve our cultural ballast, Mr Lee also maintained that each ethnic group must study its mother tongue. Mr Lee was also of the view that ethnic Chinese Singaporeans should speak less dialect and more Mandarin.

11.     This was a tall order for a young nation with a complex linguistic environment. It was already hard for someone to learn a language that he does not speak at home. But for someone to make a significant adjustment, even a complete change in his daily language use, was even harder. For those who saw language as a core part of their identity, it was downright painful.

12.     Yet, for a young nation with a complex linguistic environment which yearned for peace and unity, these changes were necessary. Mr Lee’s view was a rational one: better short-term pain than long-term agony. In every ethnic group, there were people who found it hard to adjust to the language policies he implemented, and who still feel aggrieved even to this day. But bilingualism undoubtedly widened our common space and laid the foundation for harmonious communication between all races. I have come across many Singaporeans of different ethnic groups of my age or younger, who have told me that they appreciate the bilingual education policy for giving them the tools to function effectively and comfortably in both Asian and Western settings.

13.     While the policy might have been a rational one, Mr Lee was, at heart, a leader who cared. It is clear from the way he devoted much personal attention to bilingualism, over a large part of his life. He tracked our students’ performance, and constantly sought inputs from experts and researchers. In 1975, he spent four months helming the Education Ministry himself in order to ensure adjustments to the bilingualism policy were duly implemented. He created the Prime Minister’s Book Prize to encourage students who did well in both English and their mother tongue language. In his later years, he started the Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism to help young children build a foundation for learning English and the mother tongue languages. His life’s work in this area was encapsulated in his book, “My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore’s Bilingual Journey”.

14.     Mr Lee had stated that of all the combinations of English and the mother tongue, English/Mandarin was the most difficult combination. He walked the talk; he worked hard at learning Mandarin and never gave up on his lessons.

15.     This morning, The Straits Times quoted a 49-year-old businessman who came to pay respects to Mr Lee. He said that he was from a Chinese school and used to feel very disadvantaged after Mr Lee introduced the bilingual policy. But now, as a businessman, knowing English has helped him to expand his semiconductor business overseas, in countries like the United States. The bilingual policy has changed his life. If Mr Lee could hear this, I believe he would feel comforted.

16.     Mr Lee has brought us on a long journey towards excellence. We will soldier on, even after he has left us.

17.     Madam, Mr Lee’s language policy stands among the iconic legacies he has created for Singaporeans. It has left a deep impact on many, especially educators and language professionals. This includes the men and women who are sitting in our interpreter booths who ensure that what transpires in this House can be understood in the four official languages. He has led us on the road to bilingualism, in pursuit of unity as one people, the preservation of our cultural ballast, and ease of interaction with the world at large. It is a long journey which we will continue long after he has left us.

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