Merry Christmas, Singapore!

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Merry Christmas, Singapore!

If you weren’t at Orchard Road today, you’ve missed it! It must be one of my most favourite Singapore’s greatest moments.

The thousands of people who were in Orchard Road today were in complete disarray – not in a bad way – they were spraying foam and what not at one another and were screaming, shouting and letting loose.

Today, Singaporeans partied the Christmas eve away and together at Orchard Road, we cheered as the clock counted down to Christmas and more people continued spraying foam at one another.

It didn’t matter whether you know each other, whether you are young or old, Chinese, Malay or Indian. It didn’t matter whether you are a local or foreigner or whether you are staying here or a visitor. It didn’t matter today. Today everyone enjoyed themselves and partied like they never did before.

And you know what – this is it. No matter who we are, we all want to have fun in Singapore. We want to belong to our country and we want to be part of it, and to be able to express ourselves and share the joy with one another.

No matter who we are or what we do in society, it doesn’t matter. We are all part of this country, committed to working for our country, and committed to making things work. We all do our part, in our different but very important ways to make Singapore the place that we want to be proud of. We want to enjoy ourselves as we make things happen in Singapore.

And we can.

My government, today, I thank you. I thank you for giving us this mess, for letting things be so disorderly and be comfortable with it, or at least let it be. Sometimes, Singaporeans need to let loose and sometimes we need to have fun. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we want for Singapore, so that at the end of it all, we can continue to build a Singaporean together?

As the police or security officers stood by today, their role wasn’t to police the people. Instead, they were showing directions to people as to where to go and to ensure the safety of the people. Today, I give them my respect.

You know, Singaporeans, we might think that security guards and cleaners do not play a significant role in Singapore. But they do. Today, the security officers stood by to ensure that we can party and enjoy ourselves as we count down to Christmas. And now, after all the fun has settled and we’ve strewn our rubbish all over, the cleaners will work the night through to clean Orchard Road up so that tomorrow, it will be business as usual, Singapore will become once again the clean and green city we pride ourselves on. Tonight, they do all these while we go back to our homes and sleep or go to Clarke Quay to dance the night away. Today, while Singapore celebrates Christmas, our security officers and cleaners are hard at work making Singapore look good.

Singaporeans, our security officers and cleaner s and people who hold blue collar jobs – all of them play very important and integral roles in making Singapore the place we know today. Because of them, we have a semblance of peace, we are able to live in this cleanliness. Today, because of them, Singapore can be a shining beacon of example to the world – a clean and safe city. We must know and acknowledge this. And we must treat them fair, and treat them with respect.

As two girls came up to the security officer to enquire how to get to the other side of the road, she smiled and directed them politely.

When the cleaners started cleaning up, I started to also pick up the cans and bottled and threw them into the rubbish bag one cleaner was holding. He thanked me but he looked like he wanted to do the cleaning by himself. He took pride in his job and he is paid to do the job. He is paid for his job and he wanted to be responsible.

A group of Indians who looked like foreigners, just walked by and started shouting cheers. Around them, the Singaporeans started cheering and shouting along as well – after all, we are all people in this together. We are all in Singapore, who have a stake in Singapore, one way or another. Singaporeans, when we realise this, we will learn to show respect and concern to our fellow people who live here, and not just here, but from all over the world. Sometimes, when we think that life gets hectic, we get angry and we start finding fault with others and we start blaming others. Sometimes, it’s very easy for us to be upset with the foreigners. They didn’t come to take our jobs. They came to help us with our economy. But we need to treat them fair. And perhaps, we feel that there’s injustice that we feel we face, and so we’ve learnt to heap injustice on them as well. But when we are able to look beyond our own emotions, we can look beyond and appreciate the contributions that they can and have given to Singapore. And we know that if we work together with them, we can create more possibilities for Singapore. And we will know where to focus our energies on – on the solutions for Singapore and for making Singapore a better place.

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The cleaners are now cleaning Orchard Road, as the whole street is littered with cans, bottles, caps and other pieces of litter. I only wish that we could have taken the responsibility and know that if we want to have fun and party, we also need to know that we need to share in the cleaning up and keeping the place tidy.

But anyhow, this is the first year that I’ve seen Orchard Road burst into such life and energy and perhaps, everyone got lost in the energy of it all that they did not think about keeping the streets clean. But there’s always next year. And when we learn to reclaim our voices back and when we learn to have fun, loosen up and find ourselves, we will learn that within all these, we know that we want to play our part to make where we live a better place, and we will do what we can to do it.

And truly, this is possibly one of the first few times that Singaporeans are able to let out and have a go at things. For the first time in my recent memory, Orchard Road became a mess, and what a mess that people enjoyed. It reminded me of Thailand – the life, the vibrancy, the energy of it all. Today, once again, our government showed courage and belief in knowing that a bit of fun is good for Singaporeans and they let us let it out. And today, I thank our government.

Of course, some might say, the government has done so because if we learn to enjoy and let it out, we will forget our anger at them. But this is another matter. If we are unhappy, like today, we can let it out, and find ways to make things click for us. We can find ways to have fun, and create new solutions and possibilities.

For some today, it’s one of the first times they let to let out. And for some, they decidedly let it all out. When a people feel repressed, when they do let out, they do not hold themselves back. Sometimes, the worry is that we might hurt others in the process. But this is a journey that we go through. If you learn to let people come out and express themselves, it’s a journey that they have to go through to learn to take upon this new opportunity to express themselves and as they do so, learn to manage it better. And as a people, we will learn to do better and better. This is a start and the government can do more. They can continue to allow us to have spaces to express ourselves So that we can learn how to express ourselves in ways that do not hurt others and in ways that can get the message across and yet, continue to enjoy the process and enliven Singapore. And my government, we can, and you have to trust that we can. If not, guide us along like you’ve always have.

Today, at Orchard Road, I smiled to myself. It’s a mess. It’s chaotic. But you know what, we had fun. We enjoyed ourselves. We let it out and tomorrow will be a better day – not least because it’s Christmas and a day of joy and celebration for us and our family and friends.

So, Singaporeans, today, we have our joy. Today, we’ve expressed ourselves. Let’s keep this momentum going. Let’s reignite our spirits and our hope and let’s continue to work together, come together and make ourselves heard. Let’s continue to express ourselves and know that we have it within us to make Singapore a place that we can be proud of, because we belong here and we will make Singapore one that we belong to proudly and confidently.

Merry Christmas once again, Singapore!

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