Monday, January 10, 2005

In Memory, In Tribute

More than 7,300 people gathered at the Singapore Expo for a hour long memorial service to mourn the victims on Jan 9. I am sure many thousands more witnessed it on television screens both at home or in public areas. At 6pm, the audience stood up and bowed their heads in silence, as did thousands across Singapore. As a siren sounds over the public broadcast system, even the shoppers on Orchard Road [the main up-market shopping district] paused for a minute of silence. Elsewhere, foreign workers from India and Bangladesh gathered in an open field near Weld Road in Little India to watched a live telecast of the memorial service taking place at the Singapore Expo. In Aceh and Phuket, the men and women of the SAF and SCDF involved in the relief work paused from their work to remember the dead. All across Singapore, flags are at half mast.

You can read more about the above in these ST articles (all from Jan 10) up until Jan 13, before it is taken off line from public access ST's website:

S'pore mourns
S'pore falls silent for the dead
In memory of the dead
Memorial service

Envoys from Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Sweden spoke during the service, thanking Singapore for its aid efforts and for the service that allowed them to share their perspective on the tragedy. You can read about it here: A big thank you from the envoys.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave a 15-min speech (You can read the whole speech here) in which he mourns the dead and offer the condolences and the hand of assistance of the nation to the survivors. He has this to say about the Singaporean involved in the relief efforts:

The plight of the victims has touched a deep emotional chord among Singaporeans. We share a common humanity with those who have been hit. We had to act and try to make a difference to them.

We have responded as one people, with a massive, spontaneous outpouring of compassion and generosity, on a scale unlike any Singapore has ever witnessed. Young or old, rich or poor, alone or in groups, you gave of your time and resources. In just a few days, hundreds of volunteers came forward, millions of dollars were raised, and tons of food, clothing and other essentials were collected. Children broke open piggy banks to contribute their savings. Schools organised fund-raising activities. Grassroots groups rallied support across the island. Doctors, nurses and those still in training volunteered to go. Temples, churches and mosques passed the hat around their flocks, and organised voluntary relief missions. Companies mobilised their staff and their assets to join the worldwide effort to help the stricken. I want to acknowledge these and many other efforts of Singaporeans and Singapore residents. When we saw our fellow human beings in desperate need, we did not pass by on the other side.

As a government, we are mounting our largest overseas relief effort ever. Our uniformed personnel, our doctors and nurses, and other volunteers are doing their utmost. They are providing relief, carrying out search and rescue operations, and doing forensic work to help identify the victims. I met many of them in Aceh. We also have teams in Phuket, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Our people are doing magnificently. They are professional, resourceful, tireless, and keeping their own spirits high in an emotionally draining environment. When the task force in Meulaboh managed to open landing points to supply the town by sea, all Singaporeans rejoiced in their breakthrough.

To the men and women of the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force, the Singapore Civil Defence Force, the ministries and agencies, the charitable and religious organisations, and every volunteer and helper, let me thank you and salute you. You make us proud to be Singaporeans.

This experience has drawn Singaporeans closer to one another as one nation. This is the Singapore spirit: a small nation with a big heart.

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