Speech by Mr Lawrence Wong, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance at Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM)’s 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee Charity Dinner, 11 Aug 202311 Aug 2023
President of 4PM, Mr Nassar Mohamad Zain,
Board Members of 4PM,
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
My Parliamentary Colleagues, past and present,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I’m very happy to join you this evening to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Malay Youth Literary Association or 4PM. Since we just marked the 58th year of our independence, let me also wish everyone a very happy belated National Day.
4PM’s Contributions to Singapore
2. Saya rasa besar hati dapat raikan pencapaian 4PM ini bersama anda.
3. Saya ingat lagi, menghadiri ulang tahun 4PM yang ke-60 15 tahun lalu. Waktu itu, saya PPS kepada PM.
4. Oleh itu, acara ini lebih bermakna untuk saya dan saya gembira dapat tegur sapa dengan banyak kenalan lama.
5. Saya ucapkan tahniah kepada 4PM atas ulang tahun anda yang ke-75.
6. Apa yang anda capai adalah hasil dari tekad dan kerja keras anggota-anggota 4PM, dahulu dan sekarang.
7. Terima kasih semua atas sumbangan anda yang tidak ternilai.
8. Dari perintis 4PM, Encik Hanifa S. Kanoo, Mohd Yatim Dohon dan Hussein Mohd Ali, ke pelapis mereka, Encik Izzuddin Taherally dan kini Encik Nassar Zain, mereka contoh bagi semangat berbakti dan menyumbang kembali kepada masyarakat.
9. Saya yakin 4PM akan terus “Bersatu dan Berkhidmat”, seperti moto anda, memperkasa masyarakat Melayu/Islam dan juga Singapura.
10. Tonight, 4PM has chosen the theme “Collective Futures Reimagined” for your 75th anniversary celebration. It is a very fitting theme that reflects your aspirations to continue to unite and serve the Malay/Muslim community in Singapore and also to express our shared hopes for a better future.
11. This anniversary event is a very good time to reflect on the past, as we saw in the video just now, and the impact 4PM has on the community and for Singapore these past 75 years.
a. Through your many mentorship and education programmes, you have engaged and help build up our Malay/Muslim youth.
b. You have rallied the community to help the disadvantaged, worked closely with M3 and the other Malay/Muslim organisations to provide assistance to families in need and disadvantaged members of our society.
12. More than that, 4PM has also helped cultivate a generation of young community activists and leaders. Members and beneficiaries of your programmes have taken on leadership positions across many different fields.
a. Just take the example of my parliamentary colleague, Ms Rahayu Mahzam and former parliamentary colleague Mr Hawazi Daipi. Both were previously youth volunteers with 4PM. In fact, as I understand, Hawazi continues to serve as one of 4PM’s advisors. Meanwhile, Mr Ustaz Azri Azman and Dr Mohammed Badrun Nafis Saion, were both previously members of 4PM’s management committee. They are now President of Muhammadiyah Association and Chairman of Association of Malay Professionals (AMP). So 4PM has been a very good base to develop, train and nurture our Malay/Muslim activists and leaders.
13. I want to congratulate 4PM for reaching this important milestone in your journey. I also want to acknowledge all members of the organisation and many of the volunteers, past and present, for your tremendous contributions to the Malay/Muslim community and to Singapore. On this occasion we remember all your pioneers, including your founding members, who were cited just now by your President, as well as many leaders and members who have come after them and have continued to build on their good work and build up the organisation.
a. Your dedication and passion to invest in our youth and uplift the community is inspiring.
b. So tonight, I want to say a very big thank you to all of you!
Working Together Towards a Better Future
14. We have many things going well for us in Singapore – our foundations are strong; our international reputation is solid; we can continue to grow our economy and to create good jobs for our people. There are challenges to tackle, for example, to cope with a rapidly ageing population, to reduce inequalities, and ensure that we can progress as a fairer and more inclusive society.
15. We will deal with these challenges. That’s why we have embarked on the Forward SG exercise last year – we’ve been engaging thousands of Singaporeans across all walks of life over this period. Our aim is to refresh our social compact, and to ensure every citizen feels a part in our society and a part in our shared future, so we can continue to chart our way forward together as one people.
16. One area of focus is not just to reduce inequality in our society but to uphold social mobility. This means that regardless of one’s family circumstances, everyone should be given the opportunity to move up and to progress according to their contributions and efforts. In fact, we have long enjoyed very good social mobility in Singapore, far better compared to most other countries. But like other advanced economies, this will become harder to sustain over time. Those who have done well in life, they will naturally spend a lot more to prepare their children at an early age. They want the best for their children, everyone wants that. While those who are less well-off will feel the pressure of keeping up, and will be worried about their children being left behind.
17. So we have to do more to uplift those from lower income and disadvantaged backgrounds. One important way is to close the early gaps in our children’s lives; because the first few years matter greatly in shaping a child’s potential in life.
That is why, we plan to do more. We want to help lower-income families to enrol their children into pre-schools early, ensure they attend the preschools consistently, and to provide these children with meaningful and quality programmes. This will give them the head-start they need to succeed later in life. We are also working to provide more integrated support for these families. We have some ideas on what new programmes and initiatives to roll out and we will share more when we release the Forward Singapore report later this year.
18. Besides early involvement and formal education in schools, the social networks we have also play a part in shaping the development of our young people. So we can do more to give our youths more exposure and help them flourish and maximise their potential. I think all of us can relate to this. When I think of my own background – I went to Haig Boys’ School and subsequently Tanjong Katong Secondary, (incidentally) the President of 4PM is also from Tanjong Katong Secondary – the friends I had came from the same housing estate in Marine Parade. So we lived in a more confined circle. This was our world and that was around where we stayed. Your friends are the people around you. This is all you know, and therefore you do not have a lot of exposure. But later, you develop further when you grow up. I went to college, I went to university, and then I started work. Throughout these stages of life, you develop more friends and you widen your circle. You see people from different backgrounds. You realise that there is a lot more out there. You get exposed, you get motivated to read more widely, to learn more, and to do more. So it is very natural for the social network we have to give us a lot of exposure, broaden our perspectives, give us a sense of the tremendous opportunities out there, and motivate us to do more and to do better. That is why we want to do more to help our youth in this regard. Give them more exposure and help them to develop and maximize their potential. In particular, mentors can play a pivotal role in shaping the lives of our children and youth. Mentors can guide them in their journey of self-discovery, and provide them with role models to look up to.
19. To succeed in these efforts, government programmes alone will not be enough. We also need strong and active community involvement.
a. Whether it is by serving as befrienders or mentors, volunteers play a critical role in helping ensure our social programmes are delivered in the best way possible, with passion and care.
b. Indeed, many community groups have also developed their own expertise in key areas. You run many meaningful programmes and your volunteers play a very important role in helping to ensure that the programmes are delivered in the best possible way, with great passion and care.
20. That is why from the Government’s point of view, we want to do more, to work closely with community groups, and to expand the opportunities for Singaporeans to give back to our society. We want to be a society where people feel a deep sense of responsibility for one another, where we actively volunteer our time to support each another. Ultimately, it is through the collective effort of everyone – Government, community partners, and individual volunteers, that we can advance together as one country.
21. There are many areas where we can galvanise and rally the community to do more. Mentoring is one example. Today, there are already a number of groups active in this space, including 4PM. But there is still a shortage of trained and experienced mentors. So we launched the nationwide MentoringSG movement, to encourage many more people and organisations involved in mentoring the next generation, and I am glad that 4PM is involved in this movement, through your partnership with Mendaki’s Youth Mentoring Office.
22. We also want to strengthen the spirit of volunteerism amongst our young people.
a. 4PM has been a trail blazer in this area. Since 2010, you have reached out to about 25,000 volunteers alone. One of them is Muhammad Naufal Bin Kamsani. I think he is here tonight.
b. Naufal was accorded the 4PM Bestari Award in 2017, in recognition of his outstanding academic results at ITE and his community contributions. Since then, he has been an active youth volunteer, helping to organise activities to engage youth-at-risk and working with his fellow ITE students. He is now a part-time undergraduate students at SUSS, and works as a business analyst at Flextronics.
c. Naufal’s story is not unique. There are many other success stories like him here at 4PM. But through organisations like 4PM, we want to engage more and more young people like Naufal and others to help them realise their dreams and make a difference to the lives of fellow Singaporeans.
23. One way to do this is to make it easier for our youths to contribute to causes they are passionate about, empower them to make a positive impact on society, and keep them engaged so they come back and continue to volunteer. This sounds straightforward, but those of you who work in this space know it is not easy to engage volunteers, keep them meaningfully occupied and keep them coming back month after month, year after year. Not so easy to do. That is why I am glad to help launch 4PM’s new Volunteer Management app later tonight.
a. It will provide youth volunteers with a platform to contribute and develop their ideas into community service projects. This will give them a sense of ownership and responsibility, and make the volunteering journey much more fulfilling and engaging.
b. By tapping on ideas that the youth volunteers have to offer, will also add vibrancy and diversity of your programmes.
24. Apart from nurturing more active youth in our community, it is also important for Malay/Muslim organisations like 4PM and others to start thinking harder of developing a pipeline of new leaders within their own organisations.
a. It is important for all organisations in Singapore but I thought I shall appeal to all of you within the Malay/Muslim organisations to also start thinking about leadership, development and renewal within your own organisations. Our Malay/Muslim organisations are the training ground for Malay leadership. The organisations provide avenues for people to step forward, take up issues they care about, and make a contribution to society.
b. I hope our Malay/Muslim organisations will continue to make effort to attract and retain talent, expose younger leaders to different sorts of projects. Give them more responsibilities and over time let them take on greater responsibilities progressively. Over time, you can nurture and groom many more leaders.
c. This will keep our Malay/Muslim organisations vibrant, facilitate new ideas on how to solve problems, and help all our organisations appeal to the new generation and attract young talent.
25. I am very glad that 4PM itself has put focus on this important issue. You recently went through a major leadership transition, you have a relatively new president who took over in 2021.
26. Your board is also well-represented by young people. I met them just now. I understand that your board is now among the youngest across all Malay/Muslim organisations in Singapore. Well done! Very fitting for an organisation that reaches out to young people. It positions 4PM very well for the future. I hope other Malay/Muslim organisations will draw inspiration from what 4PM is doing and to also review their leadership renewal efforts, to bring in fresh ideas, fresh perspectives and fresh talents. The Government will support you in these efforts, through programmes like the Tunas Bersama M3, which helps to build up the competencies amongst the young volunteer leaders in Malay/Muslim organisations.
27. To conclude, 4PM’s work to uplift the Malay/Muslim community, and empower our youth is essential to Singapore’s continued success. You have many partners and volunteers, I am glad you are recognising them tonight. With all your support, I am confident that 4PM will continue to excel, and achieve even greater heights for many more years to come. Let us continue to work together to strengthen our community and to build a stronger and better Singapore for all.
28. Once again, happy 75th anniversary and enjoy the evening ahead. Thank you very much.