Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at official banquet in Singapore

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Istana Dining Room, ?Shangri La Hotel, Singapore
Source: Thatcher Archive: speaking text
Editorial comments: The banquet, hosted by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, began at 2000.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 919
Themes: Foreign policy - theory and process, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Lee Kuan YewPrime Minister, Ministers, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. [MT marginalia] Dinner 1971. Grammar Schools. Best educated.


I am delighted and honoured to be paying my first visit as Prime Minister to Singapore. I am told that it is a particularly auspicious year to come, as it is the year of the Ox, which is also my birth year.

Those of us born in that year are apparently blessed with many most flattering qualities. But I am astonished to hear that we are also capable of anger and show an implacable side to our natures.

Well, there are some things one should be implacable about. [end p1]

Singapore's achievements

For those like me who put their belief in effort, enterprise, in adaptability and in democracy, Singapore is a veritable magnet.

Each time I come back I marvel at the pace of change, and at the confidence with which you undertake enormous investment.

I like to think that once you learned it from Britain.

And now we are re-learning it from you. [end p2]

Lee Kuan YewPrime Minister, there are few if any countries in the world which owe so much to the wise and far-sighted statesmanship of a single man. Your own sure touch is everywhere to be seen.

Its economy …

Over the last twenty years you have encouraged the creation of wealth, and ensured that its benefits are widely spread.

Not for you the detailed regulations that pin down and inhibit private enterprise. [end p3] Talent, initiative, adventure, endeavour, vigour and sound finance have made Singapore an example to other nations of success—an example whose clear message is you can't enjoy the fruits of effort without first making the effort.

… its infrastructure

You have transformed the face of your country and brought to its citizens the pride which comes from membership of a free people.

… its people

It is not just the face of your island which have changed, it is the changes in the lives [end p4] of your people themselves that are the most remarkable.

Britain's friendship with Singapore …

A strong mutual friendship and partnership between Singapore and Britain has developed over the years.

The lion is the emblem of England and of Singapore: native to neither of us but the heraldic beast of both.

And I like to think we have both adopted it because it symbolises something important in our national characters: fierce and fearless in defence of everything in which we believe. [end p5]

The experience of history has, of course, played its part.

As Mr Rajaratnam observed last year “The Singapore we know today would not be what it is without the past that we have had” . I was pleased to see the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, still standing outside the Victoria Memorial Hall.

No amount of political change can obscure the bold achievements of that remarkable man.

I am reminded of the Chinese saying that mountains separate men, but water joins them and friendship crosses water.

We are both trading nations, and [end p6] introspection is not in our nature.

International questions

Perhaps that is why on the major international questions of the day, Lee Kuan YewPrime Minister, we have a very close identity of view.

Over many years now I have listened with fascination and envy to your coruscating analysis of international problems at Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings.

You have perceived, indeed foreseen with uncanny accuracy the political tactics and strategy of those countries whose people are allowed [end p7] little of freedom or justice, but whose doctrine instructs them to spread their rigid unyielding system across the world.

The methods are those adopted already to subjugate Afghanistan and used by proxy by Vietnam in Cambodia.

They are perpetuated indirectly by sale of arms to leaders whose countries need food. There is in London now a play taken from Dostoevesky's ‘The Possessed’.

It is all written there—as so often political plans are laid bare for those who would read and believe but it was not recognised in time.

Meanwhile, I do not think the Communist [end p8] system will change much, let alone quickly; and we have to live in the same world. But let us not only defend our own freedom but help others to keep or achieve theirs.

Lee Kuan YewPrime Minister, I wonder if it is true that when you were leaving Cambridge your tutor said “Well, Mr. Lee, when you get back I hope you will keep the flag flying” and that you replied “When I get back I will make it my duty to get the flag down” .

If that is true, then you succeeded in this as in so many other things.

But running up your own flag you were wise enough not to break the links which matter. [end p9] As a result we can still offer much to the young people of Singapore coming to study in Britain as you did all those years ago.

Homage to Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan YewPrime Minister, an hour's talk with you is itself worth a journey half-way round the world and further still.

There is no other world leader I have met in my time in office whom I have admired more for the strength of his convictions, the clarity of his views, the directness of his speech and for his vision of the way ahead. [illegible MT marginalia] I am delighted to be here in your country, happy to be among friends and confident about [end p10] the future of Singapore and of Britain. Thank you, Prime Minister, and all your colleagues. illegible MT marginalia.