Five years after unveiling a package of healthcare subsidies to the Pioneer Generation, the government is doing the same for the Merdeka Generation. Will the ‘Majulah Generation’ be next? Where will it end?

SINGAPORE (Feb 25): Silence descended over the room as everyone huddled around a transistor radio. It was June 3, 1959, and the late Lee Kuan Yew was addressing a rally at the Padang that marked the establishment of Singapore as a self-governing state under the Federation of Malaya. “Once in a long while in the history of a people, there comes a moment of great change,” said Singapore’s founding prime minister, in his now-famous speech. “Tonight is such a moment in our lives. We begin a new chapter in Singapore.” He then raised his fist triumphantly in the air and repeatedly shouted “Merdeka” — a word symbolising freedom.

Eric Phua, 66, a retired lawyer, was among those gathered in the room. He was only six at the time, but was well aware that history was being made. “I was so young then, but I knew that that was an important speech because my parents were listening very intently,” he says. “My parents and neighbours were very happy, but they were also worried. Singapore then was not very developed; we were not sure of what to expect.

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