SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave out the first 100 of about 450,000 pioneer generation cards yesterday, and promised there will be a "very big effort" to distribute the rest by the end of this month.
Among the 100 pioneers invited to yesterday's launch of the cards were retired nurses and housewives - people who left legacies in their professions, or toiled behind the scenes, said PM Lee.
He spoke in Malay, Mandarin and English on the country's gratitude to the pioneer generation for their contributions to Singapore, and concluded his speech by saying "thank you" in all four official languages, including Tamil.
In paying tribute to those who "have been pillars of support in their homes, for their spouses", he said: "Their contributions are no less important and no less valued."
One such pioneer last night was Mrs Theresa Stewart, 99, widow of Mr Stanley Stewart.
He was the head of the civil service when Singapore became independent in 1965, and was among the first to know of Singapore's separation from Malaysia in 1965.
"Like many other spouses, Mrs Stewart supported her husband in his work, and was there with him every step of the way," said Mr Lee, who wished her happy birthday in advance.
She turns 100 in about three weeks, on Aug 26.
Said Mrs Stewart's daughter Olivia, 71, a nun: "Mummy and Papa really helped forge a lot of interracial friendships and broke the barrier between colonials and locals."
The Stewarts are Eurasians.
Seniors who are aged 65 and older this year and became citizens before 1987 will receive a pioneer generation package in the mail this month.
It will have personalised red-and-white cards identifying them as pioneers. Mr Lee personally handed the packages to 100 pioneers yesterday.
From next month, the cards can be used to get more subsidies at polyclinics, specialist outpatient clinics, and participating general practitioner and dental clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme.
This article was first published on August 2, 2014.
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