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Singapore celebrates 50th anniversary of independence

Published 09/08/2015

sIn this Saturday Aug. 8, 2015, photo, a girl carries balloons with the words
sIn this Saturday Aug. 8, 2015, photo, a girl carries balloons with the words "Happy Birthday Singapore", as people walk on a bridge with the financial skyline of Singapore in the background, where celebrations for the city-state's 50th year of independence have started. Singapore's 50th anniversary on Sunday commemorates its leap from a poor colonial port to a wealthy metropolis, but leaders are bracing themselves for an uncertain future as resentment continues to grow over political restrictions, an influx of foreigners and high cost of living. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Singapore is marking its 50th anniversary of independence with a weekend of celebrations.

As fighter jets screamed through the sky and nationalist songs blared, leaders made speeches and people took advantage of free rides on trains and buses.

"This is a milestone. Coming from an older generation that has seen Singapore through the early years of independence, I know it took hard work by our leaders to get here," said William Nathan, 70.

The weekend of celebrations culminates with fireworks after a military parade today. The sense of unity and pride in Singapore's achievements was reinforced with a tribute video dedicated to its founder and longest-serving leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March at the age of 91, after running a virtually one-party state.

To Lee and his cohort of leaders, setting Singapore on the path to economic success meant putting in place tough policies to try to harmonise a racial mix of majority Chinese and minority Malays and Indians.

Lee, who was prime minister for more than three decades, had no tolerance for political dissent. Opposition figures were either defeated in elections or taken to court on defamation charges until they were bankrupt. The country's laws prohibit bankrupts from contesting elections.

His son, current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, is now steering Singapore with similar restrictions, and is facing a general election expected to be held on September12. The ruling People's Action Party, which holds 80 of 87 parliamentary seats, suffered its worst results in 2011 elections.

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