Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Today, we bid farewell to the one who led Singapore to independence. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, passed away on 23rd March 2015 at 3.18am.

I would be a liar if I said I was filled with grieve and sorrow on hearing his passing. No, when I was born, he had already stepped down as Prime Minister and I have never experienced the “iron in him” as he once mentioned in his 1980 election rally. Although I have watched videos of him when he was at his peak, I have not once seen him delivering powerful speeches that were relevant to the context of my generation. And of course, as age caught up with him, the recent speeches and conferences he spoke in has no more aggression. He was visibly weakened, but nevertheless possessed unrivaled intelligence.

I respect Mr. Lee as a formidable figure. However, I was indifferent because I had no emotional attachment to him. My mother told me I shook hands with him when I was about 3 or 4 years old, when he came to my estate in Tiong Bahru. I had no recollection. Somehow, as the week progressed, I felt some emptiness. As social media began to flood with tributes to him, pictures of people queuing up for the Lying in State, I felt something. As I watched on the vigil guards, videos of his life, I felt something. As the news of Singapore’s national mourning got around the world, I felt a sense of pride. At the same time, I felt that we have lost someone very close. Emotions are contagious, scary huh?

I did not go down to the parliament house. It is true that if Mr. Lee could spend his entire life building this country for me, waiting for 10 hours is nothing. Like I said, I had no emotional connection with him. Practicality overcomes my emotions. To me, walking pass the casket for a mere few seconds will not communicate my respect and gratitude. Neither will posting his picture on Instagram convey the same message. It may not apply to many, but to the some who used this national mourning for likes, fame and nobility, you are not fit to pay respects to him. The most practical way to show it is passing down his legacy and mentioning this legendary historical figure to generations after generations, all over the world.

No doubt Mr. Lee had done things that pissed many people off. People have suffered during the tumultuous times, some due to his policies and his aggressiveness. However, which leader is perfect? He could not have satisfied everyone, and basic ethics tells us that the utilitarian approach is the best way to run a nation. He did it. So before anyone even thinks of criticizing Mr. Lee, ask yourself if you would be able to lead the transformation of Singapore into what she is today. I am not a fan of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, but I strictly condemn inappropriate comments made against him, especially during this national mourning period. Amos Yee, congratulations, you got what you want. Fame? Yes, now the whole country knows you, good luck to you.

It baffles me sometimes when I meet English educated or English speaking Chinese not using English names. I expect otherwise. However, this man answered me in his memoirs. Although the main reason could be garnering votes from the Chinese population, it was no doubt a preservation of his roots. Mr. Lee dropped his Anglicized name Harry in 1950. Also, he did not give English names to his children. He thought that there was no need to because they are all Chinese. I am impressed. He will never regret this decision. His first name “Kuan Yew”, in Chinese “光耀” means bringing honour. He did it!

Today marks an important date in world history, for Mr. Lee’s name will command admiration in every land. Also, in which other country have you seen so many people gathering to send their leader off, almost an entire 16km of road. Uniquely Singapore it is.

Actually the following is quite a touching video. Him giving kisses to his late wife… At 2:29 of the video, we see the life of a man in a flash, from a 2 year old baby boy to a 90 year old political veteran. I kept looking at the collage over and over again. This was the man who almost got executed by the Japanese somewhere between the 3rd and the 4th picture. This was the man who became the father of our current Prime Minister in the 6th picture. This was the man who was already a Prime Minister in the 7th picture…

I would like to repeat MG (NS) Chan Chun Sing’s words, “Singapore is small, but nobody dares to bully us. They tell us to jump, but we dare to say no. Because we can.” Why? Because our ah gong trained us so.

Thank you Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.


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