On Monday, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away. The days that followed proved to be what was like a crash course of Singapore history and Mr Lee’s legacy.
I’m very sure I’m not the only one who was reading article after article about Mr Lee. Whether it was about him as a union advisor, a lawyer, an international negotiator, a political party founder, a prime minister, a senior minister, a minister mentor, a father, a brother or a husband, resources to find out more about him were and are still, endless.
I read with interest and found myself building even more respect for the man that many have come to call the founding father of independent Singapore. He was born pre-world war 2, survived world war 2, got educated and gained great insight with regards to politics. With his life experiences, he shaped the laws and policies that eventually brought Singapore to the state it is in today.
I loved the articles written by Ms Lee Wei Ling, daughter of the late Mr Lee. Those articles suddenly made the first prime minister of Singapore very human, very much like a commoner. He was a father who was very committed to his work but he always made time for family. He cares about his children and allowed them to pursue their dreams. He wanted nothing but the best for his children, just like any other parent.
Of course, as with any leader, Mr Lee Kuan Yew had his opponents and naysayers too. Even in his death, certain people have come forward, making videos, writing articles about what they thought Mr Lee did wrong or did badly. These videos and articles unforgivingly took Mr Lee to task about many things.
I avoided these videos and articles as much as I could. It wasn’t because I was a die-hard Lee Kuan Yew fan. It was because I knew, whether true or not, Mr Lee probably wouldn’t be the only leader with haters. This was not a time for this.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew believed in a lot of things. He believed in creating a multi-racial society, in compulsory education, in bilingualism, in health care benefits, in creating affordable housing for every Singaporean, in creating our own water sources and in creating a garden city that is clean and green. He believed in putting an end to corruption, in imposing strict laws and in creating a safe country.
Some of the policies he implemented were not so popular with Singaporeans. But again, how many leaders of a country could please everyone? What made Mr Lee great? Well, he was not a people pleaser. He just did what he thought was best. Looking at how far Singapore has come, how can we not acknowledge that he was right most of the time?
As a girl growing up in Singapore, I never understood how precious what we have in Singapore is, until I got to travel and live overseas. In certain countries, I met people who acted like seeing a Chinese person like me was like seeing an alien. I lived in cities where there were areas that even the police tried not to step foot on. Crime is rampant in these areas and anything can happen.
I remember taking a road trip with friends, while living overseas, and because of a wrong turn, we wound up in an area where we immediately knew we had to get out of quickly. We checked the car doors and made sure they were locked. Fear struck us because we knew anyone could shoot us at any time. That kind of fear is something I don’t feel in Singapore.
The state that Singapore is today, gives me hope for my children. Yes we may complain that things are expensive, but with all the subsidies, the government tries to help and push Singaporeans along. Whether it is enough, is a subjective matter but we know help is there.
My children are born in a country that is a healthcare hub of the ASEAN region. They will receive world class education in a country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world. All that to me, as a parent, means everything.
Love him or hate him, no Singaporean should deny how far Mr Lee Kuan Yew has brought us as a nation. He lived and breathed the needs and development of Singapore.
While watching the ‘live’ telecast of the state funeral, I couldn’t help but cry. I stood up as the siren went off, starting the one minute of silence. I said the pledge with my right fist on my heart. I sang our national anthem.
Sure, I didn’t know him personally. Nor have I ever met him. But all that he had done for Singapore made him like a grandfather to me.
As we bid our first prime minister farewell today, may we look to tomorrow with the values that Mr Lee Kuan Yee has left with us. We are One people, one nation, we are Singapore. Regardless of language, race, or religion, we are Singaporeans first.
Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew. May you rest in peace.
For the rest of us, Majulah Singapura!