Seven Days of Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, Architect of Modern Singapore

Photo: Singapolitics

Photo: Singapolitics

Singapore is now mourning its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew who died from pneumonia on March 23rd, aged 91 years.  This towering giant of the region ruled his country for three decades overseeing the country’s independence from Britain (1963), its eventual separation from Malaysia (1965) and a miraculous transition from unpromising British outpost to one of the world’s richest nations by per capita measurement.

Cambridge educated Lee had a clear vision of the way forward for independent Singapore. The three ethnic groups (Chinese, Malay and Indian) should work together to create an industrious society like no other in the region. He was to say, ‘If we were just like our neighbours we would die.’

Although Singapore was to become a multi-party state, the cards were stacked against political opponents.  There has always been tight control of the press and, some would say, an occasionally inappropriate meddling in the lives of the people. There has never been any apology for this autocratic style and indeed Lee took the view that any leader of Singapore should have iron in him: and if not, he had better give up.

“If we were just like our neighbours we would die.”

– Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore’s strategic position along shipping lines improved prospects for the fledgling nation and, given the positive signals coming from Lee, the country would soon become an attractive destination for foreign direct investment. Before long, Singapore was making a name for itself in electronics manufacturing and the provision of financial services. The people would marvel at their rapidly improving standard of living and this has endured throughout global economic down-turns.

Announcing the passing, the current prime minister noted that, ‘to many Singaporeans, and indeed others too, Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore.’  He went on to say that the world would not see another man like him. Maybe not, but there will be a strong continuation of his style in Singapore because, perhaps inevitably, the prime minister who spoke these words, Lee Hsien Loong, is the son of the founder.

Few in Singapore would criticise the methods of government employed by LKY to create this dazzling economic success but perhaps there could now be a case for the country loosening up a little? Radical change is unlikely to come anytime soon and this, in any case, does not seem to be on the minds of the many. Most Singaporeans, now placing flowers in his memory, regard this man as their father. And he promised to rise from the grave if unhappy with the way things move forward after his departure.


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