Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Remembering a legend - RIP Lee Kuan Yew

Image Source: Painting by Mai Huy Dung

“You begin your journey not knowing where it will take you 
you have plans
you have dreams 
but every now and again you have to take uncharted roads 
face impassable mountains 
cross treacherous rivers 
be blocked by landslides and earthquakes. 
That’s the way my life has been.”

- Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew (1923 - 2015), the founding Prime Minister of Singapore spearheaded the transformation of the island nation from a small trading port to the thriving metropolis it is today. He made an impossible dream a reality. Along with his colleagues, he built a nation for over five decades which will remain as his lasting legacy.

Lee Kuan Yew was highly instrumental in shaping Singapore from the time he and his socialist party, the People's Action Party (PAP) rallied for self-government in the 1950's to their pursuit for a merger with the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the new nation Malaysia in the early 1960s and their formidable struggle to ensure Singapore's survival after independence was reluctantly thrust upon it on August 9th 1965. He believed in a unified Malaysia and a multiracial society and famously wept on national television when Singapore was separated from Malaysia. Daunting as it was to rebuild the city-state, he clung on to the motto "Never fear" and led a generation of Singaporeans to overcome the herculean challenges that came their way. He fought relentlessly against corruption and prompted policies such as public housing, home-ownership, racial integration and adopted English as a common language. Under his able leadership, from the ashes of separation emerged a prosperous nation. He holds the distinction of being the only leader in history to bring an entire country from third-world to first-world status in a single generation. By doing so, he planted the little red dot firmly on the world map. For a tiny island like Singapore with its sparse population, limited space and lack of natural resources, this has been an extraordinary achievement. His years in office were not without controversy, mostly regarding his iron-clad grip over the country, repressive measures to instil order, curtailing freedom of speech and unapologetic stance in demolishing his political adversaries. Yet, he will be regarded as a one-of-a-kind, respected and admired individual for generations to come. He will go down in history books as a dynamic leader, an inspirational figure and a hugely accomplished politician.

Having lived in Singapore for almost 10 years, I am no stranger to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's contribution towards nation-building. I was able to get a more comprehensive understanding after reading his remarkable autobiography, The Singapore Story (a book I would highly recommend). He has played a pivotal role in making Singapore a clean, green harmonious, prosperous and safe country to live in. It has been the quality of life here that converted us from expats to residents back in 2007. No where else in the world would I dare to venture out alone past midnight (which I have done on several occasions in the past). Singapore to me is my second home and when the day comes to pack my bags for good, I will leave with a heavy heart. This country has given me more than I could ever ask for and in a way, I am indebted to Mr Lee Kuan Yew for that. I was deeply saddened by the news of Mr Lee's demise yesterday and I would like to offer my profound condolences to PM Lee Hsien Loong and his family. 

RIP Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you for making Singapore such a global success story. Your place in history as an exemplary leader, radical thinker and visionary is assured. As Singapore gears up to celebrate its 50th birthday this August, your presence will be sorely missed.

"A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion and not position"

-John Maxwell


1 comment:

  1. I always wondered how Singapore could attain such a well deserved status in the world.
    After reading this I have a fairly good idea of how it came to be.
    Well written Megha.
    Wish other countries all over the world had such good leaders.


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