A Visionary Like No Other

The granddaddy of Singapore passed at 3.18am on the 23rd of March 2015.

Thanks to the 16 hour time difference between CAD and SG, I was able to be one the first to read the news. It came as a rude shock to me; I basically sat at my desk for a full half hour feeling a heavy weight on my chest. Being so far away, my first thought was ” I wanted to be in SG when it happened. I wanted to be there for his public service”.  I didn’t full-out wail and crumble to the floor as one does when a dear one passes, but I firmly believe everyone has his/her own way of grieving.Just because I didn’t cry doesn’t mean I’m emotionless. Trust me, it hurts more when you keep the grief inside. Mr Lee was a silent, omnipresent part of every Singaporean’s lives, including mine. He exuded so many different auras simultaneously; he was the caring leader that we respected and adored; he was the loving father and husband to a blissful family and he was last but not least, the no-nonsense politician who never shied away from unpopular policies for his own image. No, despite the retorts of protests and critiques he got from others, he stood firm to his beliefs, trusting that his judgement would carry Singapore far. We, the majority, trusted him too. He never failed us. Not once.


Growing up, we learnt about Singapore’s history in our curriculum and he was an integral part of it. Personally, if one were to ask me, I could rattle off the top of my head all the things Mr Lee did for Singapore. Yet, I saw him more as a “cute, old man”, much like i said of my grandfather and other seniors. It’s a bit hard to express the exact notion in writing; I knew what he had done, I knew its greatness, I definitely never took it lightly, yet it was never the first thing that popped to my mind when his name came up. I guess in way, I took his hard work too lightly. [ chastises self ].

What I DO remember was fiercely protecting and guarding my support of him and the PAP when several classmates said that ” I don’t like Lee Kwan Yew”. I distinctly remember challenging a girl in my school, asking her why she didn’t like him. I expected a semi-reasonable and thoughtful answer. Well, as thoughtful and reasonable as 15 year old’s can be anyway. She simply said “Because my parents don’t like him”. My eyes rolled so far back they almost sank permanently into my skull. Being a hot-tempered person I launched into an extensive tirade about how she was being stupid and immature and that she was like a sheep following the herd. I don’t oppose people who don’t like Mr Lee if they can give a reasonable answer. Thoughtlessly following the troupe is not exactly an intellectually reasonable move.

Lee Kuan Yew Young Taken from: http://the-works.net/tag/lee-kuan-yew-wikiquote

When the initial news came out on Feb 5 2015 that Mr Lee was hospitalised, I was barely worried. “He’s Mr Lee; he’s like Superman. He’ll be alright, you’ll see.” Never for the slightest moment did I ever think that it would end up like this. I knew he was getting old and I was well aware of the harsh reality that everyone, no matter how strong or successful, must die one day. I knew this with conviction; an unlikely combination of science and personal experience had taught me this cruel reality. Yet, I always figured “not this year, he’s still strong, he can do it!”. I was wrong. You see, understanding the theoretical concept of old age and death is one thing; accepting that Mr Lee was similarly bound to the physical laws of life and death was not on the books. He seemed immortal and immune to the wear and tear of time.

Solidly middle-class, he suffered through the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. He fought his way to Raffles Institution, where he studied among the best and brightest in Singapore before he was given a place at Cambridge University, graduating with a rare Double First Class Honours. He is the only known leader that was able to raise a country from third-world to first world within a single generation. He eloped with his wife to England where they were married while in university, had successful children, built one of the most successful nations in the world, and still found the time to take his grandchildren to the zoo. Truly awesome, and I do mean awesome in the literal sense.

Parents constantly worry if their child will grow up successfully; I know my parents have this worry. Mr Lee had to worry for the entire nation that was Singapore. With the same standards used to judge good parenting, I dare say Mr Lee did a damn good job. Economically stable, healthy reserves, low corruption, low tax rates, high standard of living… I could go on but one gets the idea. I’ve been an ardent supporter of Mr Lee from a young age. My parents used to give me articles and books to read about him; that’s how I learnt of what he did for Singapore.

I’ve heard people say how Mr Lee ruled Singapore like a dictatorship in the early days; I think he was right to do so. Given the vulnerability of Singapore’s situation, the people were not ready for a full blown democracy.Democracy had to be introduced in parts. People also retort that we could probably have succeeded even without Mr Lee. really? Can you really confidently say that without guilt kicking you in the gut for it? Of course there’s a possibility it could happen, but those chances are as slim as hitting on an oil field in Singapore: rare. Given the extreme success in the development of Singapore, it’s a lot more plausible that another leader could have led Singapore to its grave and ruin. People complain about his work whilst basking in the comforts of their government subsidised flats, enjoying an economic free market and low personal income tax rates. Had Mr Lee lost to the Communists in the early days of Singapore, would we have all this to enjoy? Would we be able to go to buffets and go shopping? Would we be able to even lust or buy a Chanel Boy Bag? No offense to Chanel, it was the first luxury brand I thought of.  To say that “I’ve always supported Mr Lee” makes me sound like a bit of a bootlicker, but I’m not ashamed. It’s the cold, hard truth.

Yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook from an acquaintance saying things like “I’m sick and tired of seeing news about Mr Lee, isn’t it enough?” and “a week of mourning is way too long”. To which I can only say: Shame on you, I’m unfriending you. The blasphemy of it all. Making these kinds of comments without realising everything they have in front of them is a product of his labour seems to just show badly on these people. Disclaimer here, I’m totally not expecting them to turn into ardent fans of Mr Lee overnight; I just think they should respect and objectively acknowledge that he’s done a great job. Even world leaders that criticise Singapore’s lack of total freedom of speech and press freedom acknowledge that Mr Lee is a true visionary and a extraordinary politician.

Taken from: http://lovevsdreamz.blogspot.ca/

Last Sunday, Singapore lost a father; a pillar of support; a source of strength. No doubt, Singapore will continue to prosper at the helm of his son  Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, but 23/03/2015 will forever be a date etched in the hearts of all Singaporeans: it marks the day we lost our benefactor, our inspiration and our motivation. It marks the day Mr Lee let go of our hands to join his true love in the heavens above. From here on out, we have to run by ourselves; no more can we run with him looking out for dangers ahead for us; no more can we live as complacently under the false premise of comfort; no more can we take for granted that he will help us if we mess up.  It marks the day Singaporeans truly wake up and use his passing as a driving force to make Singapore more successful; so that he and Mrs Lee may see Singapore’s continued growth and success, smiling from the realms above.

I thought writing this would make me feel better about this loss; instead, it just reminds me of how much thoughts and words I have bottled up in me that I wish I could have said to him, given the chance. It’s also rekindling this fire within me; it’s not explainable, I don’t know what I’m going to use it for; I just know I’m going to use him as an inspiration.

Lee Kuan Yew Famous Life Quotes

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