Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: the founding father of modern Singapore

Today, I’d like to honour the beauty of a man’s life – a life lived in service for the betterment of his country, and for the sake of a better life for his countrymen: Mr. Lee Kuan Yew

A portrait of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew - Ong Yi Teck
(Credits: Ong Yi Teck // @friedricebucket)

Growing up, I was careful to avoid affiliations with any ideologies (political or otherwise), opting to be as disengaged, neutral, and even apathetic at times because, as Eugene Ionesco put it,

“Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together.”

It was always more comfortable and easier for me to take the position of the occasional armchair critic – and in the spirit of maintaining neutrality as I saw it, I chose to avoid discussions with friends on politics, keeping my contributions to them brief or shallow, and switching subjects as soon as possible.

In my mind, national affairs were never a part of my concern.

The people who were featured in the papers, the G – you were the people charged with running the nation, constructing the policies and getting whatever you needed done – and as citizens, we’ve trusted you to do what you do well, and had faith that you acted in the best of our interests.

In your time, you were a famous figure, who frequently made the news, wherever you went.

You were the person we’d look forward to seeing during the National Day parades, as a distant grandfather figure.

You made waves when you thought through hard decisions, made bold judgment calls, and navigated us out of the tumultuous times, during our pre-Independence days.

You put the +65 in 1965.

You’re the reason why this island 1 degree north of the equator, a little red dot in most maps, has a large sphere of influence globally.

With the flooding of tributes, news reports, documentaries, videos and personal accounts from my elderly relatives, I now realise –

National affairs had never had to be a concern of mine, or any other Singaporean’s, because we knew that our confidence in you and The Cabinet were not misplaced.

You were always close by to keep a watch on things.
People with unsavoury agendas.
Integrity in the civil service.
Trees in our garden city.
Our water supply.
The cleanliness of the Singapore river… And the list goes on.

As affirmed by Mr. Lee Hsien LoongMr. Heng Swee Keat and many others who’ve worked for and with you, you worked tirelessly everyday to make sure that everything in Singapore worked. You did so out of a love for us people, and dedicated your entire life to our country, even at the cost of family time.

As Dr. Lee Wei Ling mentioned in an essay she penned, your attitude can be represented by the lines from Robert Frost’s poem, ‘Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening‘:

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.”

Will there be another orator with a mind as brilliant as yours? I’m sure.
Will we see another person with the mind of an executive, or a considerate architect, in running this country? Perhaps.
Will we have another person with a love of this country greater than the love of himself; is as equipped as you are, with a rich wealth of life experience to tap from; with a firm desire to make a difference for good, showing naysayers who disagree/misunderstand/challenge you that actions speak louder than words, with works that demonstrate the strength of your ideas and the purity of your intents? I doubt.

On 23 March 2015, Singapore lost a titan.

A respected, revered and firm leader of our nation.

A quiet, hard-working man, who guarded his private life from the glare of the outside world.

From what little we see in the news, you were a tender, loving and devoted husband – who was deeply in love with the love of your life, and held fast to the vow of marriage through the life you shared.


May your life continue to serve as a inspiration to us all.

Mr. Lee, we are grateful for all that you’ve done for our country, in taking us from Third World to World Class in such a short period of time. In your life, we see the very embodiment of our nation’s ideals. You are truly like no other.

When I began to write this post, I saw that it had begun to pour – it’s the first time I’ve witnessed such a heavy downpour in the week. And I thought of the thousands who were waiting in line for 8 – 12 hours, braving the elements to pay their respects, as you lie in state at Parliament House.

Perhaps these raindrops represent the collective tears of the bereaved – Singaporeans and kinsmen in other lands alike, as we mourn your passing and grieve as a nation.

By the end of this post, I see that the sun’s rays has returned, with the gentle filter of fluffy white clouds, and remain hopeful that our tenacious Singaporean spirit will prevail and remain ever steadfast.

Rest well Sir, we will continue the good work that you have started.



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