When I first learnt of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing, the feelings of sadness did not overcome me instantly, unlike how it did for my mother. Rather, there was a particular empty feeling, knowing that such an important man in Singapore’s history had left us.
Maybe it was because I was born in the 90’s, when Singapore was already bearing fruit of the seeds Mr Lee and his team had sown; unlike my parents who had experienced the tumultuous periods of growing up when Mr Lee was then Prime Minister.
Growing up, I did not have the chance of meeting this honourable man in person. Instead, it was usually during the National Day celebrations, when the camera would pan to show him on-screen. I would stare intently at him, hearing the commentary on how Mr Lee had given up so much of his life in the course of building this nation.
Most of my initial impressions of Mr Lee were mainly how he ruled with an iron fist, clamping down on his political opponents and even strictly controlling the media, even up till today. Many who belong to the younger generation of Singapore frequently lament on how there is limited freedom of speech here, compared to the countries in the West.
But thank you Mr Lee for having that courage to have made so many unpopular decisions back then, when Singapore was still in her infancy. For without someone with that grit, Singapore will not be as orderly and prosperous as She is today, where people have roofs over their heads, a city with limited crime and where everyone of different races and religions can live in unison.
Over the last few days, watching memoirs of Mr Lee on-screen and reading write-ups of his life online as well as in the newspapers, it gradually occurred to me that he was not completely authoritative.
Once, Mr. Lee had an interview with Leonard M. Apcar, deputy managing editor of the International Herald Tribune. He mentioned of his disapproval of casinos but due to the changing world environments, Singapore had to keep up by having casino resorts of her own, leading to the opening of the 2 Integrated Resorts in 2010.
He was a truly adaptive man, who altered his decisions based on global scenarios and was never locked on one specific ideology when leading the country. What we can be sure of is that all he had done was for the betterment of Singapore and her people.
We may not agree with some of his policies especially since how times have changed from the 50’s. The population now compared to our forefathers’ is a more educated one. Decisions, which have worked in the past, may not necessarily work now. Singapore, in my opinion is still a country far from perfect; there are still lots to be done.
As Singaporeans, we can only promise to continue to work hard in our various fields, like how our forefathers once did. To continue living in harmony with one another and build on the solid foundation they have laid, to make Singapore an even better place to live in.
All of us are indebted to Mr Lee in our own ways and even though he may no longer be with us, even though I can never see him wave the Singapore flag or mouth the words of “Home”, come August 9th each year, we know that Mr Lee will definitely be watching over us from above.
Thank you Mr Lee for all that you have done, your story lives on and so do you in our hearts.