Lee Kuan Yew died at his home in Singapore on the early morning of March 23, 2015, at age 91. It is extremely difficult to write a monograph on Mr Lee and his legacy. Mr Lee’s numerous accomplishments, which have been observed as the architect of modern Singapore, are frequently subjects to criticism. It’s critical not to exaggerate his accomplishments in order to acknowledge his significant contributions to our nation.
In 1954, Mr Lee co-founded the People’s Action Party (PAP). In 1959, when Singapore became self-governing, Mr Lee served as her first Prime Minister. He resigned from the Premiership in 1990 to allow Mr Goh Chok Tong, then the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister, to assume leadership. Over his 31-year administration, Singapore has moved from third to first-world status.
In this era, there were several stories about how Singapore went from swamp to metropolis. Raffles Place was already a functioning commercial centre and the banking industry was beginning to thrive by the 1950s when Mr Lee was Prime Minister. The Singapore Improvement Trust, for example, constructed public housing estates such as Marine Parade in the early days of Singapore’s history. The last of which, Tiong Bahru, has been preserved and reinvented today. By the late 1950s, sections of Singapore’s first satellite town, Queenstown, were already constructed.
Lee Kuan Yew, on the other hand, was the helmsman who guided Singapore through stormy seas. He made big judgments in trying times, such as when merging with Malaysia, separating, building the nation, and trekking toward independence. During Singapore’s most vulnerable post-separation years, he identified economic, national security, and the terrible public housing situation as key issues.
Naturally, Mr Lee didn’t accomplish all of this on his own. His first and second Cabinet teams had a great ship crew in the form of capable ministers. His capable second in command was Mr Toh Chin Chye. Mr S Rajarathnam served as the Minister for Culture and later as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, fostering international ties with other countries and world leaders. The then-Minister for Finance, Mr Goh Keng Swee, started the Economic Development Board to facilitate foreign investment in Singapore. He also served as the Minister for Interior and Defence in 1967, when National Service was established.
Mr. Lee was given the unenviable job of taskmaster. He was far more than simply the thinking guy on which he was so often complimented. He was also the tough guy when it came to closing a sale. He cleared the path of obstructions, at times with a heavy-handed approach, to enable other equally brilliant leaders to put in place and implement ideas with minimal opposition.
Mr Lee didn’t just invest his heart into the single mission of restoring Singapore. He was a man who knew what he wanted and fought for it. He had dedicated his life to the cause.
His death resulted in a seven-day period of mourning, from March 23 to March 29, 2015. Tributes have poured in, whether in physical condolence books attribute locations or on social media platforms, but counterarguments have also emerged. The benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks. It might be difficult to separate fact from fiction in grief. However, there should be no doubt that much of what Singapore has accomplished today would not have been achieved without Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the helm.
The greatest tribute has been the display of active citizenship and ground initiatives by Singaporeans, who have engaged in a range of humanitarian acts throughout the national grief week. From the florist who gave away his flowers to the general public as sacrificial offerings to numerous local businesses that provided umbrellas and beverages to those in line waiting to pay their respects, and individuals who volunteered as ushers to help guide others well-wishers, this active citizenship is unique.
The weeklong period of national mourning has shown that the Lee Kuan Yew legacy is people: those who care for each other, those who are active participants in their communities, and those who will continue to shape Singapore’s future together. Over time, the night sky fades away and a new day rises up. Mr Lee has bequeathed us a legacy to ensure that the next morning is brighter than today.