Lee Kuan Yew R.I.P

Lee 1_Kuan_Yew

Lee Kuan Yew, GCMG, CH (born Harry Kuan Yew, 16 September 1923 – 23 March 2015), commonly known by his initials LKY, was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, governing for three decades. He chose to step down in 1990 to ensure a stable leadership renewal. Lee is recognised as the founding father of modern Singapore, and is credited in bringing Singapore from third-world to first-worldstatus in a single generation. His successor, Goh Chok Tong, appointed Lee as Senior Minister in 1990. He then held the advisory post of Minister Mentor until 2011, created by his son, Lee Hsien Loong, when the latter became the nation’s third prime minister in 2004. In total, he held successive ministerial positions for 52 years, and then continued to serve his Tanjong Pagar constituency of 56 years as aMember of Parliament till the end.
lee 2Flags at half-staff at Singapore Management University following the death of Lee Kuan Yew
Flags at half-staff at Singapore Management University following the death of Lee Kuan Yew
Lee graduated from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, topping his cohort with a rare double starred-first-class honours in law; he received the Whitlock Prize. In 1950, he became a barrister of theMiddle Temple and practised law until 1959. Lee co-founded and was the first secretary-general of thePeople’s Action Party (PAP), leading it to eight consecutive victories. He campaigned for Britain to relinquish its colonial rule, merging with Malaysia in 1963; but racial strife and political tensions led to itsseparation from the Federation two years later. Leading a newly independent Singapore from 1965, with overwhelming parliamentary control, Lee led the nation through multiple upheavals in Southeast Asia and oversaw its transformation from a relatively underdeveloped colonial outpost with no natural resources to an Asian Tiger economy. In the process, he forged a widely admired system of meritocratic, corruption-free and highly efficient government and civil service, much of which is now taught at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, with an alumni from more than 80 countries.

Lee Kuan Yew was a visionary leader, incorruptible and non-ideological. He eschewed populist policies in favor of pragmatic long-term social and economic measures. With meritocracy and multiracialism as the nation’s foundations, Lee made English the common language to integrate its immigrant society and to facilitate trade with the west. But he also mandated bilingualism in schools so that students preserve theirmother-tongue roots and cultural identity. Lee personally donated $12 million to start a Fund for Bilingualism teaching in 2011, which drew further pledges of over $110 million in the first year. He also wrote two related books on his lifelong passion and challenge, Keeping My Mandarin Alive andSingapore’s Bilingual Journey. Besides exercising, eating and living simply, his noted work-discipline was best exemplified by his continued daily learning of Mandarin by personal tutors up to age 90.

Lee was a captivating orator, articulate in three languages – English, Mandarin Chinese and Malay – enabling him to reach the widest audience of the nation’s multi-racial, multi-cultural citizenry. His popularity and his country’s sustained economic growth during his tenure helped extend his single dominant-party control. However, his rule was criticised for curtailing civil liberties (public protests, media control) and bringing libel suits against political opponents. He argued that such autocratic-like measures were necessary for political stability, which together with rule-of-law, are essential for economic progress.

Lee is widely admired. President Obama called him a “true giant of history”. On his death, Prime Minister Modi declared a national day of mourning in India. Australia and New Zealand passed parliamentary motions to mourn Lee’s passing; Prime Minister Abbott said Lee’s advice spurred Australia at a critical time in its history. Lee was twice named one of Time’s Most Influential people – of the 20th Century in 1999, and of the new decade in 2010. Owing to his strategic and astute geo-political analysis, many world leaders sought his views, particularly on Asian affairs. Others, especially developing nations around the world, aspired to emulate his leadership and success on economic developments.

Lee’s achievements had a profound effect on China’s leadership, who made a major effort, first initiated by Deng Xiaoping, to emulate his policies of rapid economic growth, entrepreneurship and subtle suppression of dissent. His memoirs, The Singapore Story and From Third World to First continues to inspire many globally, having been translated into more than a dozen languages

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