This morning I woke up to the sad news of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s passing. Although he had been unwell and hospitalized since February, with his frail condition and declining health seemingly irreparable, yet, the broadcast of his death still tugged at my heart. Singapore woke up a grieving nation bereaved of her founding father; the world has lost another legendary statesman.
I met Mr. Lee Kuan Yew as a young student in Singapore back in 1993. We had a great dialogue with the then ‘Senior Minister’. He was simply introduced as “Mr. Lee” – no long titles and honorifics; no showy outfit but a simple long-sleeved shirt and trousers; no large entourage of followers and bodyguards. For a celebrated former Prime Minister and as the country’s father of independence, Mr. Lee’s appearance and demeanor impressed deeply upon me; it was quite unlike what I often saw on Malaysian television of our local politicians.
But what impressed me more was the content of Mr. Lee’s answers to our questions – his remarks were rational, well-structured, intelligent, and showed clarity and depth of thought. His speech was peppered with wit, but without rhetoric, theatrics, and malice. A man’s speech is a window to his thoughts; and his thoughts are indicators of his character. In that instant, I had a glimpse of a visionary man with a deep sense of public duty and strong personal integrity – qualities that are rare for people in power for so long.
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew put a life-time’s effort in developing Singapore. In so doing, he galvanized and stirred many of his colleagues and countrymen to strive as hard in nation-building.
I am happy that the successful nation Mr. Lee Kuan Yew endeavoured to build is turning 50 this year; but at the same time saddened that Singapore will be celebrating its jubilee without him. But the good that a man does lives after him. Mr. Lee’s spirit lives on in a nation that continues to uphold the ethos of diligence, discipline, harmonious co-existence, and meritocracy.
I wish to express my deepest condolence to the bereaved first family, and our Singaporean friends on the loss of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew – a true statesman and inspiring legend indeed. Now, as they say, ‘he belongs to eternity’. Let us live on courageously, and be worthy of his legacy.