Monday, March 23, 2015

"to many Singaporeans, and indeed others too, Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore"

Like a child who has lost his/her father, Singapore weeps.
But we need only "look around us" (as former Foreign Minister George Yeo pointed out) or look within ourselves as products of Singapore, to remember his legacy forever more.
(photo credit: Ministry of Communications and Information)

It is probably extremely difficult for others around us to truly understand the loss that we Singaporeans feel at this time.
As I explained to my coworkers why I chose to work from home today (so that I can mourn in peace), I can only imagine how puzzling that may sound to them - mourning the loss of a person who I have never met in my whole life/who is not directly related to me.
Sure I explained to them that he is the founding father of Singapore but since most countries have a long history, founding fathers don't really mean much to the citizens of most countries.
But for Singapore that is turning a young age of 50 this year, a founding father for us means much more.
(photo taken from the web)

Even though I had never met Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, I feel closer to him than can ever be comprehended because of the simple luxuries I have enjoyed up to this point that have been made possible because of his vision and lifelong work.
Education, proper housing, transportation and even clean running water were things that were considered luxuries back in the early days of Singapore (1960s).
Post-war Singapore was a red dot on the world map with no natural resources and no national identity.
Looking at the modern city today that you see with the highest standard of living in the world, you would never have guessed.
We would not be where we are today without Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
In a 2007 interview with the New York Times, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew articulated it best, "To understand Singapore and why it is what it is, you've got to start off with the fact that it's not supposed to exist and cannot exist. To begin with, we don't have the ingredients of a nation, the elementary factors: a homogeneous population, common language, common destiny. So, history is a long time. I've done my bit."

My parents' generation and my grandparents lived through the transformation of Singapore from third-world to first-world and as for my generation, we were the direct benefactors of that transformation.
Singaporeans my age are well-educated and can travel to almost every country in the world without a visa because of the strong relationships Mr. Lee had with the leaders of the world.
Many world leaders sought his advice on how they should shape their policies.
He was a brilliant man who was highly respected by many.
He put Singapore on the map and for foreigners who are always impressed that Singaporeans speak such good English, are bilingual and can carry ourselves so well, I say to you that you are looking straight at the products of the Singapore he built.

Singapore was always on his mind and he was always anxious about our survival as a country.
He was concerned about the lives of each individual Singaporean.
I love this story that Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah shared about him, "One thing which lasted as a memory is that during the Sars period, when everybody was very concerned about the temperature taking, the infection control and all the rest of it, one question he asked was, 'what about the taxi drivers? How is this affecting their ability to earn a living?' Because he knew that people were reluctant to go on public transport or to take taxis, That struck me quite deeply because in the midst of all the big picture planning, he did not forget the common man."
(photo taken from the web)

In 1965 when Singapore obtained its independence, the people feared because of the unpredictable future ahead.
He too must have felt anxious and worried but yet he never allowed himself the time to fear because he knew that the lives of the Singaporean people were in his hands, "There is nothing to be worried about it. Many things will go on just as usual. But be firm, be calm. We are going to have a multi-racial nation in Singapore.., Everybody will have his place: equal; language, culture, religion." And that he did do indeed - build a uniquely multi-racial country where people of different races live in peace and are offered the same opportunities in life.
he wept but then he composed himself and comforted and reassured the people of Singapore

As I've pondered on and continued to mourn the loss of this courageous and selfless man, the song, "One People. One Nation. One Singapore." keeps coming to my mind.
He built this Singapore and gave us this national identity.
We mourn together and stand together as proud Singaporeans during this emotional time.
Mr. Lee said at a grassroots event in 1965, "This country belongs to all of us. We made this country from nothing, from mud-flats... Over 100 years ago, this was a mud-flat, swamp. Today, this is a modern city. Ten years from now, this will be a metropolis. Never fear!"
It is difficult and heart-wrenching to have to imagine a Singapore without Mr. Lee Kuan Yew but we will carry on his legacy and never fear!
(photo taken from the web - Mr. Lee Kuan Yew at last year's National Day celebrations)

A million thank yous cannot even come close to expressing our gratitude for his lifelong work, "I have no regrets. I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There's nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life."
Rest well, you have done so much.
(photo credit: straits times)

#RememberingLeeKuanYew #TributeToLeeKuanYew #ThankYouLeeKuanYew #RIPLeeKuanYew #NoYewNoUs #ProudToBeASingaporean

So if I'm emotional over the next week or so, I apologize in advance and seek your understanding during this difficult time of mourning for us Singaporeans.


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