Mr Lee Kuan Yew
How many people have the ability to be a talking point on mainstream and social media networks internationally? Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away in the early hours on 23 March 2015. Singaporeans woke up to this piece of sober news. His name floated about in the minds of many, as they go through the day. Few doubted if it is another wave of rumours. Since 2012, news of his death constantly popped up. With a week of consecutive notices issued, confirming he was in worsening conditions, this piece of news could be a sigh of relief.
Surprisingly, more details of what the late Mr Lee did in his younger days are only made known now than when he was alive. I even came across a plot where Mr Lee challenged the CIA of the United States of America and exposed the bribe that was offered to him. Many leaders and pioneers paid tributes and commented on his achievements. There are others who painted him a tyrant and told of stories on how he had wronged many people when he ruled Singapore with an iron fist. Mr Lee was not just a founding father of Singapore, his wisdom and leadership were scrutinised and even applied in other part of the world. I was told that I can even find a city in China that modelled after Singapore’s infrastructure. Many world leaders look up to him. In the last few years, Mr Lee had spoken little. Each word was carefully hung on to. In many homes in Singapore, a memoir of Mr Lee can be found on their bookshelf. I am sure from now on, that corner will start to be filled with a few more books on the same subject and will almost become an altar for the late Mr Lee.
I grew up knowing Mr Lee as the Prime Minister of Singapore. Even when the subsequent prime ministers succeeded him, I always know that Mr Lee’s invisible hold on the country remains invincible. The tough foundations instigated for the country help set its economy onto an upward trajectory. A barren island which was abandoned and considered a burden is now the most expensive city to live in. All these happened in less than 50 years. As the nation prepares to celebrate her 50th birthday in August, many Singaporeans hope that the late Mr Lee is able to witness this day and be there to grace the main national day parade. Alas, he left early, before the rehearsals begin.
I have lived in other countries by choice and in Sydney for last 5 years. In 2014, I was back, living in Singapore, as I had to be in Asia more for work. Throughout the year, I attended some national events like the National Day Parade and one of the Formula One Races. In those moments, being absorbed into the celebratory atmosphere, the pride of being a Singaporean ignited in me. The opening verses from We Are Singapore were echoing in my heart. I was fortunate to be travelling internationally for a bit in the last 20 months. Whether I was in big cities or small towns, whenever I mentioned I am a Singaporean, nobody questioned her geographical location. In fact, there were only praises and admirations for Singapore. Quite a few people mentioned Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
There was a time when people said that Singapore won’t make it, but we did.
There was a time when troubles seemed too much for us to take, but we did.
Towards the end of 2014, I was at a cross road and I made the decision to live outside of Singapore. Even when I was only in Singapore for 50% or less time, my heart yearned to be away. I always have my frustrations with Singapore and her ways of life. I fully recognise the accolades Singapore has accumulated and the great number of foreigners would want to live here. Even though I know I will miss some of the conveniences, I was set to return to live in Australia. I do not despise Singapore. In fact, I am thankful to be a Singaporean. Growing up in elitist Singapore was not easy, but I was trained well. For one who travels, a Singaporean passport eliminates a lot of processes.
As I typed this article in my rented apartment in downtown Sydney, rattling on the successful Singapore, Mr Lee’s efforts has built, I really do not know what my true response should be. From the moment I read the news of the passing of Mr Lee till now, I have been feeling quite indifferent. I did my national duty to join the mourning atmosphere on my Facebook. I recognised the great works done by Mr Lee, yet I want to see a new and relevant management style for Singapore. Mr Lee had brought Singapore from obscurity to a world-renowned modern city. Whether he and his ethics were good, bad or both, he definitely deserves some credits and my respect.
We built a nation, strong and free, reaching out together for peace and harmony.