Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Tomorrow I plan to do something I rarely do - I am going to join thousands of Singaporeans in bidding farewell to our first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Parliament House.

The one quality that I admire most about Lee Kuan Yew is “perspicacity”.  This is the ability to judge and understand people and situations. To me, it includes the ability to see into the future.
I think it was Confucius who said; “If a man takes no thought for what is distant, he will find sorrow close at hand”. I believe that, had it not been for Lee Kuan Yew’s perspicacity and his constant preoccupation with Singapore’s future, we Singaporeans could be facing a very different kind of sorrow today, as we mourn the passing of this great man.

Lee Kuan Yew was a great orator. As a young man, I listened to all his speeches. The speech that I remember best was the one he made in 1971 in Helsinki at the General Assembly of the International Press Institute. (Actually it was not so much his speech as his handling of the reporters’ questions after the speech that impressed me). I recall that at that time, we were facing much criticism by the Western press because of our government’s perceived suppression of press freedom. Many advised him not to accept the invitation to speak at this event as he was bound to be thrashed by the hostile gathering of his ‘enemies’.  

But as this Chinese idiom goes; “明知山有虎,偏向虎山 (to venture into the mountain knowing that there are tigers lurking there), he went anyway. And instead of being mauled by the fearsome tigers, he had them eating out of his hand like docile pussycats. Such was the persuasiveness of the man and the strength of his arguments. Watching his masterly performance made me feel proud to be a Singaporean.

6 comments:

Brian Mitchell said...

Whilst the press comments and obituaries here in the UK have not shied away from commenting on the less attractive aspects of LKY's reign the extraordinary achievements of Singapore under his charge cannot be denied. History will certainly judge him to have been one of the most successful leaders in the post WW2 period anywhere in the world. There were some serious downsides but let me add one very important upside - his clamping down on corruption which is a major problem in so many developing economies, not least in China

Chun See Lam said...

Brian. There are many things that we do in Spore, even in the 21st century that would be considered barbaric by your countrymen; such as the death penalty and caning of children by parents.

Evelyn Lim said...

Dearest Mr Lee Kuan Yew,
You are our Beacon.
You are our Guardian Angel.
You are our Benefactor
Please take away all illness from your son, Lee Hsien Loong and let him be healthy and live to guide the peopie like what you did.
May you go in peace to the Heavenly Realm and Bless All.
Thank you and Good bye.

From Evelyn Lim

Tom Brown said...

Tom said...
I am sorry to hear that Lee Kuan yew has pass on and may God bless him what he has done for Singapore and world , as I said before Chun See, I admired him when I saw him , may he R.i.P

HC said...

You've piqued my interest on that 1971 Helsinki speech and Q&A session. Do you have a transcript of it or hyperlinks?

Chun See Lam said...

http://journalism.sg/lee-kuan-yews-1971-speech-on-the-press/

As I said, it was how he handled the questions that was truly impressive.

If my memory serves me, towards the end of the Q&A, they were so fascinated by him, that they started to ask about personal questions and his views of things of life.

I hope I have not confused this with another occasion; but I think he ended the session by speculating that had his ancestors not emigrated to Spore, he could well be a farmer eking out a living in some remote village in China.