On 23rd March 2015, Singapore lost its founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The nation grieved for a week over his passing. No doubt, it was an emotional scene that moved even some of the toughest hearts out there to want to pay their respects to LKY in some way. Coming from a generation that had basically everything put in place when we were born, most of us failed to appreciate what LKY and the PAP did for Singapore. I remembered that during the last general elections when I was doing my General Paper in Millennia Institute, we had to study a little bit about the politics of Singapore. It was my first time ever – studying Singapore’s politics. I am not one that’s ever been interested in politics but I’ve always known what constituted a good government. After writing that particular paper on the politics of Singapore, I remembered in my reflections that there can never be a perfect governement and the grass is not always greener on the other side. While it would be nice to have the arts culture broadened and thriving here in Singapore, and to have a more stress-free environment, a slower pace of life, cheaper cost of living and all that, I would still choose being able to walk safely at night over these things any day. Yes, he ruled with an iron fist but that’s because Singapore was lost after the split from Malaysia. Our streets were dirty, we were a third world country. But this man had a vision and he worked hard to see it happen. I highly doubt he did it for his own glory, for the sake of being known as a hero, I think he did it because Singapore needed a leader and this man cared deeply for the people of Singapore and wanted us to rise up. He couldn’t do it without the firmness, and look how far we’ve come today. It’s always difficult to be in the position of power and leadership – there will be supporters and there will definitely be people who oppose. But to me, what makes a good leader is one who knows exactly what he’s doing, who cares deeply and passionately for why he does it and for the benefit of not himself but those around him, who is humble and does not ever give up even after he his time as leader is over. As many of you have heard in the eulogies in yesterday’s state funeral, or read in the papers, Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew raised their children to never think they should be treated differently just because they are the Prime Minister’s children. They lived simply and humbly in Oxley Road. He believed in that equality.
Mr Lee’s younger son, Lee Hsien Yang, delivered a very heartfelt eulogy. He addressed LKY as Papa. He spoke of LKY on a very human and personal level unlike everyone else who spoke of what LKY has done. It was his and Lee Hsien Loong’s eulogy and the many moments they tried to hold back their tears, that really touched me and made me cry too. We never knew this about LKY because we always appeared so strong, and determined, but Lee Hsien Yang’s eulogy spoke of what a man LKY was to have loved his family so fiercely, so devotedly – he showed us LKY’s softer side. He was the nation’s Papa, but he was their father. I didn’t think LKY’s death would cause some kind of emotional impact on me. Sure, I thought highly of the man because of the stories I’ve heard, but I didn’t grow up during his reign and I didn’t witness firsthand the ways in which he built Singapore. I thought his death wouldn’t sadden me that much. I can understand why it would affect the older generation, but yesterday – both young and old stood by the streets, drenched by the heavy rain, just to say one final goodbye to our dear founding father, LKY. This scene moved my heart so much. The fact that it was raining yesterday and that it was Palm Sunday added to the mood. It was as if the heavens were crying with us and the rainbow at the end was as if LKY was greeting us one last time. Waving the palms at mass yesterday was not only symbolic of how Jesus was welcomed back then, but yesterday in particular, waving that palm at mass was also a symbol of saying goodbye to LKY.
I do not know how Singapore will continue to grow and develop after losing our founding father who never stopped guiding us. I believe in the competency of our current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong. My only hope is that LKY’s legacy lives on, that his hard work will not go down the drain and that the younger generation will take some time to learn the history of Singapore and learn to appreciate what LKY has done for us. He wasn’t a perfect leader, he admitted his flaws, but he was great. Great is enough for me. As Singapore turns 50, it’s milestone age, I pray that we will always remain as good as we are now or grow to be even better and stronger as a nation.
I never thought I would live to see a day where Singaporeans unite and actually stand proud and admit openly how proud they are to be a Singaporean. I guess when it all comes down to it, like a spoilt child that complains about not getting what they want from their parents, but cares for their parent nonetheless; we, too as a nation took the week to mourn over LKY’s passing and remembering the good he has done for us and this nation. It was such an emotional sight. Rest in peace, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you once again for leading our country and raising it to such high standards. The fact that people around the world are offering us their condolensces and paying their respects to you from around the globe, really shows your impact as a leader and as a man. We grieve deeply and we will remember you for all time for more generations to come.