Mr. Lee Kuan Yew will continue to reign in our hearts
Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was a legend, and his passing is an irreparable loss to the nation. Nonetheless, he is survived by his legacy.
Here are 91 things we’ll always remember about Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.
1. World’s longest-serving Prime Minister
In 1959, Mr. Lee became Singapore’s first Prime Minister. When he stepped down as Prime Minister in 1990, he was the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister. However, he remained in the cabinest as Senior Minister and later, Minister Mentor.
2. LKY = PAP
When one thinks of PAP, one will also inevitably think of LKY. Vice versa.
3. Tanjong Pagar
Since 2 April 1955, Mr. Lee had represented Tanjong Pagar.
I had 25 Divisions to choose from when the P.A.P. nominated me to stand for elections. I chose Tanjong Pagar. The people of Tanjong Pagar has a right to know why.
Tanjong Pagar is a working class area. No other division has such a high proportion of workers, wage-earners, small traders and such a low proportion of wealthy merchants and landlords living in it.
I wanted to represent workers, wage earners and small traders, not wealthy merchants or landlords. So I chose Tanjong Pagar not Tanglin.
– Mr. Lee Kuan Yew in a March 1955 election speech
4. Representing trade unions
I began my political life by representing trade unions. I was a young legal assistant at the firm of Laycock & Ong, and the postmen were about to go on strike. I was asked to look after them. They went on strike. For two weeks, the union ding-donged in the press against the Commissioner for Posts representing the Colonial government on the merits of their case. I drafted their statements. Public sentiments swung towards the unions, and the Colonial government had to give way: higher wages and better terms and conditions of service, removal of thick printed red stripes on their trousers making them look like circus attendants. Because the union won, I was next briefed by the clerical union of Post & Telegraphs for their demands, which went to arbitration. Again the union won.
– Mr. Lee Kuan Yew
5. Implementing National Service
To build up her defence capability, Mr. Lee introduced compulsory conscription for all male able-bodies Singaporean citizens aged 18 and above.
6. The creation of NEWater
To reduce reliance on Malay for water supply, Mr. Lee started water recycling experiments in 1974. In 2002, Singapore’s first reclaimed water plant was commissioned, ensuring Singapore’s water self-sufficiency.
7. Crying on national TV
Because he is only human.
8. A loving husband
Beneath his facade as a leader lies a caring husband. Their 63-year love story was super touching.
9. An amazing orator
10. Admitting that the media is a mouthpiece of the government
11. The proud nanny
12. A war survivor
World War II, check. Sook Ching massacre, check.
13. Did not look at homosexuals through tinted glass
No it’s not a lifestyle. You can read the books you want, all the articles. You know that there’s a genetic difference. They are born that way and that’s that. So if two men or two women are that way, just leave them alone.
– Mr. Lee in Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going (2012)
14. A believer of eugenics
So when the graduate man does not want to marry a graduate woman, I tell him he’s a fool, stupid. You marry a non-graduate, you’re going to have problems, some children bright, some not bright. You’ll be tearing your hair out. you can’t miss. It’s like two dice. One is Jack, Queen, King, Ace, other also Jack, Queen, King, Ace. You throw a Jack, Queen, King, Ace against dice two, three, four, five, six, what do you get? You can’t get high pairs, let alone a full flush.
– Mr. Lee
15. Graduate Mother’s Scheme
In 1983, Mr. Lee was disturbed that a substantial number of graduate women remained unmarried and urged Singaporean men to pick highly educated women as their wives. He also perceived the phenomenon as “a serious social problem”.
16. Stop At Two
Mr. Lee introduced the Stop at Two family planning campaign in the late 1960s to counter Singapore’s growing population.
17. Implementing Certificate of Entitlement (COE)
I knew that once people in Singapore could have a car, they’d never give it up. So, before it got out of control, I said you need a Certificate Of Entitlement before a car is yours; and the permitted up-tick in number of cars depends on what the road capacity is. That was the first move. So, you bid for it. If you issue more entitlement certificates than is prudent, roads are jammed. Then a younger generation took over and says, well, why not have more cars and we charge them by usage on the roads instead of just purchase? I told them, okay, okay, have a car, have more cars! But once you’ve got a car, you will never give it up.
– Mr. Lee
18. Advocating high ministerial salary
Mr. Lee constantly emphasised “the need for a competitive ministerial pay to attract committed and capable people who will serve the country”, as he “always held to the belief that public servants need to be paid well, or they will succumb to corruption”.
19. Modern-day Robin Hood
In the Land Acquistion Act enacted in 1967, the government had the power to acquire private properties for public developmental purposes.
21. Being agnostic
Churchmen, lay preachers, priests, monks, Muslim theologians, all those who claim divine sanction or holy insights, take off your clerical robes before you take on anything economic or political.
– Mr. Lee in a 1987 National Day Rally address
22. Having led a healthy lifestyle
I began to play more golf to keep fit, but later on turned to running and swimming, which took me less time to achieve the same amount of aerobic exercise.
Now, I walk on the treadmill three times a day – 12 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes after lunch and 15 minutes after dinner. Before dinner, I used to swim for 20 to 25 minutes.
– Mr. Lee, One Man’s View Of The World
23. Learnt new languages after age 30
At age 32, he learnt Mandarin. At 38, he picked up Hokkien. Check out Mr. Lee speaking in Hokkien below:
24. Giving up his life for Singapore
25. A titanium
I reminded myself of the analogy I used for him – titanium. Titanium is light but strong. It can bend a little, but it will not snap unless it is under overwhelming force.
– Lee Wei Ling
26. Covering his ears during National Day Parades when fighter jets are flying past
27. Receiving a standing ovation in Parliament for his 90th birthday
28. Never-give-up attitude
Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.
— Mr. Lee in the 1988 National Day Rally
29. Speak Mandarin campaign
Mr. Lee was worried about the younger generations’ decline in Mandarin proficiency since the 2000s and a year-long campaign called Huayu Cool! was started in December 2004. He had emphasised in parliament that “Singaporeans must learn to juggle English and Mandarin”.
30. Wanted a quick, painless death
With every passing day I am physically less energetic and less active.
There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach.
– Mr. Lee
31. Celebrated his 90th birthday with about 900 residents
32. Reminded parents not to place too much emphasis on children’s academic results
He added that it was just as important to identify a child’s interest and cultivating it to help him succeed in life.
33. Close personal friendships with world leaders
He put great store in developing personal relationships. These relationships bought Singapore space. It was not just a question of bonhomie and sociability, though I have seen Mr Lee charm his hosts in the US. They sought his company for his strategic insights, his understanding of the region and his take on the world. He had a way with words: He put things succinctly and with the right nuance.
– Singaporean academic and diplomat, Chan Heng Chee
34. Having a school named after him
35. CPF Home Ownership Scheme
In 1968, Mr. Lee implemented the CPF Home Ownership Scheme to allow Singaporeans to own a house — Singapore now has one of the highest home-ownership rates in the world today, at over 90 per cent.
36. Labelled ‘autocratic’ and ‘draconian’
He was known for his libel suits against dissidents like JB Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan. On JB Jeyaretnam, he said:
As long as Jeyaretnam stands for what he stands for — a thoroughly destructive force for me — we will knock him. There are two ways of playing this. One, a you attack the policies; two, you attack the system. Jeyaretnam was attacking the system, he brought the Chief Justice into it. If I want to fix you, do I need the Chief Justice to fix you? Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac.
37. On air conditioning
38. Did not care about what you think
It’s irrelevant to me what young Singaporeans think of me. I’ve lived long enough to know that you may be idealised in life and reviled after you’re dead.
– Mr. Lee
39. Tough stance on corruption
Read more about his refusal to be corrupted by the CIA here.
40. Banned chewing gum
Chewing gum was banned in 1992. Mr. Lee said:
If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.
41. Stopped playing golf because it is a slothful game
I used to play golf, but found it did not give me vitality because it’s a slothful game.
Nine holes of golf will take you one-and-a-half, two hours. I run in 20 minutes, I feel better off. So the cost benefit made me drop golf.
– Mr. Lee
42. Feared complacency
43. Was no fashionista
44. Wax figure with his late wife at Madame Tussauds
45. Believer of corporal punishment
I bent over a chair and was given three of the best with my trousers on.
I have never understood why Western educationists are so much against corporal punishment. It did my fellow students and me no harm.
– Mr. Lee in The Wit & Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew
46. A rockstar
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton concur.
48. Iron-fisted governing style
Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no way you can govern a Chinese society.
If you are a troublemaker… it’s our job to politically destroy you…
– Mr. Lee
49. Shaping Singapore’ aviation industry
50. A mother to his siblings
– Mr. Lee’s sister, 85-year-old Monica Lee
51. Speaking his mind
– Mr. Lee’s son, 57-year-old Lee Hsien Yang
52. A worried father
53. Family man
He was constantly worried about his children, cared deeply for his wife and kept in close contact with his siblings.
Source: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going
54. The doting grandfather
Source: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going
55. Singapore’s first and last Minister Mentor
In 2004, the position of Minister Mentor was created as part of a political leadership transition. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew held the position from 2004 to 2011.
56. A visionary
A visionary who led his country from Singapore’s independence in 1965 to build one of the most prosperous countries in the world today, he was a devoted public servant and a remarkable leader.
Minister Mentor Lee’s views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic management were respected by many around the world, and no small number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought his advice on governance and development.
– President Barack Obama
57. Founder of ASEAN
The father of today’s Singapore transformed his country and helped usher the ASEAN region into the modern era. The Singapore he leaves behind is an influential force for stability and prosperity and a friend to the United States.
– Former US President George W Bush
58. A wise man
Lee Kuan Yew exuded wisdom. The counsel I was fortunate to glean from conversations with him–about life and politics and global affairs–is among the most valuable and insightful I have received. He was, of course, a uniquely astute analyst and observer of Asia, and it is largely through his life’s work that Singapore became one of the United States’ strongest strategic partners in the region.
– Secretary of State John Kerry
59. An influential man
There is no second Lee Kuan Yew in the world. Normally one would say that the leader of a country of the size and population of Singapore would not have a global influence … But precisely because Singapore can survive only by competition with much more powerful neighbours, and precisely because its well-being depends on stability and progress in the area, his views were always in a much larger context then the technical problems of the Singaporean economy and so he always had a tremendous influence on us.
– Henry Kissinger
60. Interlocutor of the emerging East and Western countries
One of (the) things that Harry did incredibly effectively was he became the interlocutor of the emerging East with the Western countries, because if you’re an American leader or European leader, you talk in the same language. But he understands the West, he understands how we think, he understands how we work and he also has got these huge insights into China, the other major countries in your region, and so, he’s able to say to the Western leadership, ‘Look, this is how you want to think about this’.
– Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
61. A strategist, a statesman
President Xi Jinping praised Mr. Lee, calling him an “old friend of the Chinese people”, adding that he was “widely respected by the international community as a strategist and a statesman”.
62. Asia’s greatest leader
His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew is one of the greatest leaders of modern times that Asia has ever produced. With his incomparable leadership and unparalleled insights, His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew played, for more than half a century and throughout his life, a key role not only in achieving Singapore’s remarkable economic growth and prosperity but also in securing peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region and the world. He was highly revered all over the world.
– Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
63. Singapore’s founding father
As the Singaporean people mourn the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, the Filipino people join them in honouring a statesman who can justifiably be called the Founding Father of the Republic of Singapore.
Throughout his long life, as prime minister and senior minister, Lee demonstrated an unswerving devotion to his country, turning it into a state that would be an exemplar of efficient, modern, and honest governance. The development of Singapore has earned it the respect of nations and peoples, including the tens of thousands of Filipinos who work there and visit the country.
– Undersecretary Abigail Valte
64. His legacy
On behalf of all Malaysians, my deepest condolences to the people of Singapore.
Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s achievements were great, and his legacy is assured.
– Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak
65. His love for his people
President Joko Widodo of Indonesia called Mr. Lee “a close friend of Indonesia and renowned as the founding father of modern Singapore”.
As a great leader and a statesman who truly loved his people, he was also known as an influential political figure in Asia. Under his leadership, Singapore has succeeded in transforming itself into a major economic hub for the Asian region and stands in equal footing to other developed nations of the world.
66. A man of strict self-discipline
Lee was a solid friend to the Republic of China and played a key leadership role in promoting the development of bilateral relations. Lee was a visionary and world-class leader. Under his leadership, Singapore, in just 50 years, has developed into an important trade hub in Asia with impressive economic strength. Lee led an unpretentious life. His self discipline was very strict.
– Taiwan President Ma Ying-Jeou
67. Formidable leader
A man of rare qualities, Mr Lee’s courage, determination, commitment, character and ability made him a formidable leader who held the respect of Singaporeans and the international community alike.
– Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key
– Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden
69. His fight for Singapore’s independence
He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another like him.
– Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a televised address
70. An extraordinary man
Today, Singapore lost its most illustrious son and foremost Nationalist – Lee Kuan Yew – leaving us to mourn his loss. He was an extraordinary man in our midst. He leaves behind a legacy of accomplisments, among them the transformation of a trouble-ridden, ethnically divided city to become a country – all in 50 years – where all of us have space and a common destiny to work towards. He leaves behind the metropolis that, in 1965, he promised the would turn Singapore into.
– Former President of Singapore S. R. Nathan
71. Cleaning Singapore to make her a clean and green country
Mr Lee initiated the ambitious project to clean up the Singapore River and Kallang River which were then heavily polluted by garbage, sewage and industrial waste. The Singapore River now forms part of the Marina Bay, which is not only a valuable source of fresh water for our city state, but also a place which is enjoyed by Singaporeans and tourists from around the world.
– President Tony Tan
72. Implementation of Housing Development Board
Mr Lee also set up the Housing Development Board to develop our public housing estates to give every citizen a stake in the nation. Today, because of Mr Lee’s farsightedness, Singapore is hailed as a model of sustainable and inclusive development for developing cities around the world.
– President Tony Tan
73. Meritocracy and multiculturalism
Mr Lee made lasting contributions towards the building of a meritocratic and multi-cultural Singapore. As Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr Lee put in place measures to ensure that university places, government contracts, and appointments into public office would go to the most deserving candidates based on merit and regardless of race and religion.
– President Tony Tan
74. A selfless leader
He has bequeathed a monumental legacy to Singaporeans – a safe, secure, harmonious and prosperous independent Singapore, our Homeland. He was a selfless leader. He shared his experience, knowledge, ideas and life with us. He was my leader, mentor, inspiration, the man I looked up to most. He made me a proud Singaporean.
– Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong
75. Grooming leaders and establishing a clean government
Singapore will also live on because of him. Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore to last. He led a team, not a one-man show. He groomed new leaders. He built clean government, and a culture of telling it straight – telling people the problems, and finding a way to fix them.
– Minister of Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam
76. Transforming Singapore from a third world country to first
While the words galvanised and inspired a nation, it was the ensuing actions that lifted the lives of so many and brought us from third world to first.
Lee Kuan Yew’s legacy is all around us. Who he is can be seen in the many lives transformed. Our future will be built on the foundations laid by him and our founding fathers. It is on their shoulders that we now stand on.
– Minister of Manpower, Tan Chuan-Jin
77. A patriot who never missed Singapore’s National Day Parades
He had never missed our National Day Parades. I recall catching a red eye flight with him at 2AM on the 9 August 2008 so that he could be back on time.
He hardly slept. I recall watching him have breakfast and couldn’t resist thanking him for giving us a country and the opportunities of a lifetime.
His prosaic answer was to work hard to keep Singapore going. He said it depends especially on the next generation.
– Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Vivian Balakrishnan
78. Having worked tirelessly to build a home for Singaporeans
You have worked tirelessly your whole life to look after us. You worry about our future till the very end.
– Minister, Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, Grace Fu
79. Practical man
The Mr Lee I dealt with was a practical, no-nonsense man. His sharp intellect meant going straight to the heart of any issue. There was no small talk or superficiality. Every breathing moment for him was spent thinking about Singapore and Singaporeans. There was an unwavering tenacity to ensure that Singapore succeeded.
– Minister for Foreign Affairs, K Shanmugam
80. Master builder of modern Singapore
Mr Lee was the master builder of today’s Singapore. We owe so much to him. In his first National Day Rally, Mr Lee said we must “consolidate ourselves to survive; and, most important of all, to find an enduring future for what we have built.
– Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Ministry of Communications and Information, Lawrence Wong
81. A determined man
82. A life changer
83. The stern father
84. The people’s grandfather
85. The trend setter
86. Executing economic reforms
87. The hero
88. Making SG50 possible
89. An inspiration
91. For being Lee Kuan Yew
Rest in peace, Sir.
We’ll forever remember you in our hearts and we’re thankful for all you’ve done for our country, our homeland.