Remembering Lee Kuan Yew - Thank you - The nation with you in your final journey - See u in heaven

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew - Thank you - The nation with you in your final journey - See u in heaven
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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Remember Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015. Chapter 1 - Founding father - Part 1 : The Lee way

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015

Chapter 1 - Founding father - Part 1 : The Lee way

The Lee way
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on Sept 14, 2003

Mr Lee Kuan Yew speaking at the People's Action Party pre-election rally at Hong Lim Green in 1959.
RETIRED diplomat Joe Conceicao recalls a recent function he attended where Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew was present. The conversation turned briefly to Mr Lee's 80th birthday, and the former Katong MP remarked to the former Prime Minister that "people are talking about wanting to build monuments and statues and what-have-you". Mr Lee looked him in the eye and gave a response that drew from an 1818 sonnet by Percy Bsysshe Shelley. "Remember Joe," he said, "remember Ozymandias".
Remember who? Ozymandias was an Egyptian pharaoh with a penchant for self-aggrandising monuments. The boast etched in a plaque below his statue commanded lesser mortals to "look on my works". Only that the vastness of desert sands is all that remains visible: no empire, no monuments, no great works. And the statue of Ozymandias lies half-buried in sand, wrecked and decayed.
In his advice to "remember Ozymandias", Singapore's own political colossus was cautioning against hubris, said Mr Conceicao, 79.
"He sees the course of history as more important. He wants none of these honours and edifices. He wants what he has done to last."
That obsession with Singapore's survival means that, after almost 50 years in public life, Mr Lee is showing no sign of quitting. For most Singaporeans, his looming presence has been a more permanent fixture than any physical landmark - the one constant in a fast-changing society.
But, then again, is the Lee Kuan Yew of today the same as the Lee Kuan Yew of the 1960s, or the 1980s? In some respects, he continues to adhere to many of the same principles that guided his and Singapore's journey from Third- to First-World status. Yet, even at 80, when many others have long lost steam or departed the scene, he continues to be a work-in-progress: evolving and re-inventing himself to fit the times.
Photographs and newsreel footage show his transformation from brilliant student and lawyer to pugnacious nationalist politician, from a young, stern, no-nonsense Prime Minister, to elder statesman, author and global adviser.
People say that he has mellowed with age.
One who has watched this happen is Mr Leong Chun Loong, a grassroots leader who has served in Mr Lee's Tanjong Pagar ward for 30 years.
Way back then, it was not uncommon to see the prime minister's temper flare. At one legendary National Day event, for example, some problems cropped up with seating arrangements and several guests were unhappy and passed comments.
Mr Leong recalls that Mr Lee said something to the effect that "if you guys cannot do a simple activity like that, how can you organise a country?"
Now, however, there are times when Mr Lee will say "never mind, let them make mistakes", according to Mr Leong, 67, the managing director of an electrical engineering company.

"In the last 10 to 15 years, he's definitely more patient. He listens to you. Sometimes, he will tell you what he doesn't agree with, sometimes, he will just smile," he adds. "The change is quite understandable. As people grow older, they take things easier. The other reason is that he understands there is a change in the constituency. There are younger people, and you must change to suit their needs."
To Mr Viswa Sadasivan, a media professional, Mr Lee's ability to adapt is one of his greatest strengths. "The fact that he learnt how to use the PC and the Internet when he was in his 70s and later successfully chatted with youth on the Net illustrates this," he says.
Dr Wang Kai Yuen, an MP since 1984, adds that Mr Lee has learnt to moderate his perfectionist demands on the people around him.
"He always said that joining the PAP is like joining the priesthood. But by the time I joined, I could see some acceptance on his part that not all human beings are or can be like him," he says.
"I think he might have come to accept that if he used the same standard to judge everyone and MPs, he won't get too many."
Banker Wee Cho Yaw says: "He appears to be less combative and more tolerant of contrary views."
Mr Sadasivan, who as a broadcast journalist covered Mr Lee in the 1980s and 1990s, is also struck by the Senior Minister's increased willingness to talk about personal matters.
"This was the single biggest change I saw: Becoming more comfortable with his personal, private life coming out into the open - something which he was very strict about as he believed it was indulgent."
Nobody, however, is under any illusions that Mr Lee has become soft. People continue to keep a respectful, even fearful, distance.
"There's such an aura around him. When you get near him, you don't know what to do," says Mr Leong.
Younger MPs are similarly intimidated, says Dr Wang. "He's always thinking philosophy... 'cheem' topics. He is someone who doesn't really enjoy small talk," he notes.
"And he might ask you a question that he has been thinking about...and it's not a good situation to be in if your response indicates that you have not thought it through.
"All of us are aware that if you don't know the answer, you'd better say I don't know, instead of saying something."
Such is Mr Lee's aura that many of the individuals who were interviewed for this piece - whether former ministers, MPs, civil servants or community leaders - remained measured, proper and guarded in their assessment of him.
But they speak of a man who remains visibly and inextricably rooted to Singapore's body-politic, who has dictated social norms and economic philosophy, and may continue to do so for the forseeable future.
Mr Lee's basic ideas remain unchanged, they say.
High among these is his belief that government is about practical things.
His former press secretary, James Fu, 70, notes that his early and basic focus had been to develop the dignity of the individual providing for shi (food), zhu (shelter), yi (clothing) and xing (transport). This very Asian outlook was evident years later, during the Great Marriage Debate over unmarried graduate women.
The issue still weighs on him, says former Senior Minister of State Ch'ng Jit Koon, 69. "When he meets former MPs, he asks about their families and children... and when he finds out that the children, especially daughters, are still not married, my goodness! The population growth is still in his mind."
Much as he has mellowed and taken a back seat, Mr Lee continues to be driven by the very same concerns that nagged at him when he and his colleagues set off on the road to Independence: Singapore's continued existence and survival.
"He remains totally and absolutely committed to Singapore. This is the single most constant thing about him," says Mr Wee, chairman and chief executive officer of the United Overseas Bank. "I think he spends his every waking hour thinking of the country, its problems and its future."
As Ayer Rajah MP Tan Cheng Bock sees it, Mr Lee's mind is always focused or preoccupied with keeping Singapore in good stead.
"He spent his whole life thinking about it, now even more with all this Sars, terrorism, and now, the economy. He's in everything."
Or, as former Senior Minister of State Lee Khoon Choy puts it, there has never been someone who has been more concerned about Singapore's welfare and interest than Mr Lee.
"Day and night, he's thinking of Singapore. Day and night."

Please Click following link to continue on STORIES on Related Post:

Remember Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015. Chapter 1 - Founding father - Part 1 : The Lee way

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015 Chapter 1 - Founding father - Part 2 : Lee Kuan Yew on building a city

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015 Chapter 1 - Founding father - Part 3 : Why I am grateful to Mr Lee

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015 Chapter 1 - Founding father - Part 4 : The greatest generation

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015 Chapter 2 - Timeline - Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister in the 1960s

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