Monday, March 23, 2015

The Man Who Made Singapore Dies

SINGAPORE — Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father and first prime minister of Singapore who transformed that tiny island outpost into one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in Asia, died on Monday morning. He was 91.

Mr. Lee was prime minister from 1959, when Singapore gained full self-government from the British, until 1990, when he stepped down. Late into his life he remained the dominant personality and driving force in what he called a First World oasis in a Third World region.

The nation, reflected the man: efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking and pragmatic.

“We are ideology-free,” Mr. Lee said in an interview with The New York Times in 2007, stating what had become, in effect, Singapore’s ideology. “Does it work? If it works, let’s try it. If it’s fine, let’s continue it. If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one.”

His leadership was sometimes criticized for suppressing freedom, but the formula succeeded. Singapore became an international business and financial center admired for its efficiency and low level of corruption.

Lee Kuan Yew, who was sometimes known by his English name, Harry Lee, was born in Singapore on Sept. 16, 1923, to a fourth-generation, middle-class Chinese family.

He worked as a translator and engaged in black market trading during the Japanese occupation in World War II, then went to Britain, where he earned a law degree in 1949 from Cambridge University. In 1950 he married Kwa Geok Choo, a fellow law student from Singapore. She died in 2010.

After serving as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, Mr. Lee was followed by two handpicked successors, Goh Chok Tong and Mr. Lee’s eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, who, groomed for the job, has been prime minister since 2004.

LWDLIK - Lee is seen as power behind the nation's rise from glorified fishing village into one of the world's economic powerhouses. When the country was expelled from the Malaysian Federation a tearful Lee Kuan Yew announced in a televised press conference that Singapore had become a sovereign, independent nation. In a widely remembered quote, he stated: "For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories." 

Singapore had no natural resources at that time it was a fishing village with swamp-filled jungles; they didn't even have fresh water and relied on Malaysia to supply them for many years.

Just look at them now, baby. Wow! This is what great leadership can do for a country and it's people. Makes me wonder if Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai didn't find great inspiration from Lee Kuan Yew's incredible character and example. RIP Lee Kuan Yew. Job done!

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