When the news broke, I was overcome with grief. The thing is that, I was never a political observer. Neither have I sat through a PAP or opposition rally before. I have never listened to Mr Lee’s speech from beginning to end before either. But when news of Mr Lee’s hit headlines of all news platforms, I wept. Like many Singaporeans, I guess I cared more than I thought I would. I sat in front of the television right after work to watch the news with my mom. There was an air of sorrow, and we teared silently.
It’s true that credit cannot go to one man alone, but that one man had the vision of Singapore in her glorious state. A man who dared to dream. A man who would stop at nothing to ensure her survival and move her forward, even if her own people did not understand or could not completely complement.
It’s true that he did not single-handledly built Singapore, but he guided the nation like any patriarch would guide his family, built the best team to lead the country and created the right conditions to nurture future successors to take his place.
It’s true that he introduced hard policies, but look where it got us. We may be one of the smallest countries around, but we are definitely not pitiful or despised, having to rely on handouts and financial bail outs from other countries to save our own skin.
It’s true that some things was sacrificed to give way to nation building. But right from the start he knew that he had 2 million lives in his hands. He knew that it was not a game of thrones. He knew that division can rip apart not just a small island state like Singapore, but any other nation big and small. He knew that Singapore could not afford making mistakes like her neighbours for she did not have any backup plan – no resource. He knew that her neighbours want to see her fail, even today. And he wouldn’t let it happen.
Today, even as we grieve together as a nation, putting aside our political views and bias, we must understand that it was never about what ‘good’ or what ‘bad’ policies he has introduced. As Singaporeans, we grief the departing and celebrate the life of a man who was centered around each and everyone of us.
There will never be a country free of problems, but today our women can travel safe, our streets are clean, we don’t have to give coffee money to law and Government bodies, we can practise our own religion, education is celebrated, policies are in place to help those in a temporary fix, we enjoy a rather high standard of living, hard work pays off well monetarily, and we can indulge in trivial ‘first world problems’.
So for me, I will give honour where honour is due. I will pay my tribute to the greatest man Singapore has had the privilege to have. Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew.