Interview: 50 Stories and the Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew

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It has been an emotional week and the sense of nationalism is at an all time high for most of us living in Singapore since news about Mr Lee’s passing covered headlines during the wee hours of March 23, 2015, Monday. Even though I was not born during Singapore’s turbulent years and did not have the privilege to witness how Mr Lee legendarily led Singapore out of every storm and crisis when he held office as Prime Minister, I felt the pain of loss.

No amount of words can adequately capture the weight of loss of our first Prime Minister or even describe the measure of a man that he was. Because he meant different things to different people. To the Y Generation and myself who enjoyed the fruit of his labour, to our parents who went through the different crises, and especially to the Pioneer Generation who saw it all.

So, I would like to pay my tribute by highlighting 50 stories, accounts and thoughts of the people who queued to pay their respects to our late Mr Lee.

When I was at different parts of the queue, what I saw was a testament to Mr Lee’s greatness and contribution. Contribution not just to Singapore but to different parts of the world. Literally tens of thousands were queueing to pay their respects to Mr Lee in what was the nation’s biggest ever public outpouring of affection. Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and even foreigners young and old queued orderly and patiently, waiting for their turn to pay their last respects to the Nation’s Chief Architect. Kindness was rampant as volunteers gave away drinks and food to aid the queueing crowd. Strangers turn into acquaintances as they shared their umbrellas, food and water. I think Mr Lee would have smiled and thought that we have ‘grown up’.

The queue was announced to be as long as 20 hours at some point, even closed. Polices were dispatched to persuade the crowd to go home. Still, most refused to return home without paying their respect to Mr Lee. The scorching sun and the tiredness from a lack of sleep was no match for the formidable crowd.

As I spoke to the people, some began to tear as they share their heartfelt thoughts. Singaporean or not, Pioneer generation or new generation, all had something they want to thank you for as they stood waiting in the queueing. I read that you could not care much for people’s opinions about you but you should know that the people cared for you and love you so dearly. I saw a photo circulating on Facebook that goes something like this, “If the Nation cries for you, then you have truly built a Nation.”

Like they said, there will never be another man like you.

Words aplenty in my heart, but if I can just put it in one sentence,

“Dear Mr Lee, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being Singapore’s Chief Builder and a Father figure to all of us.”

Writer’s Note: The subjects of the photo and interview have consented to the publishing of the photo and interview. All rights belongs to the subject and the interviewer. In the interest of the subjects, at no point should the photos be used for both commercial, editorial and private purposes. 

Special thanks to Li Min for helping with some of the transcribing.

#1.

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“The day I saw him was when he came to inspect my neighbourhood in Jurong East. I was really impressed by what he has done for Singapore. When I saw him on television last National Day, he seemed really weak. He made Singapore into such a prosperous country. I hope if he could still be around to celebrate SG50 with us. But he can’t be with us and I feel really sad. He is like a father or even a grandfather to us. He took care of us, rich or poor. It made me really proud to be a Singaporean. My dad and I come from a poor family, but he did not look down on us. Two years ago, my father had a chance to be interviewed by him. Because my father was injured at that time, it was difficult for him to find a job. But Mr Lee himself made sure that the MPs will help my father to look for a job. My father has a job till today because of him. He also helped my mom to pay for her hospitalisation bills in the past. And I was also under his scholarship before when I was younger.”

-Sally

#2.

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“Most people want his legacy to live on and not to destroy his house. I would want his house to be preserved so that the future generations can see for themselves how he lied and know that he is all about Singapore. His vision has to live on. I came to Singapore when I was 9 years old. I met my husband here in Singapore when I was 9. He was 2 years older. I thought that he was a lovely boy. I did go back to Holland when I was 15. We stayed in touch in an age where there was no Facebook and the other social media platforms. We got married and moved to Australia when I was 20 but both of us really missed Singapore. We really love the culture and the people here. So we moved back to Singapore when I was 22 and found regular jobs not as expats but as normal Singaporean citizens. Our children attend regular neighbourhood schools as well.”

#3.

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“If you can have five minutes in conversation with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, what would you want to tell him or say to him?”

“I want to thank him for managing Singapore even though it was tough. I want to thank him for all the things he has sacrificed in his life just to make Singapore a better place for us to live.”

-Gabriel

#4.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“I think it would be making Singapore a very livable city. I look at other countries that were previously in the same state as us in the 60s and 70s, and as compared to what we have today, we are really fortunate and we shouldn’t take things for granted. A lot of them is owed to Mr Lee himself. I also think that Mr Lee’s focus on meritocracy in Singapore has benefited all of us especially me as well because I personally did not come from a well-to-do family. But through equal opportunities that he has given to everyone regardless of what your background or current foothold is, I think it is something a lot of Singapore cherish and benefit from.”

-Ernest

#5.

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“I want to thank Mr Lee because without him, Singapore will not be what she is today. I think that through his hardwork and his time that he put building Singapore into what it is today, I think it is really awesome. It is really something that not everyone can achieve. As I can say that compared to other Asian countries, Singapore would be the best. The best to live in. In terms of security, it’s really safe. A lot of people are saying that it’s an expensive city but I don’t really find it expensive because you pay whatever you need to pay. The standard is the same everywhere in the world. As I can say, the important thing is the safety of the citizens.”

-Jessica

#6.

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“The thing is, without Mr Lee’s desire to improve the whole of Singapore, I would not get a job in the first place. That means that all the high points in my life, I feel that they are attributed to Mr Lee. That’s why I came here to pay my respects to Mr Lee and to thank him on behalf of all the foreign workers in Singapore.”

-Rajah

#7.

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“I read in the books how he controlled the riots and faced the riots head on during the 1965 riots. That’s why we are able to pull through the period of communist riots. It was a tough time to Singapore during the 1973 oil embargo. I remember they were giving monthly Sunday rice when I was small! Back then I was only 10 years old, still very young and my father was a taxi driver, and I saw how we managed to pull through that period under Mr Lee’s leadership. These are all the memorable days when I was small.”

-Adam

#8.

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“I heard his story since I was young. I am very grateful to him because he really spent a lot of time of his life to build up the country. Suddenly he passed away, I’m just… very sad that he is gone. I don’t know what to say.. I just feel that I can stay in a very safe country because he is very firm in his own principles and never gave up in building the country. I really admire him. He is a very, very inspiring leader. We have a lot of things to learn from him. I am a leader myself and I thank God that there is a leader we can learn from who never gave up.”

-Annie and daughter

#9.

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“Have you met Mr Lee in person?”

“Yes. Not personally, I mean I didn’t get to talk to him but he came to my office for a meeting. We were having our 30th Anniversary at the . That was about 10 years back.”

“I will definitely thank him for what Singapore is today. One thing I like about our country is there’s no bribery. He stopped that totally. And there is no racism, I like that when compared to other countries. This is my country. When you go overseas, then you will know how good Singapore is.”

-Sarah

#10.

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It’s very simple. Now everybody have a few hundred thousand in CPF savings, come from where? He got the plan, he got the method, he got the idea. This is just one of the examples.

#11.

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“I want to thank him for the contributions he made to Singapore and the citizens. From a country with nothing to a country with much possessions, his contributions to the country is not to be sidelined.”

-Mr Teo

#12.

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“If you can have five minutes in conversation with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, what would you want to tell him or say to him?”

“Maybe on a personal note, I will ask him ‘What do you do daily other than thinking about politics. So, to get to a more personal side, I wish to know more about the softer side of him. When people talk to him, it’s all about politics, politics, politics. So I was thinking, if we can get to know the softer side of him with questions like ‘How’s your life?’, simple things like ‘What did you eat for lunch?’. Asking him something different I would say, just to be interested in the leader himself.”

-Terence

#13.

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“I am from China. I am a student studying in Singapore right now. I think he is a very good man for his family and he is a very good leader for his country. He spent his whole life for his country.”

“As a foreigner, you are queueing together with the Singaporeans. What made you want to do this?”

“He is very 伟大 (great). How he led his country is very inspiring. He is my idol. My classmates from China, Myanmar, Malaysia and other countries are also here to pay our respects.”

-Jackie

#14.

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“This morning I heard his speech at Tanjong Pagar during the early years. At that time, we were staying at Craig Road at Tanjong Pagar. I still have memories where my dad opened the door and met him face to face. That impacted me. As we look back, we realised that there’s a lot of things he has done for us. Whatever that happened, there are always pros and cons. But ultimately I believe that there is still good for us. I think that as Singaporeans we are proud of Mr Lee. When I was working abroad, everywhere I go people may not know where Singapore is but they will know the person from Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.

#15.

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“I would say ‘thank you’ to him for making Singapore such a great place to live and also for introducing systematic structure for Singaporeans to follow especially in education, transportation. And I also want to thank him for making Singapore among the world’s most well known countries.”

-Mr Pang

#16.

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“I came to Singapore when I got married at the age of 25 and have been living here for 17 years. My daughters and my husband are Singaporean citizens while I am a Permanent Resident hoping to get citizenship. I came to Singapore initially to follow my husband. But after living here for more than a decade, I have also experienced a lot of emotions under the leadership of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I saw for myself the stability and security of the nation, the prosperity of the nation, the sense of security of the people living here. I also witnessed the Government’s efficiency and the corruption-free style of governance.

I also feel that Singaporeans are very kind and hardworking. I only worked here for a few years but in that short period, I was deeply impacted by the Singaporeans and hence, I decided to stay in Singapore with my husband and my daughters, and grow my roots here. I feel that our Nation’s Father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a very remarkable person. Within such a short span, he can turn a small, insignificant country – which I saw in the archival footage – into such a strong country. He is truly remarkable. He is not just Singapore’s pride, but the pride of Chinese race around the world. During this period of time, I purposely brought my daughters here to see and experience for themselves this sight. I want this memory to forever be etched in their mind.

I really respect Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He gave his life to build Singapore. If Singaporeans respect him, we can all understand that. But even my friends from overseas also respect Mr Lee Kuan Yew from the bottom of their hearts, that is not as easy. It must be something that this elderly Sir has done for his citizens that everyone acknowledges him. I know that many critics criticised him on the internet and in books but I do not believe whatever they say. I only believe what I saw and witnessed for myself. Within such a short period of time, I see the prosperity, safety, Singaporean’s kindness, these are the things I believe in. So I believe Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a very remarkable person who’s respected by people all over the world. I feel that Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and foreign workers will really remember him in their hearts.”

-Cheng Qing

#17.

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Mrs Tay and her two boys were seen serving drinks to everyone in the queue. “My timing is very limited as my kids have to go to school on these days. The only thing we can do is to help give out drinks and help people to be hydrated. So when I heard that Yeo’s needed volunteers to help give out drinks, I volunteered to bring my kids over to pay my tribute in such a way.”

#18.

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I understood from Natalie and Shi Ting that they are queueing to pay their respects to Mr Lee even though they have impending tests and assignments due soon. “I guess we just felt a need to come here because of the things Mr Lee did for the country. This is nothing compared to what he did. He spent so many years [building the country] and what’s a few hours compared to that. I mean, we do have homework but we can still do it now. There is still a few hours of daylight, so we will just try to finish it by then.”

#19.

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“If you can have five minutes in conversation with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, what would you want to tell him or say to him?”

“‘Thank you’ for his contributions to the nation. He is one of the best leaders I have seen. The way he speaks and the way he motivates people is really inspiring. When I was born, the Prime Minister was Mr Goh Chok Tong, it wasn’t him anymore. So I didn’t get to see him in action but the videos that I watched of him is really inspiring. So, I think he is really a good leader.” Wen Jie volunteered to pick up the rubbish and keep the queueing places clean for people joining the queue.

#20.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“Actually, I am very thankful for National Service. When my son was young, he used to be very naughty. But when he was drafted into the army, he became very responsible, that’s what I am very thankful for. Sometimes my friends are very worried when their son is being drafted into the army. But tell them that I am very thankful because my son became very responsible person. And now he has his own life and his own family. He used to serve as a regular. He just left this year because his wife got posted overseas. If not he will perpetually just continue in the army and he will definitely be here to pay his respects.”

-Jacinta

#21.

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“I was born in year 1965. When I was younger, I used to watch his National Day Rally speeches in the 1980s. I like to listen to his speeches and how he speaks passionately. He has done wonderful great things for Singaporeans. In the past 50 years, the world has recognised us with him. All the years he has been Prime Minister till 1990 and even after he stepped down, he has been set up a good momentum for Singaporeans.”

“If you can spend 5 minutes with Mr Lee over a short conversation, what would you want to tell him?”

“I would ask him what kept him going? He has made a lot of difference in the world. To USA, Russia and everywhere else in the world. Everyone knows him, his character and his way of doing work. That’s very important.”

-Naidu

#22.

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“Because I came from the neighbouring country, I can see a big vast difference in terms of the system here and how people are treated. It’s fair treatment to every nationality and race. And more importantly, as I wrote in my Facebook page, I actually stayed here for almost half of my life. It’s where I raised my family and my two children. I got married here, I raised my family here. Both my boys are serving NS. One already finished serving, and one is going to go this year. They grew up here.

What impacted me is Singapore is a safe place to stay. Back in my home country, they would not be so free to walk around, especially late at night. It’s safe to walk even in the late night, without being afraid that you will be robbed or mugged. But say if I am still in my home country, you’ve to be very careful everyday. So I’m thankful for that, that Singapore is a safe place to stay. And you’re at peace because you know that when your children go out, they are safe, in a sense. Singapore is really a place where is well connected, in terms of the transport system. When I was away for one week, I can compare two different countries, how it is run in terms of the transport system, and I am very thankful. Although we don’t have a car here, we can still go to any place we like just by using the public transport.”

“I agree with Angela that Singapore is a safe place to stay in. And when you look back at the past, you could see that backdated Singapore has transformed so much. It’s very safe for our children and they can get a good education here. If you do your comparisons, I don’t think you can find another country like Singapore. For example, my daughter went to Cambodia to do mission work, she told me that it was so backdated and she’s so thankful that she’s in Singapore, a part of Singapore. So we just want to thank Mr Lee for what he has done, sacrificing his life for Singapore. I am really very proud of this nation.”

“Actually he has contributed really a lot for Singapore. Like I said, even though I’m not Singaporean yet – I hope I will be – he has done really a lot. He really spent all his life for the country. As you read about his past and everything, you can witness what he has done; transforming a very small swampy country into this modern cosmopolitan kind-of-a-country known as Singapore. Singapore is known as a little red dot, but to me, it’s not little, it’s actually a giant red dot!”

“Singapore is well-known. Everybody knows about Singapore. And when you say little red dot, oh Singapore! It’s well known because of Mr Lee and he’s so well sought by all the leaders in all the countries in the world you see. Because of his thinking and his vision. As a visionary, he is beyond this world and far ahead of anyone else.”

-Angela and Jasmine (from left)

#23.

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“I came to pay my respects with my sisters, brother-in-law and my husband.

If there was 1 thing that Mr Lee has done that has impacted your life or left a deep impression in your life, what would it be?

“I think for us, the biggest impact would be our education. We used to be very poor. My dad was a tailor and my mum has to work overnight in the factory as a factory worker everyday. But we could complete our education and because of all the bursaries and subsidies. It is a system of meritocracy. So we just need to study hard and we can progress and progress and progress.

Today, we are all working, settling down in Singapore in a very stable environment with good jobs. Our parents can retire and have good life. It’s all because of the environment that Singapore has given us.”

I think Singaporeans owe it to his vision from 50 years ago. His vision in defence, his vision in housing and his vision in the development of the city. And today, we call Singapore our home. So we all owe it to him that we have well-built HDB flats that we live in, a city that we can be proud of and a defence that nobody dares to reckon with. So with that, I think every Singaporean owe it to him.

-Ching Li Xing, Jun Wen, Charmaine Ching, Ching Mei Yun and Darius Chen

#24.

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“If you can spend 5 minutes with Mr Lee over a short conversation, what would you want to tell him?”

“Thank you so much Sir for your contributions and for your hard work to Singapore all these years. Thank you very much.”

-Normala

#25.

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“Everywhere you go, everything you see in Singapore, it came from his leadership.

“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“His vision on educating the people. With education, everyone in Singapore can be educated and become better off. They can progress on from there [with education].”

– Choon Poh

#26.

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“I am a Permanent Resident from Taiwan and have been staying in Singapore for over ten years. I moved to Singapore when I was a kid. I studied in Singapore, and am working here.”

“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“I went to Istana to write my condolence message to Mr Lee. Basically, it was not what he has done to me personally but what kind of society he has created so that it was very welcoming and just very accepting to foreigners. And when I moved here 10 years ago, I have seen a tremendous change in Singapore then and now. When I first came to Singapore, Singapore was not so developed and then it just suddenly like this.

It’s amazing to just to see how fast she has grown. I’ve also went to UK to study but it’s just… It’s difficult to find another place in the world that can make you feel like home. And to me, Singapore is that place that gives me this kind of feeling, it’s very accommodating. And just the fact that all the different races and people from all different parts of the world can live here together, not even like just tolerating each other, but truly living together harmoniously. That’s very impressive.

It’s a society that he created and basically the impact of what he has done is something that is of value to me. I’ve been to three different countries; Taiwan UK and Singapore, but there is no place like Singapore, there is no place like home.”

-Catherine

#27.

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I think there are many men who could probably do what he did for Singapore, but he was the only one who actually did it. He spent his life building Singapore, and really, Singapore was his only obsession. Because of that, all of us have what we have today.

-Brenda

#28.

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“I feel so sad that Mr Lee, our patriarch and father of our nation is no longer around. I’m quite worried about Singapore after his passing. I really don’t dare to imagine what is going to happen to Singapore.”

“I see. So, if there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that really impacted you, what is it?”

“In 1965, when he had to break the news of separation to everyone. Imagine, he was not facing his family, he was not facing his so-called company, he was facing all Singaporeans. You know that kind of pressure, that kind of stress? I think nobody can understand because I got my own company. Sometimes I have a problem or am stressed, I can’t sleep, maybe a few nights or a few months. Then how about Mr Lee? He is remarkable beyond words. I really feel proud to be Singaporean.

I miss Mr Lee. ‘我会永远记住你’ (I will remember you always) Mr Lee. I will pass on his story to my children and my grandson. This is why I’m here.”

-Ms Low

#29.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“There are many, many things that he has done that is very fantastic and remarkable. I can’t just say one. I really admire him because he’s no-nonsense and very practical man. Living as a colonial subject to the British, he knew what the real world is like outside. He prepared his stand for Singapore based on facts and not just on pure emotions or pure collective feedback on the ground. So I think that value is something we should all learn from him. I think many adults such as myself, we are concerned for our next generation. We are too contented at our current situation, or we have become overly confident of ourselves. That’s the point that I want to put across which I think is also shared by Mr Lee. It’s all that he’s been concerned about, since the day he became a politician. Even at his old age then, he was still really concerned about Singapore’s future.”

-Hwa Soon with daughters, Joey (left) and Rui Yi (right)

#30.

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“Thank you for choosing English as the working language of Singapore. As a linguist I guess, I’m very grateful that English was chosen as a working language because today we are made very international. And I am thankful that not only did he chose English as the working language, but there are other languages such as Chinese, Malay and Tamil as the cultural languages. So we are like bilinguals. Although we are not like fully effective bilinguals but I guess for a start we can actually communicate well with almost half of the world. So for that I am very, very grateful.”

“You know they always say the lottery of birth? I am very happy and grateful because of Lee Kuan Yew, I actually won the lottery of birth. That means I am being born into a place that is peaceful, that I do not really have to suffer a lot over here.”

-Abigail

#31.

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“Have you met Mr Lee in person?”

“Yes, when I was in SAFTI-MI, the old Pasir Laba Camp, there was an inauguration ceremony for SAFTI-MI. He came for the first groundbreaking ceremony. I was one of the spectators there.”

“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“Multiracial ties between the different races in Singapore. Because we are able to plan and work together as a team from what he has created. My father used to remind us that without Mr Lee, the entire nation wouldn’t be where it is now. And he himself has benefited a lot from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s policies in the initial years because he himself is an immigrant from India. When he came here, there were a lot who came with him, but under Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s policies, he got his citizenship as early as the 80s. That’s how I am here now. I was born here, I found my wife here as well. I also like the bilingualism. English is an important language for international trade. But he allows the different races to practise their own language, mother tongue. That’s great. That keeps the Singaporean roots and, our own race and religious roots intact.”

-Pannirselban

#32.

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“I met Mr Lee when I was a child. I was a baby! So I don’t know whether you can say it is face to face. I am a Singaporean male, so National Service is significant part of my life. And I think it’s really important that that phase of my life was spent in the army. It made me more determined. It trained me to handle some responsibilities which unfortunately a lot of people from others countries don’t have the opportunity. Back then, of course I didn’t enjoy it but now looking back I will be like, ‘Thank you’. That was really important. It really made a big difference in my life.”

“Personally, just living in Singapore alone is really something which I am very grateful of. Looking around at the other countries, and comparing it to how we are living life in Singapore, it is something which I am very grateful and I think it is a great blessing.”

“Basically for me, I think it will be the policy of bilingualism. It has not only allowed us as Singaporeans to bind together because we have a common language – English – as well as not to forget our own ancestor roots which is like Chinese, Malay and Indian. All these actually inculcates a good sense of racial harmony because, during the special occasions we will all come together to celebrate diversity and the culture of the four different races in Singapore. I really appreciated that a lot. Despite the ra-ra about bilingualism not being handled properly, I really appreciate this policy a lot because it has allowed me to be a Chinese on top of being a ‘Jiak Kang Tang’!

-Jai, Felicia, Iris and Min Min (from right)

#33.

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“I want to tell him that he is a guy I respect and look up to because of.. some people might say stubbornness, but he is a visionary and he is very set on doing things, which are the traits that I feel our leaders need. Especially in this day and age, people are changing and are talking about ‘my rights, your rights’. I feel that as a leader you should be firm with your stance. Mr Lee is one of those who is very, very firm. So I look up to him.”

“We didn’t grow up to Mr Lee’s building the nation. We are the generation that actually grew up to his fruits, the country that he has built. I really thank him for what he has done. He made Singapore into how we are now and our education system is one of the best. Even though we complain, it is still to our benefit. So, thank him for everything”

-Suhual and Valaria

#34.

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“I met Mr Lee in person before. I was the Guard of Honour for the National Day Parade back in 1989 when he was still Prime Minister. The sacrifice that he has made to turn this Island State without any resources into something that is so successful.. It is something that I treasure very much and will always be with me.”

“I think of how Mr Lee’s dedication to the country even the time when he was ill in the hospital, the first thing he always think about is his people. And that really touches me a lot.”

-Steve and Sharmaine

#35.

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There were so many people queueing to pay their respects to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew that the police had to close the queue and advise the crowd to go home after the estimated waiting time was approximately 20 hours. Like many other Singaporeans, Rani and Uma were still waiting around hoping to still be able to resume with the queueing.

“We are waiting around to see if we can still join the queue. If it is really so bad then probably we will have to check out the route on Sunday and wait along there and pay our last respects.”

“I’ve seen Mr Lee Kuan Yew when I was participating as one of the choir members during the National Day Parade back in my secondary school days. Those days when you have the ‘human Singapore flag’, where we used to see Mr Lee Kuan Yew smiling as he enters the stadium. That was the closest I managed to see him in person.”

“He has done so much for Singapore. I mean, it’s like from the moment you turn on the tap, you get good water. Even your toilet water is also good! Unlike other countries… Whatever you want, you can just get it in Singapore. Life is so much better compared to those days when I was so much younger. I mean, you can really see the difference.”

“He is a great man. It’s a big loss to Singapore. We are just hoping to pay our last respect on his last rite of passage.

“I don’t think you can find another Lee Kuan Yew in the whole of the world. Only in his passing that you get to know more about him because there’s so much documentaries, commentaries and everything. When you read them and you realise that everything he does, he thinks, he says is all about Singapore. He’s really a great man. I think it’s a big loss not just to Singapore but to the world.”

-Rani and Uma

#36.

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“It’s the way he has helped to structure the country such that everybody gets an equal opportunity to pursue their education and to really have a chance to go to school. That will be the one thing that I feel that he has done that made Singapore so successful now. I’ve been to other countries, and I feel that we are very fortunate to have a very structured education system and schools here in Singapore. Young children get to go to schools to learn things. It was something that he did that made me feel really fortunate, compared to other children in other countries.”

-Lulu

#37.

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“I am a primary school teacher. So I think that the strong foundation that Mr Lee built especially in the area of education is important which we can really build on for our later generations to come. I want to thank him for really pushing for education and bilingualism when there was no education policies in the past. At this point of time, almost all Singaporeans have compulsory education and sometimes even free education. And that’s what we can appreciate him for because education is really important in our world today. This whole week we actually did the one minute of silence in school. We set aside two periods to educate the children about Mr Lee Kuan Yew. To let them know that he is not just an important person but one who sacrificed his all to make Singapore what we see today. That’s how we educate the children especially the primary one and twos. They don’t really understand but at least they are able to see for themselves that they can wake up in a very nice environment, they can see the green garden city and even have a clean supply of water which they don’t have to worry about.”

-Karen

#38.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“I think it would be his love for the nation. Within 50 years, we have advanced from a third world country into a first world country and probably one of the richest country in the world. I think that’s very incredible. And also safety. I mean, Singapore is a safe and clean place to be in, which is something I am very proud of. Everywhere I go when I am traveling, I am very proud to say that I am a Singaporean, I hold the red passport – which gives me access to many other countries as well. And also being effectively bilingual, sometimes when I go to European countries, they are amazed that I can speak [English] fluently, I know that all this will not be possible if not because of the policies that Mr Lee has rolled out. So I am very thankful for the education system, I am very thankful for the safety. Everything he has done is really out of love. I really salute him for that.”

-Shine

#39.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“He once said to his leaders, to be a true leader of Singapore you must be prepared to build the best system that you can; corruption-free, efficient. You must build it knowing that the people of Singapore would benefit from it, and they will benefit from it more than you. That really reflects how he lived his life, that he will give all that he has by really knowing that someone else might be able to make more money or gain more benefits from the system more than him. And that impacted me the most.”

-Chris

#40.

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“It is a regret for me personally because after watching the documentaries and the news report over the past few days, I realised that I didn’t know him very well. And I didn’t realised that there are so many things in the country that he fought so hard for. You see him going into the kampongs, going into the sampans and stuff like that. It is something that I didn’t know when I was studying history in secondary school. To see that in action, to see the whole of Singapore after his governance, I think that it is not something that he has done in vain. Despite social media kind of bashing him up for the past few years, I think today is really an outpouring of affection for him. And I think it took everybody by surprise just how much we love him although we are Singaporeans, we are shy and we don’t say much. And we didn’t realise that he have such a loving and affectionate side to his stern demeanour, to his wife. And the little things that he did, all the personal stories are coming out from various ones of how he treats them and how he values the friendship of those people who worked with him. I think it’s really an eye-opener. It’s really something that I have never known him for and I think that’s the only regret if we could have known all these earlier and appreciated him then.”

“I just felt that Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a very visionary leader. He had great foresight. Because we grew up in kampongs, we know that from what we were and what we are today, it’s because of all that he did together with his team of people. We have progressed so much and come this far because he have started in a right way. We hope and pray that the nation will continue to move together holding onto that harmony, always seeing ourselves as one people; Singaporeans. Whatever race or background we come from, but we will hold onto his ideology, that we are one people and one nation.

“I think, what he has done is beyond what we can express our appreciation for. I mean, it’s not an easy job to run a nation. I also want to thank Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s wife for all the years that she has been supporting him silently. All I can say is ‘thank you’.”

“He is a very kind person right from the way he speaks. I really admire him. Because the words that he speaks is really sharpened, straight forward, is an encouragement and give confidence. He is a well-mannered man. I always look forward to listening to him whenever he gives a speech. I really admire Mr Lee. He gives comfort, is strong, build up relationships and united the nation.”

-Mindy, Esther, Esther and Rose (from left)

#41.

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“He managed to bring this small little red dot to the world’s stage so that many people all over the world knows about Singapore today. And Singapore became a well developed country despite the little resources we had.”

Actually, I have so much to say to him. It’s just all these few little things that add up to so much. Water, he brought water to our taps. Trees, the trees we see around us is all because of him. Education, where I am today.. Bilingualism is also all because of him. And most importantly, his HDB plan. Without it, I don’t even think I will have a roof over my head today. It’s just small, small things that he did that made me feel very grateful for what he had done for us.”

“I feel very grateful because Singapore is so safe compared to other countries. I find that our Prime Minister Mr Lee really did a very good job, a great job in making Singapore very safe for us. I really miss him.”

-Kesmin, Tina and Eileen (from left)

#42.

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If they could have five minutes with Mr Lee, inquisitive sisters Toh Liu Hui and Toh Liu Xin wants to find out from him what motivates him to change Singapore from a third world country to a first world country, and how did Mr Lee gathered all the supports of all the people to believe in him.

“The fact that he is able to gain the support of the people is very impressive.”

“I would like to thank him. Because of him, we can live in such a safe and comfortable country. Whenever you go out at night, you feel safe. It’s because of him. To me, Lee Kuan Yew is Singapore. So without him, I won’t be studying in school and learning two different languages. And I think that the bilingualism system that he introduced is very good for us. When we work or when we go overseas, there is common language that we can communicate with other people. I really like to thank him for all his contributions to Singapore. No words can really describe his contributions to Singapore.”

#43.

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“I want to ask him over the past 50 years, what was his greatest struggle and what’s the most difficult period in his life when leading Singapore. Rather than simply thanking him, I would want to find out more about his thoughts when leading Singapore.”

– Minghui

#44.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“The perseverance that he had for this past few years. He never gave up and he spent all of his life serving Singapore. I think he treats Singapore of higher importance than his own health.”

-Amanda

#45.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“That would definitely be how he held onto his stance and his beliefs. What I felt special about Mr Lee was that when others said that things are impossible, he made it possible. He held his stance. It is because of him that we have the Singapore that we have today.”

-Mok

#46.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“I can’t say there’s one thing because everything around me, environment, materialistic things, culture, economy, everything is impacted by him. So it’s very hard to pinpoint on one thing because everything around me has to have some relation to Mr Lee’s guidance or his thinking and what he wanted for Singapore. So basically, everything that he did impacted my life be it through the older generation, the Pioneer Generation which in turn impacted me. So it’s just everything that he’s done, everything around us have some relations to him.”

“Coming from the Y Generation, we wouldn’t know exactly what he has done for Singapore. So what is the one thing he has done that benefited you the most out of everything he has done for Singapore?”

“Being a student, I would say education because that’s what my life revolves around the most. The education system that he has set up and made it such an important part of Singaporeans’ life, to make it a base for everyone to build on is just so important. And without that strong thinking that he had about education being essential to the growth of Singapore, we wouldn’t be here.”

-Audrey

#47.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“At the point when he was hospitalised, he was still concerned over the development of Singapore. For example, when he was woke up while on the hospital bed, he straightaway asked for his red box which contains all the documents and information of Singapore’s development. Without Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore won’t be what she is today.”

-Xiao Wei

#48.

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“He is just a living legend to me.”

-Sky

#49.

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“If you can have five minutes in conversation with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, what would you want to tell him or say to him?”

“I would like to say to Mr Lee, ‘thank you so much for building Singapore from a third world country to the first world, from a fisherman village to where Singapore is right now.’ If not for him, Singapore won’t be where she is right now where generations can enjoy the fruit of his labour.”

“Coming from the Y Generation, we wouldn’t know exactly what he has done for Singapore. So what is the one thing he has done that benefited you the most out of everything he has done for Singapore?”

“I guess I benefited most from his leadership. How he led the Pioneer Generation and built a team to lead the Y Generation of Singapore.”

-Genevieve

#50.

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“If there is one thing that Mr Lee has done that impacted you greatly or has last a deep impression in your life, what would that be?”

“Actually, there are a lot of things he has done. I feel that the things he has done can be seen everywhere. I mean, look at HDB, look at the water, look at the garden city, look at the army, everything is there because he thought of it in the first place. It it wasn’t for him, we won’t be here today really. If he hasn’t implemented it then, we won’t have everything now. He has a mind of the future. He is really a designer of the future.”

“Coming from the Y Generation, we wouldn’t know exactly what he has done for Singapore. So what is the one thing he has done that benefited you the most out of everything he has done for Singapore?”

“This might come quite shocking but one of the things I benefited the most from is the army. Every Singaporean [are given the opportunity to] defend their home. Without the army, we will not have this national pride. I feel that when it comes to the army, people feel that it is a burden, like ‘Why did you take away two meaningful years of my time when I am at the peak of my stamina?’ For me, if you look at it from another perspective, you are actually giving your peak, your best to your country that you are going to live in for the next 60, 80 years. To me, if I stay here for 60 or 80 years, and I give two years to my country, I think it’s worth it. I think army is the best thing that impacted my life.”

-Chun Hui

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One thought on “Interview: 50 Stories and the Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew

  1. Pingback: Musical: A Night with Beauty and the Beast | Writings of a Not So Typical Writer

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