Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Best way to honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew? 'Keep Singapore united and successful'

Singapore's current generation of leaders urged Singaporeans to honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew by keeping the country united, and successful.

Building on what Mr Lee and his team put in place - especially upholding the values of multiracialism, meritocracy, incorruptibility and bold policymaking - would be the best way to keep his legacy alive, they said.

"Everything that is Lee Kuan Yew is what will hold us well for the future. Especially the way he kept looking to the future, looking for new opportunities, spotting problems before they arrive, preparing Singaporeans well," said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

"That is what we've got to keep doing. That is the way we honour Mr Lee's legacy."

Mr Tharman was speaking to reporters after attending Mr Lee's private family wake yesterday at Sri Temasek, the Prime Minister's official residence.

Cabinet ministers and MPs were among the 1,200 people in attendance.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said Mr Lee "went out of his way" to apply the two principles of meritocracy and multiracialism to all communities in Singapore.

"We have to continue that story... if not, we have nowhere else to go," said Dr Yaacob. "That is the thing that we must learn from him and we want to keep that alive, especially for the younger generation. Because without that, it is going to be a difficult journey for us."

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said: "This is the time for Singaporeans to come together, united, in mourning... But I hope also, united in our collective determination to further his legacy of building a more dynamic and prosperous Singapore."

When most of Singapore's current leaders entered politics, Mr Lee was already well into his 70s.

But they described his probing presence and sharp questioning as having shaped and inspired them as politicians and policymakers.

"I had many debates with him about Islam and Muslims in Singapore," recalled Dr Yaacob. "Many occasions, he would call me in the middle of the night to clarify something on Islam and Muslims. And I would have to discuss and debate with him, and sometimes he would change his view."

Noting that this is a mark of a great man, he added: "He understood what needed to be done and if he understood that the other point of view was better, he is prepared to cede the ground...He just wanted to find the best solution. We learnt a lot from him."

Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said: "Whether it was policy, whether it was the ability to strategically see the long term, whether it was legal analysis, he was on top of it all."

He added: "It was wonderful to work with him. You had to be honest and if you didn't know, you had to tell him you didn't know. He appreciated the honesty. But he always expected you to have done your homework."

Said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, holding back tears: "Mr Lee was like a father to all of us. Today's Singapore was his life's work and a gift to all of us."

rchang@sph.com.sg