Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Everything Mr Lee Kuan Yew did was to make Singapore better: Ong Pang Boon

SINGAPORE - As someone who spent almost three decades working closely with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, former Cabinet minister Ong Pang Boon said he was always struck most by Mr Lee's "complete passion for Singapore".

Delivering a eulogy in Mandarin at the University Cultural Centre, Mr Ong, now 85, recalled: "He spent every moment thinking of how he could improve Singapore and Singaporeans' lives.

"Once he decided that a certain policy was in the interest of his beloved Singapore, he would implement it even if it meant making himself unpopular."

Mr Ong served in several capacities, including Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Education and Minister for Environment.

He said he was first impressed by Mr Lee when he heard how Mr Lee had successfully argued against the colonial government during the 1952 postal workers' strike for the welfare of unions and workers.

Mr Ong described the late Mr Lee as "a dedicated Prime Minister with broad perspectives", able to accept alternative views and ideas even when there were differing views during Cabinet meetings on certain issues.

He added that while Mr Lee has his critics, Singapore's first Prime Minister should be measured by his abiding passion for Singapore.

"Everything Mr Lee did was to make Singapore better... he was always wholeheartedly fighting for the best interest of this small and vulnerable nation.

"Without Mr Lee, the Singapore story would be quite different. He was the lightning rod that galvanised the pioneer group of PAP leaders and grassroots supporters in our battles first against colonial rule and then the pro-communists and communalists.

"Without him, Singapore would not be what it is today."