Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Honour Mr Lee Kuan Yew by making Singapore a great city: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Singaporeans urged to continue life's work of founding father

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday called on Singaporeans to continue Mr Lee Kuan Yew's life's work by making this island nation a great metropolis that reflects the ideals of their founding prime minister.

In a 40-minute eulogy, delivered in English, Mandarin and Malay, he spoke of the late Mr Lee's commitment to multiracialism, equality, meritocracy, integrity and rule of law; celebrated his ferocious fighting spirit and described his decades-long effort to prepare Singapore to continue beyond him.

Not only had he systematically identified and groomed a team of successors, but he also continued writing books into his 90s so that a new generation could learn from his experience, and understand what their security, prosperity and future depended on. "His biggest worry was that younger Singaporeans would lose the instinct for what made Singapore tick," PM Lee said.

He cited three recent books, the first on bilingualism, the second entitled Hard Truths and a third - One Man's View Of The World. The first two were launched in 2011 and the third in 2013.

PM Lee spoke of a man who fought and laboured tirelessly for his beliefs and the country he loved. In the 1960s, he battled communists and communalists, putting his own life on the line. Later, he fought for Singapore's survival after separation from Malaysia and when the British forces withdrew, taking 150,000 jobs with them.

"Just weeks after Separation, he boldly declared that '10 years from now, this will be a metropolis. Never fear!' And indeed he made it happen. He instilled discipline and order - ensuring that in Singapore, every problem gets fixed," PM Lee said.

He also enabled his economic team of Old Guard ministers Goh Keng Swee, Hon Sui Sen and Lim Kim San to design and carry out their plans to attract investments and grow the economy. "As he said, "I settled the political conditions so that tough policies… could be executed."

PM Lee added that "because people knew that he cared for them and not for himself, and because he had faith that Singaporeans would work with him to achieve great things, Mr Lee won the trust and confidence of Singaporeans".

In both his eulogy at the state funeral service in the University Cultural Centre (UCC), and later at a private ceremony for family and friends at Mandai Crematorium, PM Lee shared personal memories of his father, including a conversation they had years ago over a golf game in which the elder Mr Lee told his oldest child to take care of his mother and younger brother and sister should anything happen to him.

Their father, he said, had already plunged deep into politics when the children arrived so their mother brought them up. "But Pa set the tone, tracked our progress and made the big decisions. He sent us to a Chinese school; he started us on Malay lessons with Cikgu Amin; he encouraged Yang and me to take up SAF Scholarships, to serve the nation."

His father was there when he learnt to ride a bicycle, helped take care of his young children when his first wife died, and worried about his nutrition when he was undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.

His father's death "will leave a big hole" in the hearts of family and friends, "but his values, his love, and his words - these will stay with us, inspire us and live on in us for a long, long time".

As for Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew intended nothing less than to see that it "will be here a thousand years from now". With him gone, it is the duty of those who remain to continue his life's work, PM Lee said.

He ended his eulogy with this rallying call to Singaporeans: "We come together to pledge ourselves to continue building this exceptional country. Let us shape this island nation into one of the great cities in the world reflecting the ideals he stood for, realising the dreams he inspired and worthy of the people who have made Singapore our home and nation."

lydia@sph.com.sg