WHAT IT WILL TAKE TO KEEP SINGAPORE SPECIAL

LKY told friends: S'pore will be even better 50 years from now

At the National Day Parade at the Padang, Mr Lee's absence was marked by an empty seat in his honour. Three surviving Old Guard leaders - Mr Othman Wok, 90, Mr Jek Yeun Thong, 85, and Mr Ong Pang Boon, 86 - sat next to Mr Lee's empty seat.
At the National Day Parade at the Padang, Mr Lee's absence was marked by an empty seat in his honour. Three surviving Old Guard leaders - Mr Othman Wok, 90, Mr Jek Yeun Thong, 85, and Mr Ong Pang Boon, 86 - sat next to Mr Lee's empty seat.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

No one can be sure what Singapore in 50 years will be like.

But there is one opinion that all Singaporeans would have liked to have heard, noted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night, and that was founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's.

At the National Day Rally, PM Lee gave a glimpse into what Mr Lee may have thought of the chan-ces of Singapore making it to its centennial.

In Mr Lee's old age, a group of friends regularly took him out for meals, revealed PM Lee: "Conversation would flow, and Mr Lee would get a chance to see a different bit of the Singapore he had built."

The final meal took place in January this year, shortly before Mr Lee was hospitalised in February.

He died in March, aged 91, of severe pneumonia.

PM Lee read out a letter that one member of the group had written to him, describing the final dinner.

It read:

"As it was the start of 2015, we talked at length about the celebrations for SG50.

"We took turns to encourage Mr Lee to attend as many SG50 events as possible. Actually, we hoped he would be there for the SG50 National Day Parade.

"Mr Lee listened to our exhortations, but stopped short of saying yes to our suggestions.

"At each of our gatherings, it had become a tradition to ask Mr Lee 'Will there be a Singapore many years from now?'

"Once, Mr Lee said 'Maybe'.

"On another, Mr Lee said 'Yes, if there is no corruption'.

"This was classic Mr Lee - ever-believing in Singapore, yet

ever-cognisant that there was always work to be done, that we should never take things for granted. Continuing with our tradition and in the spirit of SG50, that evening we asked him 'Will there be a Singapore 50 years from now?'

"Mr Lee's answer took us all by surprise. That evening, for the first time, Mr Lee said: 'Of course there will be… even better!'"

Rachel Chang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 24, 2015, with the headline 'LKY told friends: S'pore will be even better 50 years from now'. Print Edition | Subscribe