SINGAPORE - Opposition leader Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC) paid tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's achievements in a special Parliament sitting on Thursday afternoon, but added that the interests of some Singaporeans were "sacrificed" in the nation-building process.
"Mr Lee was also a controversial figure in some people's eyes," said Mr Low.
Speaking in Mandarin, he described Mr Lee as "an extraordinary political leader" who took Singapore from Third World to First.
Upon independence, Singapore needed a global vision and to attract foreign investment, but without becoming a mere pawn of larger countries. With "outstanding wisdom and courage", Mr Lee managed to navigate amongst economic powers and win their respect, said Mr Low.
Mr Lee was able to build mutual trust with Singaporeans and take them in a common direction, he added. "This is the main reason why Singapore can leap from third world to first in one generation... Not just his fighting spirit and tenacity, but his sincerity."
But the People Action Party's one-party rule was not the key to Singapore's transformation, said Mr Low, who is Workers' Party secretary-general and the longest-serving opposition member in Parliament today
Many Singaporeans were sacrificed in the process of development, said Mr Low. "Society has paid the price for it."
Mr Lee crafted policies based on the situation then, making rational choices in the interests of the country. Yet policy-making should not just be rational, but also humane and compassionate, said Mr Low. "Only in this way can policy-making avoid harming people and creating resentment."
But he gave Mr Lee credit for being reasonable and open-minded.
"From my dealings with Mr Lee in Parliament, I don't think he was an autocrat who didn't listen," he added. "If you have strong reasons and a tight argument and can win him over through policy debate, I think he will consider your views."
Mr Low also commended Mr Lee's ability to manage the interests of different groups in Singapore's early days, uniting and building a multicultural Singapore.
"This is an achievement that is now possible without Mr Lee. My deepest respect goes to founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew," Mr Low concluded.