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Mr Lee improved financial status of Indian community: Trade unionist G. Muthukumarasamy in eulogy

SINGAPORE - Trade unionist G. Muthukumarasamy thanked Mr Lee Kuan Yew for increasing the income of the Indian community in his eulogy for Singapore's founding father on Sunday.

He recounted how, when he was young, his father would often tell him about Singapore's founding father.

"Mr Lee saw the hardships experienced by the Indian community at the time and he was determined to help and make a difference," he said in Tamil.

"During those days, most Indian families had single incomes because they did not allow their women to work."He credited Mr Lee for encouraging Indian women to join the workforce, to learn a skill and help their families financially. On a personal note, the general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers said that Mr Lee had inspired his development as a worker, a unionist and a leader, and shared an experience that was so vivid to him that it seemed "like it happened yesterday".

As an apprentice wireman at the then Public Works Department, Mr Muthukumarasamy had gone with his colleagues to the newly-built Changi Cottage to service the air-conditioning system.

They did know then that Mr Lee, then the Prime Minister, was there.

When the job was done, the supervisor was called into a room by Mr Lee. Mr Muthukumarasamy and his colleagues were afraid that they had made a mistake..

Instead, Mr Lee told the supervisor: "When a job is given to you, you should do it. I asked you to service the air-conditioning. Please service it now." When the supervisor was done, Mr Lee reiterated that he had given him the job because he thought he could do it - not for him to turn around and re-assign it to his team.

The incident left a deep impression on Mr Muthukumarasamy.

"Mr Lee believed in one thing - one must do correctly what he is told and everyone should do their own work. If a third person is asked to do the job, the impact would not be right," he said.

"We must not pass the job to others, and walk away from it. We must show involvement in our work and do it properly."

Mr Muthukumarasamy also recalled how Mr Lee also gave much support to the unions and their members. In his May Day speeches, Mr Lee would urge union members to upgrade their skills. Many followed his advice and became technicians and engineers.

"He would often say, do not be contented with what you have."

Mr Lee died on March 23 at the age of 91. A funeral service held for him at the University Cultural Centre in the National University of Singapore was attended by about 2,000 guests.