Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew a good man, good husband, good father and grandfather: Son Hsien Yang

SINGAPORE - In different circumstances, Singapore's first Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew could have been a very successful businessman or an entrepreneur, said Mr Lee Hsien Yang, his second son, in his eulogy to his father on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, "Papa chose to serve the people of Singapore and to build a better future for all".

Mr Lee, who was the last to speak at the funeral service, shared some touching and personal insights into the family life.

He spoke of how Mr Lee Kuan Yew was always immersed in work. That was why the family holidays - at Fraser's Hill, Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and Changi Cottage were relished, because they got to see more of their father.

Mr Lee spoke of how even on the issue of exercise, like with everything he had set his mind to, his father was disciplined and exercised regularly to the last.

He also shared a romantic insight into his parents' relationship. He spoke of a family holiday to Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace in 1973 and how they had toured various sites.

"I had assumed that it was just Mama indulging her love for Shakespeare and trying to educate us whilst we're on vacation. But years later when Papa wrote his memoirs we realised the hidden meaning this visit held for my parents. They had married secretly in Stratford upon Avon in December 1947."

He recalled how the arrival of grandchildren brought a great deal of joy to his parents, of how Mr Lee Kuan Yew loved having them playing around as he exercised after work in the evenings, and of how he would take them out on weekends, "to the zoo, the bird park, the science centre and other places where families would go".

He also spoke of how his youngest son Shaowu was born many years after all the other grandchildren, and with Mr Lee Kuan Yew less active in public life, this gave his parents the opportunity and time to enjoy their last grandchild.

Family birthdays were usually not celebrated, but in later years after the death of PM Lee's first wife, Mr Lee Hsien Yang began inviting the family over for his parents' respective birthdays when he would cook a simple meal.

"Papa loved a good steak and had a Peranakan sweet tooth for desserts," he said.

He also revealed how the grandchildren had outspoken views. One birthday dinner, his son Shengwu debated with Mr Lee Kuan Yew until late, with both sides wanting to ensure that the other understood his perspective and point of view.

"I know that growing up as his son, I have also been privileged to have witnessed what it means to be a good man, a good husband, and a good father and grandfather," he said.

He added that the family has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of grief and affection.

"Please accept my family's inadequate but deep and heartfelt thanks.

"We know our loss is your loss too, and that the loss is deep and keenly felt. We are humbled that so many have come forward to demonstrate your affection for, respect of and gratitude to - my extraordinary father, a father we share - with Singapore."