Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew helped Muslims progress, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim says

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Kuan Yew had a strong conviction that no one should be left behind, especially those in the minority groups, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said on Wednesday.

"He found ways and means to help us to move along... He has helped the Malay Muslim people to understand that you need the two principles that I've always mentioned - meritocracy and multiracialism - to succeed, and I think we have done so," said Dr Yaacob.

He was at a community tribute site at Hong Lim Park on Wednesday afternoon with Muslim religious leaders to pen his condolences to the late Mr Lee.

More than 1,000 people, comprising residents and those who work in the area, turned up at the tribute site to pay their respects to Mr Lee, who died early Monday morning at the age of 91.

Dr Yaacob, who is also the Communications and Information Minister, said one of Mr Lee's greatest contributions to the Muslim community was setting up the Mosque Building Fund, now known as the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund.

The fund was set up in 1975, and allowed Muslims to donate to the building of new mosques through the Central Provident Fund system. At that time, some Muslims who were being resettled in new Housing Board flats did not have a community mosque in their area. Community efforts to raise funds through door-to-door donations were also slow.

Dr Yaacob said: "We are a secular country and we cannot possibly use government funds, so therefore we have to help the community. But to get the community organised to raise funds... he allowed us to make use of a government system - the CPF system."

The fund has helped the Muslim community to build 23 new-generation mosques, said Dr Yaacob.

Also at the tribute site on Wednesday was Ms Ng Seok Chin, 47, who works in a design firm nearby.

Ms Ng, who was born in Malaysia, came to Singapore to work in her 20s and became a citizen in 2012, said in between sobs: "I'm very thankful to him. Because he built Singapore to be a peaceful and stable country, I'm able to come here to work in a good environment. I have a lot of respect for him... even more so than for the leaders of my country of birth."