Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew loved being a doting grandfather, says grandson Li Shengwu in eulogy

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Kuan Yew loved his role as a doting grandfather, said one of the grandsons of Singapore's founding prime minister.

Mr Li Shengwu, the eldest son of Mr Lee's younger son Hsien Yang, revealed this as he delivered his eulogy on the late Mr Lee at a private service on Sunday at Mandai Crematorium.

Giving a glimpse into the private life he and his cousins had as Mr Lee's grandchildren, the 30-year-old said Mr Lee would take them for walks to feed the fishes at the Istana.

"We would perch on the edge of the pond, the ripples of our breadcrumbs breaking the mirrored surface of the water. He liked to have the grandchildren nearby as he rode his stationary bike on the green grass," Mr Li said.

He described Sunday lunches with the late Mr Lee as an "institution". It was where Mr Lee's voice and "hearty laugh" would carry to the children's table, and where the late politician would talk about matters of state, recounting meetings with foreign leaders.

Mr Li spoke about how his grandparents' house never changed. "Always the same white walls, the same wooden furniture, the same high windows letting in sunlight. The food stayed the same too - Singapore cooking of a kind that would not be out of place at a good stall in a hawker center," he said.

He also recollected fondly outings, to the zoo, to the Science Centre, to National Day. Mr Li said that it delighted his grandfather when at each Chinese New Year, the grandchildren would line up to greet him and receive hongbaos. Mr Lee had left behind pillars in the country that stand strong and foundations that run deep, Mr Li said of his grandfather's legacy.

He also paid homage to his grandfather for charting great progress for Singapore, saying he was "our man of tomorrow".

"The Singapore economy has advanced more in 50 years than the American economy has advanced in 150 years. This is a pace of progress that is less like economic development, and more like time travel," he said.

He added that Mr Lee's plan to transform the society succeeded so "rapidly, so thoroughly" that to his generation of Singaporeans, the poverty and instability of Singapore's beginning feels "almost unreal, like a fever dream chased away by the morning light".

"I think my grandfather always saw my generation of Singaporeans with a mixture of trepidation and hope. We are children of peacetime, unacquainted with the long struggle to make Singapore a modern nation-state. We view stability, prosperity, and the rule of law as our birthrights, for good or ill," he said, adding that these Singaporeans have their own vision for what the country will be.

Even if the hopes of younger Singaporeans may seem idealistic or far fetched, Mr Li said, his grandfather has shown how even a vision that may have seemed "outlandish" can be achieved.

"He showed us by example that with courage and clear thinking, Singapore can rise above its circumstances and be a light to the world," he said.

In ending his eulogy, Mr Li said of his grandfather, who died on March 23 at the age of 91: "Ye Ye, you chose to forsake personal gain and the comforts of an ordinary life, so that the people of Singapore could have a better life for themselves, and for their children and for their grandchildren. That Singapore is safe, that Singapore is prosperous, that Singapore is - for this we owe a debt that we cannot repay."

Click here for the full transcript of the eulogy.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg