Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: A poignant absence on Aug 9, says Chiam See Tong

Opposition veteran says Mr Lee will stay a symbol of Singapore's success

Veteran opposition politician Chiam See Tong yesterday said Mr Lee Kuan Yew had been for Singapore what British prime minister Winston Churchill was for his country.

In a heartfelt condolence letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on his father's death, the leader of the Singapore People's Party said: "He was there at the time when Singapore was swarmed with numerous problems, ranging from domestic to international issues. He was there, just as Britain needed Winston Churchill during World War II - always taking a strategic and long-term view of Singapore."

Mr Lee, Singapore's first Prime Minister, died on Monday at Singapore General Hospital, where he had been in intensive care since Feb 5, when he had severe pneumonia. He was 91.

Like several other political players this week, Mr Chiam listed Mr Lee's achievements. "He was a great statesman, parliamentarian and a master of public policy.

"No one else had shaped modern Singapore more than Lee Kuan Yew, since he became Prime Minister in 1959. He was a man for all seasons. He will live on in history, remaining for future generations the symbol of Singapore's success," he said of his fiercest rival.

Mr Chiam, the longest-serving opposition MP until 2011, said he and his wife, Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam, were saddened by Mr Lee's death.

"His absence from our 50th National Day Parade later this year will be particularly poignant to us," he added.

Meanwhile, Mr Ravi Philemon, who was with the National Solidarity Party until recently, said: "With the passing away of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a part of us is also gone."

Amid the tributes, the Think Centre, a political non-governmental organisation, was critical of Mr Lee, saying he suppressed the media, unions and civil society, as well as his political opponents.

"He even developed the process of bankrupting his political opponents through defamation suits into a fine art, sending a chilling effect across society," it said.

yuenc@sph.com.sg