Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

What foreign news media say about Mr Lee Kuan Yew

The passing of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew on Monday, March 23, has been widely reported by the media all over the world.

Here are excerpts of articles in some foreign news outlets on Mr Lee:

1. Forbes - Lee Kuan Yew: Why Singapore's Extraordinary Leader Will Be Missed

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was one of the great statesmen of the post-World War II era. He made Singapore an economic powerhouse, demonstrating that so-called natural resources aren’t necessary for prosperity, that the key is creating an environment in which human ingenuity can thrive. He did not tolerate corruption; to eliminate the temptation and attract capable people, Mr Lee paid government officials high salaries. He kept a tight grip on spending and pushed down taxes; the top rate on personal incomes is all of 20 per cent. He knew the folly of weak money; the Singapore dollar looks like the Rock of Gibraltar compared with most currencies - including the US dollar - most of the time.

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2. New York Times - What Would Lee Kuan Yew Do?

Although Mr Lee will be most remembered for his achievements at home — transforming a poor, corrupt, fledging city-state into a first-world commercial and diplomatic hub — he was also an astute observer of world order, widely regarded as the Henry A. Kissinger of the East. So what might Mr Lee’s assessment of the United States look like today? He would most likely note America’s economic recovery and the far-reaching economic and strategic benefits it stands to gain from trends in the global energy market. The United States Energy Information Administration forecast this month that American crude oil production would average 9.5 million barrels per day next year, just shy of the record high set in 1970.

While Mr Lee was certainly no proponent of Western-style democracy, it is too facile to describe him simply as a champion of “Asian values” - generally understood as putting the community before the individual and privileging order over freedom. In leading Singapore, he was, above all, a pragmatist. And as it confronts turmoil abroad and gridlock at home, the United States could use a dose of Mr Lee’s coolheaded analysis and wisdom.

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3. The Hindu - Lee Kuan Yew, a friend of Tamils

Political leaders in Tamil Nadu said the Tamils across the world have lost a good friend. “He brought together various nationalities - Tamils, Malaysians and Chinese - and made Tamil one of the official languages,” said DMK leader M. Karurunanidhi.

Recalling the grand reception offered by Mr Lee when DMK founder Anna visited Singapore in 1965, Mr Karunanidhi said the Singapore leader also enjoyed the speech made by the DMK founder.

PMK leader S. Ramadoss said Mr Lee always insisted on granting Sri Lankan Tamils their rights and described as ethnic cleansing their killing while Indian leaders sought to portray their struggle as an act of terrorism. “He maintained only a separate country could deliver Tamils from the clutches of Sinhalese hegemony and did not hesitate to call former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as terrorist,” said Dr Ramadoss.

MDMK general secretary Vaiko said Mr Lee, who had loved the Tamils in his country, had understood the just demands of the Sri Lankan Tamils and drew the world’s attention towards their struggle.

“He openly condemned Mahinda Rajapaksa and reiterated that Tamils were the original citizens of Sri Lanka. He also justified the armed struggle of the LTTE on the ground that it was against the majority Singhalese’s attempt to wipe out the Tamils,” he said.

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4. Telegraph - Lee Kuan Yew: a model for the New Authoritarians or a one-off genius?

Singapore's founding father became a byword for "enlightened despotism", but it will not be easy for other countries to emulate the city state's success. If Mr Lee had died 20 years ago, he would have undoubtedly been well remembered, but as a more marginal, almost eccentric figure than he will be today.

The model of paternalistic soft authoritarianism with which the Cambridge-educated polymath built a city state on Asia’s southern tip would probably have been seen as an odd-man-out. The rest of the world was turning democratic: the Soviet Union had fallen apart, and Singapore’s fellow Asian tigers - Taiwan, South Korea, even colonial Hong Kong - were starting to hold real elections. In the intervening years, though, the Minister Mentor had become a mentor indeed to a whole new school of governance.

Singapore’s hugely successful economy and stable society have made it a model for a new breed of politician keen to marry the prosperity achieved by free market, pro-business economics with the comfortable certainties of single-party rule. It is China which is most often quoted in this context.

Whether Singapore can really be a model for anywhere other than itself, of course, is another matter. Singapore is right to say that there was no one like Mr Lee. There will never be another one like him - and the world might be wise to remember that too.

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5. Time Magazine - Father of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew dies at 91

TIME once made Lee Kuan Yew cry. It was the fall of 2005, in Singapore, during nearly five hours of interview spread over two days. The conversation had turned to family and friends, and faith as a source of strength in the face of adversity. “I would not score very highly on religious value,” said Lee, then 82, still in good health, and a sort of minister emeritus. Yet when he talked about the illnesses and deaths of loved ones, Lee allowed himself a rare moment of vulnerability: his eyes welled up.

Emotional is not a word associated with the hard-headed, severe and supremely disciplined Lee. Neither, seemingly, is mortal—Lee was so enduring a public figure for so long that he appeared to transcend impermanence. But in recent years a mellowing Lee openly broached the subject of dying: he felt himself growing weaker with age, he said, and he wanted to go quickly when the time came.

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6. The Economist - Commander of his stage: Lee Kuan Yew

Here was no vainglory in the title of the first volume of Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs: “The Singapore Story”. Few leaders have so embodied and dominated their countries: Fidel Castro, perhaps, and Kim Il Sung, in their day. But both of those signally failed to match Mr Lee’s achievement in propelling Singapore “From Third World to First” (as the second volume is called). Moreover, he managed it against far worse odds: no space, beyond a crowded little island; no natural resources; and, as an island of polyglot immigrants, not much shared history. The search for a common heritage may have been why, in the 1990s, Mr Lee’s Singapore championed “Asian values”. By then, Singapore was the most Westernised place in Asia.

Mr Lee himself, whose anglophile grandfather had added “Harry” to his Chinese name, was once called by George Brown, a British foreign secretary, “the best bloody Englishman east of Suez”. He was proud of his success in colonial society. He was a star student in pre-war Singapore, and, after an interlude during the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942-45, again at the London School of Economics (LSE) and Cambridge. He and his wife, Kwa Geok Choo, both got firsts in law.

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7. Financial Times - Lee Kuan Yew - Singapore's Founding Father - Dies at 91

Mr Lee was the embodiment of a new Asian dynamism: smart, tough and pragmatic and displaying unshakeable self-confidence.

His style of leadership had many foreign admirers and he was credited with being a pioneer of "authoritarian capitalism", which has influenced other countries including China, Russia and the Gulf states. Richard Nixon once described Mr Lee as a big man on a small stage who, "in other times and other places, might have attained the world stature of a Churchill, a Disraeli or a Gladstone".

Perhaps at times Mr Lee yearned to put his talents to work outside the narrow confines of Singapore but he was pleased to be acknowledged as a leading spokesman for Asia.

Few other leaders have stamped their personalities so firmly on a country. His perfectionism, farsightedness, elitism, authoritarianism and intolerance, along with his obsessions with security, cleanliness and order, are reflected in nearly every aspect of modern Singaporean life.

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8. The Telegraph - Lee Kuan Yew, Asian statesman: Obituary

A brilliant legal scholar, formidable political organiser and powerful orator in several languages, Lee became prime minister of Singapore aged 35 in 1959, under the last British governorship, and remained in power until his chosen retirement date more than 30 years later. He led the island state to independence as part of Malaysia in 1963, and as a nation in its own right two years later.

Throughout his premiership - and afterwards, as "senior minister" then "minister mentor" - he imposed his austere, incorruptible and often prickly persona on Singapore life. Stability and economic progress were, for him, unequivocally higher priorities than western notions of freedom. Those who criticised him from abroad often found themselves sued for defamation; those who dared to oppose him domestically were overpowered by every legalistic means at his government's disposal.

The result was the transformation of Singapore from a mosquito-ridden colonial trading post and military base to a proud and prosperous - if somewhat antiseptic - "Asian tiger", with the ninth highest per capita income in the world.

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9. The Guardian - Lee Kuan Yew obituary

Mr Lee's role in and articulation of events from the Pacific war and the Japanese occupation of Singapore till leaving politics completely in 2011 made him a pivotal figure of the modern world. To many he became the embodiment of the orderly transition of a region from western dominance to neo-Confucian success. Yet experience had taught him to be a pessimist, which drove him to work harder, to be more ruthless...

Mr Lee has been described as many things. To Chinese, particularly during his days fighting Chinese chauvinism in the name of a multiracial Singapore identity, the Cambridge-educated lawyer brought up to believe in English education if not in British institutions, Lee was a "banana" - yellow on the outside, white inside.

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10. Australian Financial Review - Lee Kuan Yew was Australia's sharp-tongued friend in Asia

While the 91-year-old former Singapore prime minister who died on Monday morning is best known in Australia for his 1980 warning that the country would be the poor white trash of Asia if it didn't open its economy, his 50-year career at or near the top of Singapore is replete with caustic observations about his southern neighbour.

In part this reflected familiarity breeding contempt for a hard-headed, British-trained lawyer from a fellow Commonwealth member, but it also increasingly reflected an underlying recognition that Mr Lee's small city state also needed Australia as a defence and economic partner...

And while Singapore has outshone Australia in average annual economic growth, capital reserve accumulation and integration into Asian business since the white trash warning, it is striking how many government-owned enterprises such as Temasek Holdings, Singapore Power and SingTel have used Australia as a stepping stone into offshore business as they have been forced to seek growth outside their small home market.

Despite Mr Lee's early criticism, this has become quite a symbiotic relationship, with Singapore today being Australia's fifth largest source of accrued foreign investment and still larger than China. And Australia is the fourth largest destination for accrued Singapore investment.

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