Lee Kuan Yew was pivotal to Singapore's success: Mahathir

Students beside a large poster of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew after a remembrance service held at Stamford Green on March 20. PHOTO: ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR • Mr Lee Kuan Yew played a pivotal role in Singapore's success by laying the foundations for its growth, former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has said.

He said that Mr Lee, who died in March last year, was responsible for turning Singapore into a financial centre with a world-class port, and into an aviation hub.

He made the point during a wide-ranging interview at his office in Kuala Lumpur with Berita Minggu, the Singapore Malay-language paper and sister publication of The Straits Times.

Tun Dr Mahathir told the weekend broadsheet that Singapore, at independence in August 1965, "felt isolated because it was rejected by Malaysia and faced the loss of resources".

He said: "It was a small island. So, Lee Kuan Yew created an approach to make Singapore a financial centre, with one of the world's biggest ports, and improved and increased flights to Singapore.

"That is one achievement that we need to recognise, and the people of Singapore need to value Lee Kuan Yew."

Dr Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, also said that his leadership style and Mr Lee's were different, and so were their perspectives, but he did not view the Singapore leader as an enemy.

"Personally, I had no problems. I could talk to Lee Kuan Yew. But I did not agree with his views, his approach. That was all there was between us," said Dr Mahathir. "I don't regard him as an enemy and all that, but as a Singapore leader who had his own stand that was not the same with the stand of Malaysia."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline Lee Kuan Yew was pivotal to Singapore's success: Mahathir. Subscribe