Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

10 moving eulogies delivered at funeral service of Mr Lee Kuan Yew

SINGAPORE - Ten moving eulogies were delivered at the funeral service of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew on Sunday.

The service, held at the University Cultural Centre of the National University of Singapore, was attended by 2,200 people including Mr Lee's family members, President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Cabinet ministers, judges, members of Parliament and foreign leaders from more than 20 countries, as well as invited Singaporeans from all walks of life.

Here are the main points of the eulogies.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

On building a nation:

"From the ashes of separation, he built a nation. The easiest thing to do would have been to appeal to Chinese voters alone.... Instead he went for the nobler dream of a multi-racial, multi-religious nation."

On leaving his mark on Singapore:

"Mr Lee imbued Singapore with his personal traits. He built Singapore to be clean and corruption-free. His home was spartan. His habits were frugal. He imparted these values to the government."

On growing up as his father's son:

"I remember the night the children slept on the floor in my parents' bedroom at Temasek House in Kuala Lumpur because the house was full of ministers who had come up from Singapore."

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President Tony Tan Keng Yam

On Mr Lee's respect for the Singapore Constitution and institutions:

"I recalled how Mr Lee insisted on making a trip to his office two years ago, despite his frailty. I asked to visit Mr Lee to see how he was doing. With Mr Lee's increasing frailty and out of respect, I planned to meet him at his office. Mr Lee, however, was adamant that he should come to my office. It took him a great deal of effort. But he did it as a mark of respect for the Office of the President."

On Mr Lee's insistence on integrity:

"With integrity as our nation's bedrock, Mr Lee forged a cohesive society that shares common values and experiences across races and religions. When Singapore gained independence, we were a fractured and divided society. This past week, Singaporeans from all walks of life came together to mourn the loss of Mr Lee. Large numbers of Singaporeans queued patiently for hours to pay their last respects at Parliament House and Community Tribute Sites across the island. Many individuals and businesses offered shelter and refreshments to those who had been waiting in line, lending a helping hand to fellow Singaporeans. This would have made Mr Lee very proud. This was what he had worked for his whole life - to build a united people, who respect and care for one another as fellow citizens."

On Mr Lee's legacy:

"Over the past week, we have mourned the passing of a man and an era. There will never be another Lee Kuan Yew. No one person can take his place nor do what he did."

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Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong

On Mr Lee as a teacher:

"To Singaporeans, he was our first Prime Minister, our leader who fought for our Independence, the man who turned Singapore from Third World to First, our national father. For me, he would always be my teacher."

On leadership renewal:

"He worried incessantly whether Singapore would survive after he and the Old Guard were gone. He wanted to be judged on this, not by the city he had built and the lives he had improved."

On wanting Singapore to move on:

"He transformed our lives. He touched our hearts. We grieve. But I believe Mr Lee would say, 'What to do? This is life,'" .

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Former Cabinet minister Ong Pang Boon

On Mr Lee's foresight and capability as a politician:

"He was a consummate and farsighted politician, maximising every opportunity to advance his political advantage and the PAP's interests. Although English educated, Mr Lee understood that power rested with the pro-communist students from Chinese schools and the trade unions."

On Mr Lee's willingness to accept differing views:

"He was a dedicated Prime Minister with broad perspectives. During Cabinet meetings, there would sometimes be differing views on certain issues, but after active discussion, he was able to accept alternative views and ideas after active discussion."

On Mr Lee's complete passion for Singapore:

"He spent every moment thinking of how he could improve Singapore and Singaporeans' lives. Once he decided that a policy was in the interest of Singapore, he would implement it even if it meant making himself unpopular.

"Every thing he did was to make Singapore better... throughout his life, he was always wholeheartedly fighting for the best interest of this small and vulnerable nation."

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Former Cabinet Minister S. Dhanabalan

Brooking no opposition a myth:

"The myth is that he brooked no opposition to what he wanted... That was not my experience. He argued tirelessly to get Cabinet to accept his views not because it was the PM's views but because of the strength of his arguments."

On planning for succession:

"What is still vivid in my mind is the time and mental energy he spent to prepare us for the responsibilities ahead."

On being a political pragmatist

"He was a pragmatist, yet in a very deep sense, he was an idealist. This is well illustrated by his approach to the language policy.... the easiest way to ensure electoral support would have been to champion Chinese language... To convert Chinese schools into national type schools and to push for Mandarin against Chinese dialects were the acts of an idealist not the acts of a pragmatist. "

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Former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff

On Mr Lee as a tough taskmaster, but full of advice:

"He was a tough taskmaster but always full of advice. Never waffle, he would say. Be open. Be attentive, firm. But above all, be polite. His advice was to concentrate on education. This would ensure our children would go on to become trustworthy trustees of our nation, he argued. I am most grateful to Mr Lee for fully supporting the formation of Mendaki."

On Mr Lee's frugality:

"In 1979, when I was to accompany Hon Sui Sen, then Minister of Finance, to China, Mr Lee asked me if I could take the cold Chinese winter. "Do you have an overcoat" he asked. I said that I would buy one. "No, don't waste money", he replied. He paused and said: "Ahmad Mattar has a good overcoat. Borrow from him."

"What about boots to cover your shoes for walking" he continued. I said I didn't have any but I would buy a pair. "No, no don't waste money. Borrow from Chok Tong!"

So off I went to China with a borrowed overcoat and a borrowed pair of boots!

Mr Lee believed in frugality, both in his personal life as well as nationally. And he walked the talk. This episode is an example, and also showed his fatherly character and sharp eye for detail.

On Mr Lee's embodiment of a statesman:

"Mr Lee was the embodiment of the term 'statesman'. Someone who comes along once every few decades to make an indelible mark on society and the world at large."

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Trade unionist G. Muthukumarasamy

On improving the financial status of the Indian community:

"He wanted to pave a pathway for the Indian community. He asked Indian women to join the workforce and gave the assurance he wanted to protect the women who come home from work late in the night,"

On believing that everyone should do their own work:

To a supervisor who re-assigned work:"When a job is given to you, you should do it. I asked you to service the air-conditioning. Please service it now."

On supporting trade unions and their members:

"He urged the low income workers to come forward, and there are a lot of courses for them to come forward and learn and progress. He asked them to upgrade their skills."

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For the full transcript, click here

Tanjong Pagar community leader Leong Chun Loong

On how Mr Lee took all things concerning Singapore seriously:

"Back in the early days, Lunar New Year celebrations would kick off with the lighting of firecrackers, followed by the singing of the National Anthem. During one celebration, the firecrackers did not go off when lit. After a while, we got impatient, and the MC decided to move on to the National Anthem. However just as the National Anthem was being played, the firecrackers went off loudly. We thought it was quite funny but Mr Lee was not amused at all. Later he told us: "If we can't even do this right, how can we run the country?"

On caring for the people:

"At a Tanjong Pagar Family Day Function, we had set up a stage for the day's activities. The key officials were sitting on the stage whilst the residents were sitting in front of the stage. It was getting very hot and sunny. Mr Lee noticed that the residents were perspiring in the sun whilst we the officials were sitting in the shade. He turned around and asked us what we were going to do about it. He was always thinking about the people and he expected us to put their interest above our own."

On Mr Lee's delight upon meeting old friends:

"During constituency dinners, Mr Lee would usually like to sit with grassroots leaders so that he could talk to them.

"When Mr Lee heard that his old friends were doing well and leading good lives, his face would light up with pride."

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Former journalist Cassandra Chew

On Mr Lee as an intimidating figure to a young Singaporean:

"I was so nervous I could hear my heart pounding before the meeting, and actually felt a headache coming on. I braced myself to be peppered with questions on whether I was married, when I planned to have children or whether I spoke Mandarin often enough - questions Mr Lee was known to ask young Singaporeans he met."

On glimpses of Mr Lee as a person:

"Over time, I gained more glimpses of what he was like as a person. For instance, it was a thrill for me to learn from his oral history that he once failed an art exam in primary school. But that was of course a small blemish on his distinguished academic record. I also learned that in his later years he craved his late mother's gado-gado and mee siam, which thankfully, his sister, Madam Monica Lee, could replicate."

On her gratitude:

"This is my last chance. Mr Lee, thank you for everything. Some days I cannot believe how fortunate I am to have been born a Singaporean. We don't have everything, but we have more than most, because of your lifelong labour. On behalf of young Singaporeans everywhere, I'd like to say: thank you."

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For the full transcript, click here

Mr Lee's second son Hsien Yang

On work and Singapore:

"Perhaps in different circumstances, he would have been a very successful businessman or an entrepreneur, but Papa chose to dedicate his life and to choose to serve the people of Singapore and to build a better future for all. He wanted to ensure his three children had a "normal childhood". He didn't want us to grow up with a sense of privilege and entitlement.

On marking birthdays:

"Although growing up, all our birthdays including those of Papa and Mama, remained unmarked and uncelebrated, we began inviting the family to our home for Papa's and Mama's respective birthdays, for which I would cook a simple meal. At the time, the family included my father's father, Kung, Papa and Mama, Ling, Loong and his two children. Papa loved a good steak and he had a Peranakan sweet tooth for desserts."

On grandchildren:

"The arrival of grandchildren was also a source of great joy for Papa and Mama. Mama was traditional enough that she was thrilled that I had one son after another but Papa, my sense is that Papa would have been equally delighted if Fern and I had had three daughters. When the grandchildren were little, Papa would love to have them playing around him as he exercised after work in the evenings. At weekends he often took them out - to the zoo, the bird park, the science centre and other places where families would go. Our youngest son, Shaowu, arrived long after all the other grandchildren, and long after they had given up hope of any more grandchildren. Papa was in his seventies, and less active in public life, so he and Mama took this as a wonderful opportunity to enjoy their last grandchild."

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For the full transcript, click here

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