SINGAPORE - Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was intent not just on creating a successful Singapore but on making sure it endured beyond his time, said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang on Saturday morning at an event where business community leaders paid tribute to Mr Lee.
Mr Lim and some 1,500 members of the business community paid tribute to the late Mr Lee at a session held on Saturday at the Raffles City Convention Centre.
It was organised by the Singapore Business Federation and the Singapore National Employers Federation, and included representatives from various trade associations and chambers.
Mr Lee died on Monday morning, at the age of 91.
He was always thinking of Singapore's future, said Mr Lim.
"He sought not just the improvements in the first instance. He was also intent on embedding into our society and institutions the values and ethos that would make sure the Singapore Story carried on strong even after his time."
Mr Lim also reminded the audience that the former Prime Minister often said that no one owed Singapore a living, and he was confident that the Republic would survive "on our resourcefulness and hard work of our people".
This was seen in the faith he had in smaller groups such as the Malay business community, for instance, noted Mr Zahidi Abdul Rahman, president of the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He added: "As an example, Mr Lee said, we are the chilli padi of the business world, small but super spicy."
At the same time, the statesman was a realist who well understood that Singapore is too small to be self-sufficient, said Mr Lim, who also highlighted Mr Lee's vision in recognising the need for "harmonious industrial relations".
The Government had adopted rapid industrialisation to attract foreign direct investment, to grow the economy and create jobs, he said, a point which was echoed by business leaders time and again throughout the session.
"In the early days of nation-building, Mr Lee spearheaded the industrialisation policy; it gave many Chinese businessmen an opportunity to take part in building the economy, and expand their businesses into robust local enterprises," said Mr Thomas Chua, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, who choked back tears midway through his speech.
Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, also added a personal touch as he paid tribute with an excerpt of Amazing Grace on the harmonica.
Mr Lee was well aware of potential labour disputes that could rock Singapore, said Mr Lim, which led to "our unique system of tripartism" between employers, unions and the Government.
He added: "Mr Lee also consistently emphasised the need for strong rule of law, for clean governance, and to live up to the commitments that we make so that trust and confidence in the Government is maintained."