Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Hsien Yang's eulogy to his father Lee Kuan Yew at Mandai Crematorium

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Hsien Yang delivered his eulogy for his father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, at a private family farewell at Mandai Crematorium on the evening of Sunday, March 29.

The private farewell was attended by the family, close friends, immediate staff and medical team of the late Mr Lee. It followed the State funeral service at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre.

This is the trancript of his eulogy:

" Honoured guests, friends and family

My father was born when Singapore was a colony in the British Empire, the Straits Settlements flag fluttered over Government House, and the people of Singapore sang 'God Save the King'. Papa was given the name 'Harry' at birth. He grew up to feel that that did not reflect who he was as a son of Singapore. When Papa's youngest sibling Suan Yew was born in 1933, Papa, then 10, persuaded his parents not to give his new born brother a western name. Decades later, Papa also found his western name a political liability.

When my brother, sister and I were born, Papa gave us only Chinese names, and used the Wade Giles romanization system to spell the names, as Hanyu Pinyin had not come into use yet. As he was from a Peranakan household and had been educated in English, he sought help from the court interpreter Mr Wong Chong Min in the choice of names. Two years ago, my brother Loong met Mr Wong's son while visiting Queenstown.

The names parents choose for their children embody the hopes, aspirations and dreams they have for them. Chinese names in particular, with their many possible wonderful layers of meaning, allegory and poetry, lend themselves well to this.

For their first son, Papa and Mama chose the name Hsien Loong. It meant 'illustrious dragon'. It was an appropriate and auspicious choice for a boy, especially since he was born in the year of the dragon.

For my sister Wei Ling, her name meant 'the beautiful sound of tinkling jade'. I suppose Mama thought that that was an appropriate and feminine name for a daughter, although it did not at all circumscribe Ling's development!

For me, they chose the name Hsien Yang. Some people, not knowing the Chinese characters for my name, think Yang means goat or sheep in Chinese, and assume I must have been born in the Chinese zodiac year of the Goat, which is not the case.

The name Papa chose for me is the character Yang which can mean 'to show off'. Mama used to tease me when I was young that my name meant 'Illustrious show off'. In fact, my name had more literary origins, and was derived from a quote from the three letter classics which roughly translated means 'to do good deeds, in order to bring honour to one's parents'.

I am sure many Singaporeans travelling abroad have received compliments on Singapore's transformation over the last fifty years. Usually the conversation also would acknowledge Lee Kuan Yew's role in its development. In the past when I encountered such remarks, I would usually just nod in agreement and add that Singapore has been on a remarkable journey without disclosing any family relationship. Unsolicited compliments like this are the most authentic and heartfelt. Keeping private my family connection only served to enhance the pleasure. As I developed a more visible public profile, sadly, it became harder not to be recognized as Lee Kuan Yew's son. The fact that the person making the compliment might be offering it knowing who I am somehow diminishes the pleasure.

I have taught my children never to mention or flaunt their relationship to their grandfather, that they needed to make their way in the world only on their own merits and industry. I have suggested to them that when asked whether they might be related to Lee Kuan Yew, perhaps a good gambit was to say truthfully, that their surname is spelt "Li", "Lee" and that "Li" is one of the most common Chinese surnames, without actually responding directly to the question. This suggested response was not meant to mislead and obfuscate, rather it was born out of a desire to be recognized for who we are as individuals and not for who we are related to. We are immensely proud of Papa and his achievements, and yet perhaps it is part of our DNA to seek our own way in life. I am sure that Papa would not have wanted it any other way.

Papa, thank you for a lifetime of service to the people of Singapore. You made this little red dot into the nation all of us are proud to call home.

Papa, thank you for being a wonderful husband and companion to Mama. For loving her completely and for caring for her during your lives together and through her difficult final illness.

Papa, thank you for being my own special father. Always there to guide, counsel and advise, every step of the way, but also prepared to step back and let me find my own wings and make my own way.

Papa, thank you for loving my wife, and my children, Shengwu, Huanwu and Shaowu. You have been a loving grandfather to each of them, sharing small pleasures, enjoying their companionship.

Papa, it is hard to say goodbye. Your work is done and your rest is richly deserved. In our own different and diverse ways, my family and I will continue to honour you and your memory in all that we do."

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