Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew would always be my teacher, says Goh Chok Tong in eulogy

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Kuan Yew was, and always would be, his teacher, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

"He never ceased sharing and I kept on learning," he said, in his eulogy for Singapore's first Prime Minister at the University Cultural Centre on Sunday (mar29)."

Mr Lee died on March 23 at the age of 91.

Mr Goh, 73, took over as Prime Minister from Mr Lee in 1990, and handed the reins to PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2004.

He recounted how he first met Mr Lee in 1958, when he was a Raffles Institution student and had gone to his law office to invite him to speak to his fellow students.

He described chairing Mr Lee's talk as his "high point" in school.

And as early as 1967, Mr Goh witnessed the way Mr Lee had become synonymous with "Singapore".

He recounted how, when on a trip to Puerto Rico in 1967, a Puerto Rican excitedly shouted "Chino, Chino" when he saw Mr Goh.

"I shouted back, 'Singapore!'. He replied, 'Lee Kuan Yew!'"

Touching on the policies that Mr Lee had introduced, Mr Goh explained that Mr Lee had driven his people hard because he had to toughen a fledgling country quickly."He was a leader, not a populist politician."

"But Mr Lee taught people how to fish and brought fish to Singapore waters. He housed and schooled millions. He gave us safe streets and parks," noted Mr Goh.

"The outpouring of grief, gratitude and love for him says it all."Mr Goh also described Mr Lee as a "worrier" who single-mindedly planned for leadership succession.

He wanted to be judged on whether Singapore would survive after he and the old guard were gone, not by the city he had built and the lives he had improved.

In this process, Mr Goh noted, Mr Lee had cut short the political careers of his old colleagues, which had been painful for him.

" I know he felt for them," he said.

It was from Mr Lee that Mr Goh learned about leadership renewal. Mr Goh stepped down as Prime Minister in 2004, after 14 years at the helm.

But the two men continued to have lunch regularly.

"Our conversations never drifted far from his life's work. We shared many common concerns, including the emerging trend of income stratification and social fragmentation.

"He worried about almost every aspect of Singapore."

Once in a while, he added, Mr Lee showed his soft side, and they would talk about their families and health.Mr Goh added: "He transformed our lives. He touched our hearts. We grieve. But I believe Mr Lee would say, 'What to do? This is life'."

He urged the public to honour him, saying that Mr Lee would want the Singapore Story to continue.

"He would want Singapore to succeed long after he is gone," he stressed.

"Let us stay united, across race, language, religion, across young and old, across rich and poor, across our whole society, to write an exciting sequel to his and our Singapore Story."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.