Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Singaporeans from all walks of life express gratitude to Mr Lee Kuan Yew through words

Singaporeans have often been labelled as a bunch that does not take to outward expression, and have even been polled as the world's most emotionless society.

Over the past week, however, many have come forth to say what Mr Lee Kuan Yew means to them, penning moving tributes both on condolence cards and on social media. Here are some selected quotes:

"Before the time of the People's Action Party (PAP), my father had been bedridden since I was 11. There was very little financial aid for us, and we all suffered because of it.

"Now, my job relies on people having stable finances, and the fact that the job is doing well means that the country is doing well, something that we owe to Mr Lee. I think that Mr Lee has helped our little red dot to glow like a sun."

- Mr Low Kim Suan, 67, a financial consultant at NTUC Income, recalling the lack of social assistance before Mr Lee and the PAP came to power

"Twenty years back, Mr Lee visited the Yishun area, and he shook hands with my daughter. I told her, don't wash your hands, Lee Kuan Yew's handshake will bring you good fortune."

- Mr Teo Hock, 60, a coffee shop worker, recalling his excitement upon meeting Mr Lee in person for the first time

"I remember that Mr Lee came to Yishun Kampung back in 1966. I was five years old then. When he laughed and smiled, we felt compelled to do the same. It was very addictive. To me, he felt like a citizen just like us, not a very high-and-mighty leader like the heads of other countries.

"The first person to get a flat in our family was our maternal grandmother. It was a Toa Payoh flat, much bigger than what we had in the kampung, and so much more comfortable."

- Madam Peh Geok Choo, an office cleaner

"When I travel overseas and immigration officers see the red passport I hand them, they always look very impressed or in awe. I think that if not for Mr Lee being here, we would not be able to get a reaction like this."

- Madam Alice Foo, 51, a hawker

"(Foreign) investors do not come in easily, they need to be convinced... Mr Lee managed to do that, and get them to stay in the country.

"Even now, all the big countries say they have missed a great friend. They understand how great a person he was."

- Mr Peter Goh, 66, who says he would not have got his job at Japanese company Murata Electronics if not for Mr Lee's efforts in attracting foreign investors to Singapore

"I met Mr Lee during his pre-election campaigns in Hougang. This was before he became Prime Minister, before 1959.

"I was drawing water from a well at that time. He stopped to ask me if that water was clean enough to drink.

"That proved to me immediately that he was a very caring person, and that he was able to interact easily with the people he met."

- Madam Irene Tay, 66, a former businesswoman, on her experience speaking to Mr Lee when she was a pupil at Xin Min Primary School


"He was always very friendly to Singaporeans... Yes, he was straight-talking but he needed to be firm in order to get things done. I can still remember when he cried on national TV when we separated from Malaysia. I've always respected him for that.

"He contributed to our lives in such meaningful ways. Without his leadership, we wouldn't be living so comfortably in our Housing Board flats today. We probably also wouldn't have clean water or accessible transport."

- Madam Ho Chow Toh (above), 83, who queued alone at the Padang from 3pm to 7pm


"We were here at 11pm (on Tuesday), but they told us they were still setting up, so we walked around and came back at 3am. I was afraid the queue would be too long if I came later. I have a flight to catch at 1pm, so I wanted to make sure I get to pay my last respects before I leave. Mr Lee has done a lot for us."

- Mr Edward Ho (above, left), 39, Asia-Pacific area manager of a healthcare company

"Mr Lee did what he had to do during difficult times to make Singapore what it is today. He gave us stability and security that give us the peace of mind to bring up our children here. Because of him and the system he has put in place, there is certainty that Singapore is resilient enough to continue without him."

- His cousin, Mr Alvin Loh (above, right), 40, regional sales manager of an IT firm


"I want to see him one last time - he's my idol. I was from a Chinese school and used to feel very disadvantaged after he introduced the bilingual policy. But now, as a businessman, knowing English has helped me to expand my semiconductor business overseas, in countries like the United States. Bilingualism has changed my life."

- Mr Guay Boon Bing (above), 49, a businessman


"We are closed from now until Saturday, so that everyone can go and pay tribute to Mr Lee. I'm giving my staff time to look through what Mr Lee had done, and reflect on where Singapore is moving on to without him. I have attended all the wakes of the other Singapore founding leaders. They have provided a very strong platform for us to build on."

- Mr Dennis Ng (above, far right), 52, owner of a tuition chain, who was there with 19 staff members

"Our Pledge says it, that we will work towards peace and progress and prosperity. When I started out as a maths teacher, saving was next to impossible, given our salary. There was racial tension. But by the 1970s, we had a home, and we had stability."

- Retiree Ooi Tiew Tim, 78, on what he appreciates most about Mr Lee. He left his home at 8am to join the crowd gathering at the Istana

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