Article by: Dan Jachim
“There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible.” These were the words of the late Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister and upon the election of his son, the Minister Mentor of Singapore. Sadly, he did not get his wish. Prior to his death on March 23, he had been in and out of the hospital several times over the last few years, until his last admittance on February 15; from then, he remained there until his death. While not entirely surprising due to his age – he was 91 at the time of his death – his passing still caused a wave of sadness not only in Singapore, but throughout the world.
Junior Matthew Seet, who hails from Singapore, claims that, despite the many controversies surrounding Yew, the overall view is still favorable. Matthew cites Yew’s outstandingly effective economic policy as an example, which raised Singapore from a fishing village to one of the most developed countries on Earth. On the other hand, his opinion on the current Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, son of Yew, is quite different. Before his death, Yew was the Minister Mentor, which granted him substantial influence over politics. However, with Yew’s passing, Matthew fears that his son will not be able to do the job that led Singapore to its success in the last few decades.
But despite the admiration and economic growth he brought to Singapore, some described Yew as repressive, autocratic, and dictatorial. The Washington Post called him “the democratic world’s favorite dictator”; benevolent, but a dictator nonetheless. Like Tito and Ceausescu in his prime, Lee Kuan Yew was proactive. He was willing to deny his people the right to speak freely, to sue his political opponents for undermining the country, and to beat his people with canes for something as innocuous as chewing gum.
Yet for all of that, they still loved him. They loved him for what he did for their nation. They loved him for being a beacon of merit in a world so often drowned in corruption. They loved him for being what Matthew describes as “controversial, but effective”. True, he ruled sternly, but he solved their problems. With his passing, one of the greatest of our time is laid to rest. For the sake of Singapore and the world, it is to be hoped that we may someday see his likes again.