Monday, 23 March 2015

A Tribute to MM Lee Kuan Yew - from Harveen Narulla

By Harveen Narulla
A giant tree has fallen.
We mourn the passing of Lee Kuan Yew - Singapore's founding Prime Minister, masterful statesman and wise strategist. It is hard to capture the breadth of his life and achievements, but Singapore stands in testimony to his life's work.

In his own words near the end of his life, he said: 'I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.'

He's the last of Singapore's founding old guard to go.
I'm humbled to have grown up under his Prime Ministership, and have also seen Singapore evolve under successive Prime Ministers.

If anything, given the challenges that buffet Singapore and the world now, his wisdom in understanding the world around us, fortitude in staying the course and courage in making changes when needed, would serve us well in the times to come. Yet a leader like him comes along once in a generation, if we're lucky.
We were lucky.

Make no mistake - Singapore is where it is today because of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He marshalled effectively the talents around him - S Rajaratnam, Dr Goh Keng Swee, Toh Chin Chye, and in the generations after, others like Hon Sui Sen, Richard Hu, Goh Chok Tong and more, to get the best outcomes for Singapore.

This is not a paean. Of course he made mistakes. Some of these he acknowledged. In the balance of things, he was a blessing to Singapore.

We will not see his like again.
Merdeka! Merdeka!
Where we need his wisdom to understand the world around us, we must make do with taking a leaf out of his book and becoming keen observers of the world around us, always looking for the levers that move it, understanding how to operate them.

Where we miss his fiery determination to keep our country successful, we must make do with our memories of him striving for Singapore.

Where we need his heart and his willingness to be vulnerable and change course, we must internalise his willingness to be wrong, knowing that there is no shame in acknowledging mistakes made in good faith and with the best information available.

To my fellow Singaporeans - to honour Lee Kuan Yew's legacy, we must make it last. Irrespective of our political affiliations, Singapore must always come first. It is the home we have because of him and the generations before us that took inspiration from him and his founding team. It must be the home we bequeath to generations successive, to honour those before us, as well as our own role in our country's progress.

My heart is heavy with grief, as with many other Singaporeans I saw and spoke with today. A shadow has fallen on us, but it will pass. Lee Kuan Yew would not want it any other way.

To close with some wisdom on Singapore's future from the man himself:

"No geographic or political boundary can contain the implications of what we set out to do when we succeed. And, there is no reason why given patience, tolerance, perseverance, we should not - in this hub, in this confluence of three, indeed four, great civilisations - create a situation which will act as a yeast, a ferment for what is possible, given goodwill, forbearance and good faith.

Every year, on this 9th August [Singapore's National Day/ Independence Day] for many years ahead - how many, I do not know - we will dedicate ourselves anew to consolidate ourselves to survive; and most important of all, to find an enduring future for what we have built."
- from the First National Day Rally, 8 August 1966.

Mr Lee, your work is done now. Enjoy your rest. You have left enough lights along the way to guide us. We were lucky. Thank you for all you did for us.

23 March 2015


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