And He is No More

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The flag-raising ceremony at morning assembly in school was different today. Flag flown at half-mast, the observance of silence for we were mourning.

Quiet. Sombre. Sad.

Majulah Singapura, our national anthem that was sung every morning usually without too much thought, summoned a different perspective today – that we will journey onward without him.

But we will continue to stride forth, standing on the shoulder of an extraordinary man, a giant of our time.

From BBC.com, an obituary written to remember; But more so, I want to respectfully give thanks and say goodbye.

Excerpts:

“With a sense of vision and a ruthless pragmatism, Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore as it transformed from a tiny island with no natural resources into a thriving economic success. He successfully channelled the energies of Singaporeans to create what has often been described as an economic miracle, a mixture of private and state capitalism.”

“Mr Lee made Singapore prosperous, modern, efficient and practically corruption-free – and overseas investors flocked in. But while he was admired for his economic success, many expressed concern over his record on human rights.”

“Mr Lee set about a huge programme of reform, designed to transform Singapore from the “cesspool of squalor and degradation” described in one contemporary account to a modern industrialised state.”

“As a committed anti-communist, he was accused of adopting a communist-style regime to further his policies although, unlike many communist regimes, the people of Singapore benefited financially from his rule. From 1960 to 1980, Singapore’s GNP per capita increased 15-fold.”

“Mr Lee introduced measures that stamped out the corruption that had been endemic in the former colony and embarked on a programme of low-cost housing and industrialisation to provide employment. He also worked to pull together the island’s diverse ethnic groups to create a unique Singaporean identity, based on multiculturalism.”

“He was a great believer in the efficacy of corporal punishment, having been on the receiving end himself while at school. “I bent over a chair and was given three of the best with my trousers on,” he later recalled. “I have never understood why Western educationalists are so much against corporal punishment. It did my fellow students and me no harm.””

“Mr Lee also took steps to control Singapore’s fast-growing population, introducing a family planning campaign and, through the tax regime, penalising those who had more than two children. Later he tried to encourage more graduate women to marry by exempting them from the child control policies that still applied to their less well educated sisters.”

“Singaporeans were taught how to be courteous, how to be less noisy, when to flush the lavatory, and not to use chewing gum. There was no graffiti because the government said there should be none.”

“When Mr Lee stepped down in 1990, after winning no fewer than seven elections, he was the longest-serving prime minister in the world. He remained active in politics, taking a leading part in the campaign to persuade more Singaporeans to speak Mandarin Chinese as well as English.”

“During his time in office Singapore moved from being a developing nation to one of the foremost industrial powers in Asia.”

“There are those who believe that development was bought at the price of personal freedom and often cite Lee’s penchant for suing media organisations who disagreed with him.

But Mr Lee stood by his record until the end. “At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.””

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