Farewell, Lee Kuan Yew

This is not meant to be an eloquent eulogy, just a reflection of an important milestone in a history that I am a part of.

It is pouring outside as I type this. Thousands are standing by the side of the roads where Lee Kuan Yew’s cortege will make its way across the island. I did not queue up like many of my peers for hours to pay respects during the public wake. Neither am I now standing in the rain, waving a flag while waiting for him to pass.

Admittedly it is because I am a somewhat practical person, too practical perhaps. I have homework due tomorrow that I need to finish, and I can’t afford to stand two to three hours in the rain jostling with others for a three-second glimpse of the procession for a dead man that I am not related to.

Lee Kuan Yew’s death does not fascinate me as much as Lee Kuan Yew’s life. In the aftermath of his passing, I have been reading about the things he said and did when he was in power. He makes quotes that are sometimes evidently sensible, and a few times clearly dated and unprogressive statements. Yet it cannot be denied that he made his mark profoundly on our country, and even on other world leaders, daring the world to think differently about what a successful society and nation could look like. At the same time, he definitely made mistakes, some that seem ludicrously obvious in retrospect. And he wasn’t always hardheaded about them. If he realised he was wrong, he would admit them. He knew he wasn’t a perfect man.

“Let me give you a Chinese proverb “do not judge a man until you’ve closed his coffin.  Do not judge a man.”  Close the coffin, then decide.  Then you assess him.  I may still do something foolish before the lid is closed on me.” – Lee Kuan Yew

In the years to pass, people will study him, to sift out the best decisions he made for this country, and discarding the parts of outmoded political wisdom that may not work in our present time and place. I will remember him in my own way, by reading his autobiographies and accounts of him, to get a clearer sense of his legacy. His character intrigues me. He was one of the most special men of our time. There is much to learn from him.

Seth Mydans: “The public view of you is as a very strict, cerebral, unsentimental. Catherine Lim, “an authoritarian, no-nonsense manner that has little use for sentiment”.”

Lee Kuan Yew: “She’s a novelist, therefore, she simplifies a person’s character, make graphic caricature of me. But is anybody that simple or simplistic?”

Goodbye, sir.


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