We all know our first Prime Minster Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) passed away yesterday morning. People have expressed their condolences both online in social media and offline on the streets and condolence sites.
Many of my friends have changed their profile photos and shared blog posts and news commentaries. I could have easily done so, changing my profile picture or sharing something someone else has written is just as simple as a click away but I thought I should do more and write a blog post for reflection, hopes and personal record. This will definitely be much more mature than what I wrote for J. B. Jeyaretnam some 6 years ago.
Friends who know me know I’m not exactly a huge fan of many of the PAP’s policies both past and present. You can read the older posts especially the book reviews of this blog to get a better idea. I have always been for more alternative voices/checks and balances in Parliament but that is a subject for another day. I do however admire him for his astute statesmanship, he has accomplished a feat matched by no other politician, at least not for this region.
During my secondary school days, one of my teachers asked what I liked most about Singapore. I didn’t really think much and just said “Singapore is safe”. She then proceeded to say it was not something we should take for granted. Singapore is one of the few countries in the world where people can walk down the streets at night without being robbed or hurt because of the strict laws and effective law enforcement. I did not really absorb the implication of her words then but I do understand today that the soft-authoritarianism we have now is a beneficial legacy of LKY.
His heavy emphasis on meritocracy and to a more extreme extent eugenics, can be viewed as elitist. Policies like the Graduate Mothers scheme was not even tenable in those days much less today. Nevertheless, his legacy on educational attainment especially English as a first language is appreciated by me. Being a Computing student soon to enter the IT industry where English is even more of a lingua franca compared to other industries, good command of English is a must where I have seen IT people from other nationalities suffer.
Information has been going about social media about how LKY snubbed a CIA bribe and instead wanted aid for Singapore instead. I admit I did not know about this fact before. It has raised my admiration for him especially for a politician of that era.
I can understand but do not necessarily approve all of the tough decisions LKY made as a leader during his administration. Communists both alleged and otherwise were locked up. Less-appreciated by me were the numerous legal suits brought against legitimate opposition members/supporters resulting in some of their exiles. I do hope with his passing, the bad blood of the last generation between the Singapore government and these people will be wiped clean. Let bygones be bygones.
Of course, this is all in the benefit of hindsight. It is easy to criticise some of his decisions after the fact. Speaking of that, I should read the books he has written about Singapore to know more about the rationale and impetus behind some of his decisions.
Times today have changed, the policies and governing strategies that LKY implemented in his era may not be all applicable going forward. Admire, mourn and reflect we must, life must still go on for Singaporeans and I hope his efforts on Singapore will not got to waste.
My dad wisely told me I’m in the generation that is in the right age to witness, understand and appreciate the passing of our founding leader and yet without the baggage to skew our judgement. Many decades from now when our generation becomes the oldest one, we will look back and recount to our younger ones what were things like before, during and after his passing. I hope this blog post will at least be something I can refer to by then.