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ASEAN, Brunei Darussalam, Contribution

Lee Kuan Yew: The Man Who Saw it All


I am at a café writing this post as I painfully contemplate at the thought of Lee Kuan Yew’s critical state. This is a tribute post dedicated to him.

Lee Kwan Yew is to me one of the greatest leaders in the 20th century. Just by watching his speeches in Youtube gave me goosebumps. But he is more than just talk and speeches. Under his rule, he was able to turn a laidback, backwater port British colony called Singapore into an independent highly modernized nation. Under his rule Singapore now enjoys one of the highest standards of education and living, economic growth, and GDP. He is now 91 years old.

Make no mistake. He has done stuff you would not be proud of if you were his victim. In the past he had to lock people up, he had censor opposition, and to bankrupt them if he may – and he had multiple times. But like the quote says, “The future belongs to those who is willing to pull the trigger.” His mistakes was offset by the success that Singapore now enjoys. The things he did led to the betterment of Singapore. Not just for himself, but for the whole good of the nation state.

I first read about him in his autobiography, “The Singapore Story” when I was seventeen. In his book he recounted how he was almost executed by an Imperial Japanese soldier. But due to lucky (or should I say providential?) coincidence, he escaped and survived. Had he expired then Singapore would have been ruled by the Communist or would have been part of Malaysia or Indonesia today. But history begs to differ.

In his account, he studied in Singapore’s Rafael’s institution and then later took a Law degree in Cambridge. How many leaders went to Cambridge those days that eventually became Prime Ministers of their own nations in the 20th century? Many. Tungku Rahman became Malaysia’s first PM, Jawaharlal Nehru for India, and of course Lee Kuan Yew himself for Singapore. Reading this made me reassess how important education is. Those typical Richard Branson, Steve Jobs dropout stuff? They are B.S. sedatives meant to feed the perpetual excuse of the dead weights in society.

If you want to change your nation for the better, you aim for Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, or any of the top unis in the world. Lee Kuan Yew and the top leaders in those days did that. And though Lee Kuan Yew’s success cannot be fully attributed to his Cambridge education, it did give him a start that 99.98% of the populace lacked at that time: Educational Merit. The same kind of education he got, he insist for his cabinet, his officials, and his citizens to have. There are a hundred Singaporeans in Oxford alone, the last time I was informed by a fellow Bruneian there. Lee Kuan Yew’s high expectation for his population and insistence led to Singapore to enjoy one of the highest standards of education. If there was a time when his meritocratic principle was born it was during his studies. And though most of us have “missed” the opportunity going on those kinds of institutions, we can always push the standard to our little brothers/sisters or future kids to attain.

Continuing on, what is more remarkable about him is that Lee Kuan Yew was the man who dared to stand alone. When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, he had to give a TV announcement to announce the humiliating 126-0 result. He broke down and he cried. In the midst of the struggle, he finally recovered, stood his ground and thought: “If Singapore is out, then so be it! Singapore will stand alone!” In 1966, Singapore declared independence. It is one of the greatest gifts that Singaporeans enjoy today. Had he not do strike for Singapore’s independence then, they might just end up like Hong Kong, a former colony turned into a success story which will soon be chained and soon to be absorbed into China. My Singaporeans friends, think of the gift he made when you celebrate #SG50 this August.

“How can a predominantly ethnic Chinese-led island survive such an unstable region?” was his thought as he observed the communist storm arising from the Malaysia-Indonesian confrontation. Any wrong step Singapore could have been sucked into war. And he had little faith in the British anyways. So he did what must: to start an army from scratch and to introduce mandatory conscription. With a relatively inexperienced standing army and a partially equipped defense system established in less than a few years, added with his clever diplomacy at the international stage, he was able to deter enemies from ever thinking of annexing  tiny-island Singapore.

On the note of mandatory conscription, he knew that the spirit of conquest in humanity will forever be present. The same reason why the Spartans was able to survive for seven hundred years, he is now implementing into his country with God-like foresight. Never take any chance was his other principle. Every Singaporean male must take mandatory national service training. I do not know much detail of the program, but it is there to serve as an army ready to stand their ground to protect the nation should anything goes wrong. His foresight is well-founded after Ukraine’s Crimea was annexed by Russia just last year. This is a big and serious matter that ever patriotic citizen must think in order to protect and defend the security of the nation.

The mandatory conscription is also engineered in such a way to teach Singaporeans discipline, order, and leadership –prerequisite abilities for, wait for it, MNEs to employ. Everything is connected. There is a reason why Times Magazine wrote the headlines featuring Lee Kuan Yew with the wording, “the man who saw it all.”

The passing of the great statesman will be long remembered and admired, not just by this Bruneian blogger, but those who have been directly affected by his policies and leadership: The Singaporeans themselves. My greatest regret for not being able to meet the legend when he was in Brunei.

In closing this article, let me quote the great statesman’s words:

“I have no regrets. 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. – Mr Lee Kuan Yew.”

Happy #SG50 #LeeKuanYew #TheManWhoSawItAll

Please find related article here: “How Singapore and Brunei became Friends

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