We all expected that the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew would be a very significant event in Singapore and for all Singaporeans around the world. Mr Lee has been a visionary leader, moulding Singapore into the success story it is today. Our little red dot on the face of this Earth would not even be recognisable as a dot, if not for Mr Lee.
I am truly awed by the outpouring of grief from so many Singaporeans. For a few moments, I wondered if this is a story of another country. But this is Singapore. The queue to get into Parliament House, stretches eight hours long, and the authorities have actually got to tell people to not join the queue.
The grief that our nation is mourning, is shared in all corners of the world. The parliaments of Australia and New Zealand passed motions to condole the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I watched the parliamentary session of New Zealand. This, among many examples, is a testament to how high Mr Lee is regarded by others around the world. Even as I write this, I’m continuing to read about other world dignitaries who have visited, or who will come to visit, or even a country outside Singapore that has declared a day of national mourning in memory of Mr Lee.
Even in death, Mr Lee Kuan Yew brings together all Singaporeans, united in strength, evoking a renewed sense of patriotism. Singapore celebrates fifty years of independence this year, with Mr Lee serving as Prime Minister until 1990, and fully stepping down from office in 2011. Singapore is what it is today, in no small way, due to the efforts of Mr Lee.
A nation just fifty years old is still very young. The older people will remember the tumultuous times during Singapore’s merger into the Federation of Malaya, and the subsequent breakaway to become an independent nation.
The younger generation may not relate to those experiences, but there should be no question about the achievements of our nation. We are a tiny nation, just about 700 km2 in area, with no natural resources. But our nominal GDP (PPP) per capita is one of the highest in the world, putting us ahead of many other more developed countries. Singapore has achieved a level of success envied by many others in the world.
Not everyone has agreed with the manner that Mr Lee has run Singapore. Opposition groups, even at this time, while largely acknowledging the significant contributions by Mr Lee, still make a point about their grievances. The international media, similarly, point out the price Singapore has paid to achieve its success.
The passing of Mr Lee marks a new era in the history of Singapore, more so than his stepping down as Prime Minister. He may not have been captain of the boat for over two decades, but he has been watching over us. But now we’re on our own. It is up to us now, to continue to building on the Singapore success story. Where will we be in another 50 years?