Friday, March 27, 2015

Never Be Complacent - Lee Kuan Yew in the 1970s

This whole week, Singapore seem to come to a stand still as the nation mourns on the passing of our first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. The scenes were touching, the support unwavering and the unity is strong. Everyone came or is still coming to express their gratitude in one way or another.

How could one man's death have such a huge impact on a country and even impacted the international realm as well. Former U.S president, Bill Clinton, will be coming with a few other US officials to attend Mr Lee Kuan Yew's funeral service on Sunday. Why did so many people respect him so much?

Photo Credit: Remembering Lee Kuan Yew Facebook Page

This whole week, most of the usual TV programs on all Singapore's media channels were cancelled. Instead, they broadcast documentaries of Singapore's history and how Mr Lee Kuan Yew brought Singapore to this current stage. I've been watching some of these programmes and just a few hours ago, there were a broadcast on Mr Lee Kuan Yew's various speeches from the 1950s all the way to the 1980s. From those speeches, I could really sense his heart for Singapore and his concern for the people of Singapore.

So many people have came to queue up just to pay their last respects to him. People are queuing up for up to 10 hours just to personally pay their respects to him. This is really amazing.

Photo Credit: The Straits times

His Worry For Singapore and it's People

A few issues were brought up in his speeches. Low birth rates and low marriage rates were among the problems that had to be resolved. In 1975, 10 years after independence, there was also complacency seen in the people of Singapore. Life was better, spending habits have changed where people are spending more money. He was worried that parents would pamper their kids too much and spoil them in the process. In 1975, he urged the people not to be complacent and not pamper their kids too much just because they could afford it.

Every year from 1975 onwards, he keep rallying the people of Singapore together and reminded them how far they had come. He keep asking the people of Singapore not to take things for granted as they could lose all these in a very short time. In the late 1970s, he said the current generation have not experienced an economic crisis before but they will experience it soon in the 1980s. He warned and prepared the people for it. I guessed such reminders were taken to heart by Singaporeans back then as Singapore grew even stronger after the crisis.

The Most Touching Speech in 1980

The most touching speech I saw was a PAP rally in 1980. This was the scene which most of us would be familiar with where Mr Lee Kuan Yew said

"This is not a game of cards, this is your life and mine. I've spent a whole life building this and as long as I'm in charged, nobody's going to knock it down". 

What I did not know was what he spoke before this familiar scene. I was watching the whole 20 mins rally and realised he was speaking in the rain.

The rain got heavier and heavier and he was wiping the rain water off his face with his hands as he was speaking. His shirt was all wet. The people who were listening to him speaking still stayed on listening to him in the rain. The other PAP members sitting behind him were in the rain too without umbrellas. Their shirts were also wet and throughout the whole speech, I could see those PAP people behind him also wiping the rain water off their face and some took off their glasses to get rid of the rain water. This was the kind of government which Lee Kuan Yew led and the kind of people we had who could endure and stay united together.

Below is the video of the whole speech. The particular scene is towards the end of the video:

A Frugal Man with a Simple Life

Apart from the firmness and ruling with a iron fist which we know, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was actually just another simple man with a simple life.

I read on the New Paper yesterday that his frugality was well known in Tanjong Pagar where he served the residents for the last few decades.
I quote: "He maximised all resources available and there was never any wastage. Where there was no need for resources, he would never put any there." 
Mr Lee also lived in a modest home. His house is still filled with olden days items dated back to the 1970s and the house remains largely unchanged as compared to the multi-million dollar, multi-storey bungalows that sprang up around it.

You see, a man with great stature and still lives humbly shows that he doesn't need to prove anything. He has got no need or desire to show off what he has achieved. Yet, he has gained the respect of many by staying humble and passionate for a good cause.

The Love Of His Life

As we all know by now, Mr Lee Kuan Yew loved his wife a lot. The death of his wife a few years ago was devastating for him. When his wife was bed ridden but still conscious, he would read to the love of his life every single day. Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said when he was travelling overseas with Mr Lee Kuan Yew for official duties, he still never fail to call back to his home and read to his wife everyday.

Below shows a very touching video of the soft truth of Mr Lee Kuan Yew:

What Can We Learn?

It is heartening to see so many people showing their gratitude to a man whom they may have never even met before. The once often negative landscape of the social media has transformed into a place where people show support and gratitude. I'm sure we are much happier when we think about how fortunate we are to live in a country of peace and prosperity instead of complaining and sinking down into negativity. 

After studying economics in university, I know a country's success or failure does not come by chance. It is the deliberate planning and policy implementations which made Singapore to where it is today. We should never be complacent and take all these for granted. The future of Singapore will depend on all Singaporeans, whether we are still united and stand together as one people and one nation. A divided nation can never survive long. 

The reason why we can live in harmony with each other is because an identity has been built painstakingly by our founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. We should never lose this Singapore identity and I'm glad that we are showing the whole world the strength of our unity at this current moment. May Singapore be an ever greater nation for many generations to come. 

Rest in peace, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. 

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  1. Very well said! It is heartening to see Singaporean's unity during the bleak week and the amount of gratitude shown. Singapore will continue to be strong and free :D

    1. Hi Valerie,

      I'm really glad to see our unity so strong last week. I chatted with a few friends and all of us do feel emotionally drained last week. Personally, I've learnt so much more about Singapore's history and I'm even more appreciative of what we have now. I hope the younger generation would have learnt it too.

      Singapore will indeed continue to be strong and free :)