Lee Kuan Yew: The Man Behind Modern Singapore

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Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew, the man behind modern Singapore, the creator of a powerful small country, passed away last Monday. Lee is one of the greatest leaders the 20th century has ever produced.

Journalist David Ignatius in his contribution to the Washington Post called him a paradoxical person who never lost combativeness and vulnerability toward those he feared might be a threat to his authority. Lee Kuan Yew was always ready to take critics to court if they dared him and his country.

Lee Kuan Yew, the man behind modern Singapore served as the country’s prime minister from 1959 to 1990, made the country an embodiment of a globalized economy that benefited Asia. He viewed the Internet sphere as something to use. Those who refuse are going backwards.

On the issue of press freedom, Lee Kuan Yew did not brush off any criticism about him and his family and was always ready to file charges against the culprits. The non-democrat, but Confucian leader said that in Singapore, corruption and favoritism allegations are not light matters, and people like him should clear their names.

At 91, Lee Kuan Yew, was a legend; an intellectual who built an idea that an autocrat can be good, and bring a country to power even without liberal democracy. Lee was a towering figure in the world of politics who was able to change a small state into a rich one; a country that is among the world’s wealthiest and least corrupt nations.

US President Obama calls him history’s true giant while former George H.W. Bush said he has a singular leadership. David Cameron of Britain acclaimed him as one of history’s great success stories in the contemporary setting. He transformed Singapore from a backward colonial state into one with a shining high-tech economy.

Lee Kuan Yew was a great statesman after World War II. Through Singapore, he demonstrated that natural resources are not needed to prosper, yet he created a world wherein human ingenuity could survive. Corruption was not allowed, and Lee paid capable people high salaries to shoo them away from temptation.

He pushed down taxes and did tight spending, demonstrating that sound funds can work well with carefully thought social programs. He offered housing that even those who did not earn good income could afford. These housing loans are something that were not disastrous to any citizen, nor to any subsidizing institution. Lee offered a health care system and a pension plan with comprehensive coverage that really served the citizens well.

Singapore is Lee’s living proof that an impoverished country can turn into a flourishing one, which per capita income in 1959 was about $400 to more than $56,000 today. He was a hardcore pragmatist, bravely suppressing communist attempts against his political party, and maintained SG’s independence amidst hostilities from larger neighbors like Malaysia and Indonesia. He has gained other big leaders’ respect, and has served as a great model and adviser.

Lee Kuan Yew, the man behind modern Singapore has left, and while Singaporeans are mourning the loss of a respected politician, many people all over the world join them in reckoning a great leader and his impact on the political sphere. He has left a legacy proving that great leadership can turn an impoverished country into an economic powerhouse.

By Judith Aparri


Politico Magazine

The New York Times


Washington Post

Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea – Flickr License