24 March 2015
PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The founding father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, passed away Monday at the age of 91. It was a great loss for Singapore and Asia.
He dedicated his whole life to Singapore, having once said: “I have no regrets. I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more than I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What I have given up? My life.”
One of Asia’s Most Respected Leaders
Lee Kuan Yew was one of Asia’s most respected political leaders.
His political thoughts and governance approach remain alive and appealing to many Asians, especially with regards to good governance. He was the champion of Asian values and truly was one of the legendary political leaders of Asia.
His great achievements are undeniable. During 31 years as Prime Minister of Singapore, he transformed Singapore from a poor city-state into one of the most dynamic and prosperous countries in the world. Singapore’s per capita income has increased by100 times, from about $500 in mid-1960s to more than $55,000 today.
He co-founded the People’s Action Party in 1954 and became the first Prime Minister of Singapore in 1959, when Singapore gained self-rule from colonial ruler Great Britain.
He led the newly-born Singapore, which separated from Malaysia in 1965. He stepped down in 1990 and held an advisory role to the cabinet until 2011. His legacy of clean, efficient, and accountable governance is what he has left behind for the future generation of Singaporeans.
Stern with Opponents
Lee Kuan Yew adopted a stern approach to his opponents.
In response to criticism from democracy advocates and human rights groups for his iron fist approach towards the opposition leaders, he said in 2010: “I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose. I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.”
Referring to how history will judge him, Singapore’s leader added: “Close the coffin, then decide.”
On foreign policy, Lee Kuan Yew pursued a pragmatic approach, not ideological.
As a small country, Singapore has no other choice but to integrate itself into the region and the world and seize opportunities that come with changing circumstances and external conditions.
Leaders around the world have expressed their condolences and praised Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership and legacy.
Chinese President Xi Jinping described him as “a strategist and politician respected widely in the international community, ” calling his death a “loss to the international community.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarded Lee Kuan Yew as “a far-sighted statesman and a lion among leaders.”
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called him “a great Asian leader who laid the foundation for the prosperity of Singapore today.”
The Indonesian Government issued a statement: “Under his leadership, Singapore has succeeded in transforming itself into a major economic hub for the Asian region and stands in equal footing to other developed nations of the world.”
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak stated, “His achievements were great, and his legacy is assured.”
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen stated: “Lee Kuan Yew was not only the founder of Singapore, but also the co-founder of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.”
He added: “In his whole life, if we observe, he worked until his death.”
US President Barack Obama expressed that Lee Kuan Yew was “a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one the great strategists of Asian affairs.”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “That Singapore is today a prosperous, secure and successful country is a monument to his decades of remarkable public service.”
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said: “Lee Kuan Yew was a legendary figure in Asia, widely respected for his strong leadership and statesmanship. During his three decades in office, he helped Singapore to transition from a developing country to one of the most developed in the world, transforming it into a thriving international business hub.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott stated: “Here in Australia and beyond, leaders sought and learned from his wise counsel.”
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said: “Lee Kuan Yew was a rare statesman, both in Asia and the world, who always saw the big picture and we shall miss his counsel.”
Lee Kuan Yew’s political thoughts and governance strategy remain alive and relevant in guiding the future of Singapore as well as Asia.