Vale Lee Kuan Yew
My thoughts are with my Singaporean friends as they deal with the enormous loss of their founder, Lee Kuan Yew. The outpouring of grief and display of respect and affection for this man who was the driving force behind not just the creation but also the shaping of Singapore is a reflection of Mr Lee’s achievements.
I will not describe his myriad achievements here – many others are doing a much better job than I could. But it is worth mentioning Lee Kuan Yew’s greatest achievement – building a nation with a sound government and a strong legal system that will last. Singapore is a byword for official honesty and an open and transparent business system. This vibrant, multi-cultural nation is perhaps more “colour-blind” than any other and has a truly international outlook. Its legal system makes it a magnet for global firms, and the country provides incredible links to mainland China, perhaps second only to Taiwan.
A Singaporean journalist asked in The Financial Times, “[w]ill Singapore outlive him?” Frankly, the systems, institutions and relationships built by Lee Kuan Yew ensure that this will be the case.
But Singapore’s loss is also the world’s loss. Internationally, Mr Lee had an ability to straddle issues of East and West, and gave forthright advice to all on how best to deal with one another. For China and the US in particular, Mr Lee’s superlative understanding of both sides of the cultural divide made his advice valuable to presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama, and Chinese leaders from Deng Xiaoping onwards. Indeed, although he pulled no punches, and his advice was not sugar-coated, his advice was always insightful. He was the only leader who was universally respected and listened to by all other leaders across Asia Pacific, including China and the US.
I believe that while Singapore will continue to go from strength to strength, the world will certainly miss Lee Kuan Yew’s wisdom.