Lee Kuan Yew : Forging A Nation 1

Introduction

“I do not yet know of a man who became a leader as a result of having undergone a leadership course.” Lee Kuan Yew

We take a lesson in greatness from watching a leader in action. The lesson for me is ‘Have a honorable cause. Then stay true to your cause’

Black Smith

Main Quote

“What are our priorities? First, the welfare, the survival of the people. Then, democratic norms and processes which from time to time we have to suspend.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1986 National Day Rally

LKY I Have No Regrets

My Interpretation of Main Quote

First, we have to try to understand Mr Lee’s mental framework.

“ While Mr Lee was Western-educated, and English was the primary language he spoke at home, he subscribed to Confucian values – in particular, the importance of family, community and country, and one’s duty to others.” Channel News Asia 27 March 2015

In order to make the right decisions, one must get one’s priority right. If one can do this, one’s thinking and direction will become clear. Never mind what other think. If one finds out what one’s heart plan to do is workable, then forge ahead.

In running a country, the survival of the citizen comes first. This becomes one’s cause. It is something that one can hold on to remain steadfast and not waiver; and to shut out the noise.

As the framework, when one considers the country, one’s considerations in one’s decision making should encompass how the decision would impact the community and family.

It is what is in the heart that matters more (than the mind). It is also the results that matters; not the differences in opinions (who is right and who is wrong).Because of this, one expects to become unpopular by some.

It is all about one’s nation and people. It is about dedication and commitment.

There is no room for self, whether money, creature comfort, clothes. Everything else will appear insignificant.

So one knows that one would face great obstacles and challenges, one  must muster up one’s courage despite that opinions may point other wise; calculate the risks and take actions. It is all for the sake of one’s country.

In Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Own Words

Quote 1

There is a little Chinese aphorism which encapsulates this idea: Xiushen qijia zhiguo pingtianxia. Xiushen means look after yourself, cultivate yourself, do everything to make yourself useful; Qijia, look after the family; Zhiguo, look after your country; Pingtianxia, all is peaceful under heaven

Lee Kuan Yew, March/April 1994 Interview with Fareed Zakaria for article “Culture Is Destiny; A Conversation With Lee Kuan Yew”

Quote 2

“Let me give you a Chinese proverb,’Do not judge a man until you’ve closed his coffin’. I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose.” Lee Kuan Yew in an interview with The New York Times on September 1, 2010.

Quote 3

“I am not given to making sense out of life – or coming up with some grand narrative on it – other than to measure it by what you think you want to do in life. As for me, I have done what I had wanted to, to the best of my ability. I am satisfied.” Lee Kuan Yew, 2013.

Quote 4

Popular vs populist

“If you want to be popular, do not try to be popular all the time. Popular government does not mean that you do popular things all the time. We do not want to be unpopular or to do unpopular things. But when they are necessary, they will be done. Popular representative government means that within each five-year period, your policies have demonstrably worked and won popular support. That is what it means. And if we flinch from the unpopular, we are in deep trouble.”

Quote 5

I have never been over concerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls. I think a leader who is, is a weak leader.

An Example : Changi Airport

“Without him, Changi Airport would not exist today. It was Mr Lee who took the difficult decision to move Singapore’s international airport from Paya Lebar to Changi despite the recommendations of foreign experts to expand the former. It meant writing off some S$800 million that had already been invested in Paya Lebar and a commitment of S$1.5 billion in the late 1970s to develop the new airport. This was a bold move, but as Mr Lee himself said, “one of the best $1.5 billion investments we ever made”.

Mr Lee took a personal interest in the development of the new airport at Changi. He flew over the site to oversee construction, ensuring that Changi Airport was to become a shining beacon of the Singapore brand in the global economy. His unique vision and leadership paid off, resulting in one of the most recognised airports in the world today.”

Source: Changi Airport website

LKY Changi Airport 1979

Source: Changi Airport website

LKY Changi Airport 2007

Source: Changi Airport website

When Singapore wanted to expand its airport operations in the early 1970s, a British aviation consultant proposed building a second runway at the existing airport in Paya Lebar as that would entail the lowest land acquisition costs and the least resettlements.

Although the Cabinet accepted the recommendation, Mr Lee asked for a reassessment by American consultants, and then a further study by a committee of senior officials on the viability of transforming the RAF airfield in Changi into a commercial airport. Both said to stay with the Paya Lebar plan.

But Mr Lee was unsure whether that would be wise or sustainable for Singapore in the long run, recalling lessons he had picked up on his travels: “I had flown over Boston’s Logan Airport and been impressed that the noise footprint of planes landing and taking off was over water. A second runway at Paya Lebar would take aircraft right over the heart of Singapore city… We would be saddled with the noise pollution for many years.”

Reluctant to give up on his preference for the Changi site, he appointed the chairman of the Port of Singapore Authority, Mr Howe Yoon Chong – who had a “reputation as a bulldozer” – to chair a top-level committee for a final reappraisal. They reported that Changi was do-able.

And so, despite the fact the 1973 oil crisis had just struck and growth in Southeast Asia was uncertain following South Vietnam’s fall to the communists, Mr Lee took the “S$1 billion gamble” in 1975 to build the new Changi Airport – demolishing buildings, exhuming thousands of graves, clearing swamps, reclaiming land from the sea and completed the building in six years instead of 10.

To say the least, that “gamble” has paid off handsomely, entrenching Singapore as a vital tourism, aviation and economic node.

Source:  “Lee Kuan Yew: The Economic Pragmatist” Published in Today Written by Teo Xuanwei

Tony Blair’s Comments on Lee Kuan Yew Pragmatic Approach

“ His (Lee Kuan Yew)  thinking was very important. I think this is one of his underestimated achievements, is that, in my view, he was probably the first leader in that later part of the 20th century to understand that governing was about efficacy rather than ideology, and that the most important thing in politics is to search for the right answer and then do it, rather than start from some ideological predisposition and then work out how you fit the facts around it. He was the person who, when he came to construct Singapore, said, right, what’s going to make this country great? And then he set out to do it.

And that approach, I think, didn’t just excite me but excited a whole lot of politicians, whether they were from centre left or centre right. That was the right approach to government.” Tony Blair

Source: Channel News Asia written by Olly Barratt 28 March 2015

Tony Blair’s Comments on Lee Kuan Yew’s Clear Thinking

“He’s a really clear thinker and I think the single most important attribute, and something he certainly taught me, is the need to get to the right analysis, shorn of dogma, leave all that aside.

“You may be on the Left, you may be on the Right, you may have this preconception or that preconception, but put it all to the side, and the first thing you need to work out is what actually would make the difference to your country and improve it. And in that, that’s why I think although he’s a 20th century leader, he’s very much a 21st century teacher.”

Source: Channel News Asia Mr Lee Kuan Yew Public Man Private Life 27 Mar 2015

Heng Swee Keat’s Comments on Lee Kuan Yew’s Dedication to His Countrymen

Mr Heng had first-hand knowledge as he was Mr Lee’s Principal Private Secretary from 1997 till 2000. This is about the red brief case that Mr Lee used.

Red boxes came from the British government, whose Ministers used them for transporting documents between government offices. Our early Ministers had red boxes, but Mr Lee is the only one I know who used his consistently through the years. When I started working for Mr Lee in 1997, it was the first time I saw a red box in use.

The red box carried a wide range of items. It could be communications with foreign leaders, observations about the financial crisis, instructions for the Istana grounds staff, or even questions about some trees he had seen on the expressway. Mr Lee was well-known for keeping extremely alert to everything he saw and heard around him – when he noticed something wrong, like an ailing raintree, a note in the red box would follow.

Before Mr Lee came in to work each day, the locked red box would arrive first, at about 9 am. We would get to work right away. While we did this, Mr Lee would be working from home. When Mr Lee came into the office, the work that had come earlier in the red box would be ready for his review, and he would have a further set of instructions for our action.

In his days as PM, Mr Lee’s average bedtime was three-thirty in the morning. As Senior Minister and Minister Mentor, he went to sleep after two in the morning. If he had to travel for an official visit the next day, he might go to bed at one or two in the morning.

Deep into the night, while the rest of Singapore slept, it was common for Mr Lee to be in full work mode.

Before he went to bed, Mr Lee would put everything he had completed back in the red box, with clear pointers on what he wished for us to do in the office. The last thing he did each day was to place the red box outside his study room. The next morning, the duty security team picked up the red box, brought it to us waiting in the office, and a new day would begin

LKY Red Box

I have taken some time to describe Mr Lee’s red box. The reason is that, for me, it symbolises Mr Lee’s unwavering dedication to Singapore so well. The diverse contents it held tell us much about the breadth of Mr Lee’s concerns – from the very big to the very small; the daily routine of the red box tells us how Mr Lee’s life revolved around making Singapore better, in ways big and small.

By the time I served Mr Lee, he was the Senior Minister. Yet he continued to devote all his time to thinking about the future of Singapore. I could only imagine what he was like as Prime Minister. In policy and strategy terms, he was always driving himself, me, and all our colleagues to think about what each trend and development meant for Singapore, and how we should respond to it in order to secure Singapore’s wellbeing and success.

As his Permanent Private Secretary, I saw the punishing pace of work that Mr Lee set himself. I had a boss whose every thought and every action was for Singapore.

But it takes private moments like these to bring home just how entirely Mr Lee devoted his life to Singapore.

In fact, I think the best description comes from the security officer who was with Mr Lee both of those times. He was on Mr Lee’s team for almost 30 years. He said of Mr Lee: “Mr Lee is always country, country, country. And country.”

Source: Heng Swee Keat Facebook post 24 March 2015

The Story of Yue Fei

The following is an article appearing in “surwinette” website.

LKY Return My Land

There is No Place Like Home

Video: Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore, passed away on 23 March 2015. His body lie in state at Parliament House from 25 March to 28 March 2015.The Choir of St John’s College from the University of Cambridge presented a beautiful rendition of “Home” at Parliament House, Singapore, on 25 March 2015. The performance was a tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, an alumnus of Cambridge.

The Results Speak for Themselves

SG Results 1

SG Results 2

SG Results 3

SG Results 4

SG Results 5

A Standing Ovation

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