Lee Kuan Yew
|“||Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.||„|
|~ Lee Kuan Yew|
Lee Kuan Yew (16 September 1923 – 23 March 2015), commonly referred to by his initials LKY and sometimes referred to in his earlier years as Harry Lee, was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, governing for three decades. Lee is recognised as the nation's founding father, with the country described as transitioning from the "third world country to first world country in a single generation" under his leadership.
After attending the London School of Economics, Lee graduated from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, with double starred-first-class honours in law. He became a barrister of the Middle Temple in 1950, and practised law until 1959. Lee co-founded the People's Action Party (PAP) in 1954 and was its first secretary-general until 1992, leading the party to eight consecutive victories. After Lee chose to step down as Prime Minister in 1990, he served as Senior Minister under his successor Goh Chok Tong until 2004, then as Minister Mentor (an advisory post) until 2011, under his own son Lee Hsien Loong. In total, Lee held successive ministerial positions for 56 years. He continued to serve his Tanjong Pagar constituency for nearly 60 years as a member of parliament until his death in 2015. From 1991, he helmed the five-member Tanjong Pagar Group Representation Constituency and remained unopposed for a record five elections.
Lee campaigned for Britain to relinquish its colonial rule, and eventually attained through a national referendum to merge with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963. However, racial strife and ideological differences led to its separation to become a sovereign city-state two years later. With overwhelming parliamentary control at every election, Lee oversaw Singapore's transformation from a British crown colony with a natural deep harbour to a developed economy. In the process, he forged a system of meritocratic, highly effective and incorrupt government and civil service. Many of his policies are now taught at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Lee eschewed populist policies in favour of long-term social and economic planning. He championed meritocracy and multiracialism as governing principles, making English the common language to integrate its immigrant society and to facilitate trade with the West, whilst mandating bilingualism in schools to preserve students' mother tongue and ethnic identity.
Lee's rule was criticised for curtailing civil liberties (media control and limits on public protests) and bringing libel suits against political opponents. He argued that such disciplinary measures were necessary for political stability which, together with the rule of law, were essential for economic progress.
He died of pneumonia on 23 March 2015, aged 91. In a week of national mourning, 1.7 million residents and guests paid tribute to him at his lying-in-state at Parliament House and at community tribute sites around the island.
Lee Kuan Yew was quite a bit more like Joseph Stalin than like Roosevelt, but, since Singapore is a tiny city-state and world-capitalist entrepôt, he also seemed resembled New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, under whom that world city, too, became cleaner, safer, more prosperous – and more sterile, unequal.
Like Giuliani and Stalin, Lee was clever, disciplined, effective, prescient, racist, vicious, vindictive and a control freak. He cleaned the streets and waterways, selected the shade trees, imposed a somewhat robotic examination-driven meritocracy in education, and secured the comforts of investors, and tourists, and tiny Singapore's 70,000 resident millionaires (in U.S. dollars) and 15 billionaires by importing more than 1.5 million virtually rights-less migrant workers to keep wages down and instill fear and cultural sterility in generations of Singaporeans.
But while any New York mayor is curbed by state and federal leaders and an independent judiciary, under a Constitution that was crafted in open debate among brilliant founders - Lee abolished all curbs and virtually wrote and interpreted the constitution by himself: "We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists. If you don’t do that, the country would be in ruins," he said in 1986 while imprisoning and cruelly abusing Catholic Church social-justice workers who were certainly opposed to his practices and whom he also claimed but never proved were Communists.
Like many a silver-tongued anti-colonialist, anti-racist firebrand who turns his colonial masters’ noble rhetoric against them but winds up employing their tactics against those he’s leading, Lee very tellingly foreshadowed his own transformation from tribune of the oppressed to autocrat of the oppressed during a 1956 debate in the colonial assembly by condemning Singapore’s British oppressors a bit too deliciously.
As if acting out his own prescient taunt to the Brits about the delights of their repression, he used a terrified parliament and judiciary and press to smear, bankrupt, imprison, harass and exile other potential founding fathers.
And, with incredibly petty vindictiveness, Lee's government pursued Chee Soon Juan, who was fired in 1993 from his teaching job at the National University of Singapore after he had joined an opposition party, and who was repeatedly imprisoned and bankrupted simply for joining an opposition party and for holding small street demonstrations to air criticisms that state-controlled media wouldn’t publish.
When Chee, who couldn't pay his huge bankruptcy penalty, was prohibited from leaving the country to address a human-rights conference in Oslo, Thor Halvorssen, president of the Human Rights Foundation, published an open letter to Lee's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, noting that, "In the last 20 years he has been jailed for more than 130 days on charges including contempt of Parliament, speaking in public without a permit, selling books improperly, and attempting to leave the country without a permit. Today, your government prevents Dr. Chee from leaving Singapore because of his bankrupt status … It is our considered judgment that having already persecuted, prosecuted, bankrupted and silenced Dr. Chee inside Singapore, you now wish to render him silent beyond your own borders."
Another one-time founding father of Singapore, its former solicitor general Francis Seow, had to flee the country after declaring that its Law Society, which he headed, could comment critically on government legislation. Seow was arrested and detained for 72 days under Singapore’s Internal Security Act on allegations that he had received funds from the United States to enter opposition politics. “[T]he prime minister uses the courts … to intimidate, bankrupt, or cripple the political opposition. Distinguishing himself in a caseful of legal suits commenced against dissidents and detractors for alleged defamation…, he has won them all,” wrote Seow , who, convicted and fined in absentia on a tax evasion charge by Singapore’s courts, lives in exile in Massachusetts, where he has been a fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies Program and the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School.
Lee's racism was almost quaint, trading on 19th-century notions that his British colonial masters had held: "Now if democracy will not work for the Russians, a white Christian people, can we assume that it will naturally work with Asians?" he asked – not rhetorically – on May 9, 1991, at a symposium sponsored by the large Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun .
Race riots among Chinese, Indian and Muslim Malay residents of Singapore in the 1950s had taught him to impose "harmony" through strict allocations of resources and services along race lines: All Singaporeans carry ethnic identity cards.
Lee even invoked genetics to justify his enforced racial harmony and service distribution: "The Bell curve is a fact of life. The blacks on average score 85 per cent on IQ and it is accurate, nothing to do with culture. The whites score on average 100. Asians score more … the Bell curve authors put it at least 10 points higher. These are realities that, if you do not accept, will lead to frustration because you will be spending money on wrong assumptions and the results cannot follow," he said in 1997.
- Lee Kuan Yew - Real Life Heroes Wiki