By Newsgram Staff Writer
Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father and first prime minister of Singapore, who transformed the tiny island outpost into a global trade and financial centre, died on Monday aged 91, in Singapore General Hospital.
Lee was the Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 until 1990. He remained the dominant personality and driving force in what he called a First World oasis in a Third World region.
Efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking and pragmatic this is how the nation saw him.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply saddened” by Mr Lee’s death . US President Barack Obama described him as a “giant of history”. The Chinese foreign ministry called him “a uniquely influential statesman in Asia”.
“We are ideology-free,” Lee said in an interview with The New York Times in 2007, stating what had become, in effect, Singapore’s ideology. “Does it work? If it works, let’s try it. If it’s fine, let’s continue it. If it doesn’t work, toss it out, try another one.”
Lee’s leadership was at times criticized for suppressing freedom, but the formula succeeded. With low level of corruption and high efficiency Singapore became an international business and financial center.
A lifetime of building and contribution:
In 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia, ever since then Lee started his never ending struggle to overcome the nation’s lack of natural resources.
In one of his interview in 2007 he said, “To begin with, we don’t have the ingredients of a nation, the elementary factors: a homogeneous population, common language, common culture and common destiny. So, history is a long time. I’ve done my bit.”
Lee’s ‘Singapore Model’ had been admired and studied by leaders in Asia, including in China.
Born in 16th Sept, 1923, to a fourth-generation middle-class Chinese family, Lee was also called as Harry Lee. He earned a law degree in 1949 from Cambridge University. After serving as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, Lee was followed by two handpicked successors, Goh Chok Tong and Lee’s eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, who, groomed for the job, has been prime minister since 2004.
In one of his interview with The Time, 2010 he said, “I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose,” he said. “I had to do some nasty things, locking fellows up without trial.”
Reaching 87 also, Lee maintained a strict diet to keep him fit, but the signs of age didn’t abandon him.