Sunday, 6 December 2015

Lee Kuan Yew is The Straits Times Asian of the Year 2015

By Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor, The Straits Times, 5 Dec 2015

Singapore's founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, is The Straits Times Asian of the Year.

The editors of this newspaper picked Mr Lee, who died in March, as their unanimous choice from a crowded field for the annual award, now in its fourth year.

The city-state's prime minister for 31 years, Mr Lee was widely respected as the architect of Singapore's prosperity, transforming it from a backwater port city into a wealthy global hub.

The Straits Times Asian of the Year award recognises an individual or organisation that has contributed significantly to improving lives at home or in the wider neighbourhood.

The inaugural award, in 2012, went to Myanmar President Thein Sein. The 2013 award was shared by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe, while last year's winner was India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The citation bestowing this year's award posthumously on Mr Lee said: "No other Asian has made such an impact as Mr Lee had this year."

His passing was a reminder of how big a role he played in steering and shaping modern Singapore. He was both a visionary and a radical thinker, and his views and policies laid the foundation for what Singapore stands for.

"He played key roles in introducing policies and attracting investments that turned Singapore into a modern economic success story.

"At the forefront of his policies were good governance and clean government, and his belief in a meritocratic, multiracial and multi-religious society. He eschewed ideological positions or political correctness, and said often that he was guided in his political judgments by looking for 'what works'."

He was also a strong voice for a secure and stable region, centred around Asean, as well as for continuing the presence of United States forces in the region to help keep the peace.

His standing at home and abroad was clear from the way people in the Republic and the world responded to his passing. The long line of luminaries who paid him tribute from around the world, as well as leaders who flew in for his funeral, spoke volumes for the respect he commanded. Flags were also flown at half-mast in New Zealand and India.

Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez, who chairs the panel that picks the ST Asian of the Year, said: "Mr Lee's passing galvanised this nation, reminding Singaporeans of the significance of the Jubilee year celebrations of our nation's independence.

"The reaction abroad was just as moving, with a myriad of world leaders as well as respected academics and commentators expounding on how he had shaped their thinking on issues and contributed to their understanding of Asia and the world.

"This reflected the standing that he had established for himself, and Singapore. As this SG50 year draws to a close, we thought it was fitting to remember Mr Lee with this award."









Citation

ST Asian of the Year - Lee Kuan Yew: Visionary who defined modern Singapore
The Straits Times, 5 Dec 2015

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, is The Straits Times Asian Of The Year 2015.

The editors of the newspaper were unanimous in choosing Mr Lee, who died on March 23 at the age of 91.

This is the first time the award, which is in its fourth year, is given posthumously.

No other Asian has made such an impact as Mr Lee had this year. His passing was a reminder of how big a role he had played in steering and shaping modern Singapore.

He was both a visionary and a radical thinker, and his views and policies laid the foundation for what Singapore stands for.

He was instrumental in a host of major policies that have shaped almost every aspect of Singaporeans' lives, from promoting public housing and home ownership to adopting English as a common language for the disparate races in Singapore, and planting trees and transforming the island into a "clean and green" city long before environmental consciousness became fashionable.

He played key roles in introducing policies and attracting investments that turned Singapore into a modern economic success story.

At the forefront of his policies were good governance and clean government, and his belief in a meritocratic, multiracial and multi-religious society.

He eschewed ideological positions or political correctness, and said often that he was guided in his political judgments by looking for "what works".

In death, he galvanised Singaporeans and reminded many of what the country has stood for since its founding.

The week of national mourning held in his honour saw a spontaneous outpouring of grief and drew Singaporeans closer together as a people, which some described as Mr Lee's parting gift to his countrymen.

Mr Lee's impact was felt beyond Singapore, both during his life and afterwards. His views were much sought, and his ideas much admired, by people in many other countries.

The long line of luminaries who stepped forward to pay him tribute from around the world, as well as leaders who flew in for his funeral, spoke volumes for the respect he commanded. Flags were also flown at half-mast in New Zealand and India, where processions were held in his honour.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who referred to Mr Lee as "our senior who has our respect", called Mr Lee's death "a loss to the international community".

Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Mr Lee's friend for over five decades, said he "looked at him as a teacher. I learnt much from him".

Mr Lee remained in correspondence with a succession of US presidents - Mr Richard Nixon, Mr Bill Clinton and Mr George Bush - often giving them advice on China. President Barack Obama has called him a "legendary figure of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries".

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher once said on record that he was "never wrong" in his reading of issues. "There is no other world leader I have met in my time in office whom I have admired more for the strength of his convictions, the clarity of his views, the directness of his speech and for his vision of the way ahead," she said.

Few Asians have made such an impact on their nations, and the world, through their lives.





Lee Kuan Yew: Giant on the global stage
Admired by world leaders for his candour, insights and judgment, Mr Lee was hailed by Obama as a 'legendary figure of Asia'
By Bhagyashree Garekar, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, 5 Dec 2015

Steering from the bow of a small island nation in the Asia-Pacific, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's impact on the world was far bigger than the geopolitical space he occupied.

The last leader to have been shaped directly by World War II, his influence on China is well-documented, the product of years of painstaking effort.

Mr Lee visited China over 30 times, nurturing relationships with five generations of China's leaders, from Mao Zedong to President Xi Jinping. But he had the biggest impact on Deng Xiaoping, who was impressed by Mr Lee's successful mix of strong government and free markets.

Mr Lee provided an account of Mr Deng's catalytic four-day visit to Singapore in 1978 in his 2013 book, One Man's View Of The World. Over dinner, he writes, Mr Deng congratulated him. "I asked him what for, and he said, 'You've got a beautiful city, a garden city'."

Mr Lee answered that China could do better than Singapore, a sentiment that Deng repeated in 1992, during his famous Southern Tour. "Ah, he has not forgotten what I told him," Mr Lee writes, remembering with satisfaction.

Nearly four decades later, when the benefits of China's transformation had long become clear and at least 300 million had been lifted out of poverty, Premier Li Keqiang offered a tribute on Mr Lee's death.

Mr Lee's "contributions towards China's reform and opening up will be recorded in history", he said.

President Xi, who referred to Mr Lee as "our senior who has our respect", said his death was "a loss to the international community".

Across the Pacific, in the United States, Mr Lee was a treasured friend, adviser and mentor to several senators, congressmen and former functionaries. "I often arranged his visits in Washington, but it was not easy to put in order the many applicants who wanted to see him," said former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.

A visit by Mr Lee was a kind of national event, Dr Kissinger wrote in an obituary. "That he would see the President was a matter of course. But in addition, he would see key Cabinet members. Senators, too, wanted to see him. And why? He did not talk about Singapore. He told them what they ought to do. He facilitated their reflection on their own role in the world.

"I looked at him as a teacher. I learnt much from him."

Mr Lee had a direct line to US presidents from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, who sought his views on China. President Barack Obama hailed him as a "legendary figure of Asia in the 20th and 21st centuries".

Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was another admirer, saying that he was "never wrong" in his reading. "Prime Minister, an hour's talk with you is itself worth a journey halfway round the world and farther still," she said at an Istana banquet in April 1985.

Mr Helmut Schmidt, the former West German chancellor, also counted Mr Lee as a close friend. At 93, defying a blood clot in his leg which ultimately contributed to his death last month, Mr Schmidt travelled to Singapore in May 2012 for what was to be their last meeting. "We need leadership figures. We need people like Harry Lee," Mr Schmidt said afterwards.

Why was Mr Lee so admired by foreign leaders? "Because of his intellectual brilliance, his power of analysis and judgment, his eloquence and charisma, and his willingness to share his candid and disinterested views. His longevity also gave him an advantage as he evolved from being the brilliant prime minister of Singapore to being a wise elder statesman," Singapore's Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh said in an article for The Straits Times.

In a testament to the deep regard for him across the globe, Mr Lee's funeral was attended by leaders from 23 countries, including the Malaysian King, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

India and New Zealand declared a day of mourning and flew their flags at half-mast. A village in Tamil Nadu held a procession in his memory and a bus driver named his newborn child after him. A bust of Mr Lee was unveiled last month in Barcelona's Cap Roig Gardens, which he had visited a decade ago.

His memoirs, and other books distilling his insights, like Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas and Vintage Lee, continue to carry his ideas, translated in many languages from Croatian to Myanmarese.






Lee Kuan Yew: In death, he drew the nation together in grief
By Bhagyashree Garekar, Deputy Foreign Editor, The Straits Times, 5 Dec 2015

There is no life here he did not touch or shape in some fundamental way. In life, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was for many years a ubiquitous figure, tough-minded and stern in the popular imagination. In death, he drew the nation together in grief and prompted a renewed reflection of what it meant to be Singaporean.

For Madam Toh Bok Hua, it was both simple and profound - Mr Lee's appearance in public life in the late 1950s meant an opportunity to build a better future. "I used to sit on a milk crate - we were illegal hawkers, and the policemen would come and we would run." Sometimes, the kueh she sold was kicked into the drain. "They weren't very compassionate then," she said. "But then Mr Lee Kuan Yew came along and things changed, and we got a stall to sell kueh."

To honour the man who had taken Singapore from Third World penury to First World prosperity in a generation, Madam Toh, nearly 70, joined a hushed crowd watching as a gun carriage with Mr Lee's body emerged from the Istana gates on March 25.

More than a million people showed up to pay homage to Mr Lee in the week of national mourning until his state funeral on March 29. Nearly half a million queued for up to 10 hours to view his body as it lay in state at Parliament House. About 1.2 million went to 18 condolence centres around the island to pay their respects, and leave flowers, messages and gifts.

It was a silent emotional bond, all the more powerful because it had hardly been publicly displayed before. And it persisted long after the official mourning period had ended. The strong support for the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) in September's General Election has been attributed in part to Mr Lee's passing, reminding Singaporeans of what they had fought for and achieved under his charge. Mr Lee was a founding member of the PAP.

Tanglin Halt resident Sayuti Dahlan, 82, stood quietly among the crowd in Bukit Merah when Mr Lee's funeral procession wound through Singapore on March 29. Mr Sayuti remembered that, as a young man in his 20s, he would cycle from Pasir Panjang to Tanjong Pagar to attend rallies where Mr Lee would give powerful speeches.

Standing on a stationary, open- topped lorry, he would shout: "The British think we are stupid. But I will show them that the people of Singapore can and will have merdeka (freedom)."

Mr Dahlan underlined a defining characteristic of the founding Prime Minister's legacy: "Mr Lee never used the words Chinese or Malay or Indian to describe us. He always said Singaporeans."

Mr Lee formulated the need and basis for a multiracial, meritocratic Singaporean identity - based on justice and equality for all races and religions - very early on, and it was no coincidence his death also led to its fullest expression on the streets.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong celebrated that groundswell of emotion five months later in his Golden Jubilee Rally speech. "Our shared moment of sorrow bonded us," PM Lee said on Aug 23. "Now, we don't have to struggle to find words to define the Singapore spirit or what being a Singaporean means. Now, we know that we are Singaporean."

Retired oil field consultant Gunasingan Thambiraja, 69, said: "I wish more had recognised Mr Lee and all that he did when he was alive, instead of having to be reminded. They said he was too aggressive, too hot-tempered. Whatever they said about him, he had a plan for this country."

As Mr Lee's daughter, Dr Lee Wei Ling, 60, put it in an April 5 column for The Sunday Times: "As everyone knows, he was not cuddly. And yet when he died, Singaporeans cried as they would for a loved one. Never demonstrative himself, he elicited demonstrative crowds in the hundreds of thousands."




Singapore's founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, has been named The Straits Times Asian of the Year. http://str.sg/ZDba
Posted by The Straits Times on Friday, December 4, 2015



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