Monday 6 April 2015

What the crowds and the tears told us about LKY, Singapore & Singaporeans

What Papa's death taught us about ourselves
Singaporeans have respect and empathy for one another and should retain such behaviour
By Lee Wei Ling, The Sunday Times, 5 Apr 2015

I am Lee Kuan Yew's daughter. I was brought up in a rather undemonstrative family. Papa's death was indeed a painful event for me, but I will not show my pain to the world. So I was amazed at the outpouring of emotion that usually phlegmatic Singaporeans displayed on my father's passing.

My father never sought popularity. Whilst not arrogant, he was openly dismissive of rogues, charlatans and crooks. And though he had a great rapport with regular people - he began his political career representing postal workers and his base was always the unions - he never suffered fools gladly, especially if they were pretentious and high-ranking. 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 who thronged Parliament House and the 18 tribute sites the People's Association organised.

On the last day of the lying in state, I received a phone call from an old classmate who told me his wife was crying because she was unable to pay her respects in time. I could not help, for how could I justify helping a friend's wife jump the queue?

The next day was the funeral. The casket was carried by eight high-ranking officers, two each from the army, navy, air force and police. It was raining cats and dogs at the time we were to leave Parliament House.

We proceeded with the ceremony anyway, just as Papa had decided to do in 1968 when it rained cats and dogs during the National Day Parade. And just as he and his Cabinet members stood in the rain that day, his family walked through the rain at his funeral.

I saw schoolchildren drenched despite their ponchos, their faces contorted by crying although it was impossible to see any tears through such heavy rain. Tens of thousands of regular Singaporeans, including children and the elderly, stood in the rain, some with inadequate umbrellas or ponchos, others bareheaded and seemingly oblivious to the rain. The roar of "Lee Kuan Yew" was deafening.

A friend of mine, a neurosurgeon who competes in Ironman events, stood for four hours in the rain with his two daughters. He e-mailed me about it after the funeral. I e-mailed back: "Why didn't you spend that time training?"

He replied: "I wanted to show my solidarity with the nation in mourning his passing and have my daughters grow up remembering that poignant moment of the multitude who gathered at the roadside to honour him. The rain brought out the best in Singaporeans."

I asked another doctor friend who had been involved in Papa's care since 1996: "What does LKY's death tell us about Singapore and Singaporeans?" I added that I did not trust my own feelings on this issue because my view of Papa would be coloured by my being his daughter.

My friend replied: "LKY transcends all spectrums, hence this great spontaneous outpouring of grief and remembrance. He is regarded as among the world's greatest statesmen, and would have been even more recognised if he had been born in a larger country. Luckily for Singapore, we had him.

"His insistence on honesty, character, integrity and incorruptibility is now more clear and resonant than ever. His speeches made decades ago find a refreshing relevance in today's world. It is unlikely that there will ever be anyone quite like him again in our lifetime."

We are all aware how the Western press, cynical about Singapore's democracy, and rather condescending about our economic success and our law and order, has ascribed all our achievements to my father's authoritarian rule. If he had been such an authoritarian, how did the public suddenly like him in death?

Indeed, in the last few weeks of Papa's life in the intensive care unit, I, my brother Hsien Yang, his wife Suet Fern and their children were receiving e-mails from hundreds of strangers enquiring about Papa's health and conveying their good wishes and prayers. Indeed, we have been receiving such letters for years, strangers writing to us out of the blue to convey their good wishes to Papa.

Hsien Yang and I warned the State Funeral Organising Committee preparing for the lying in state that the turnout may be bigger than they had planned for. But when the time came, the outpouring of sorrow and the massive crowds who queued for long hours to pay their last respects were beyond even what we had anticipated.

I don't think Singaporeans suddenly woke up on March 23 and decided they loved and were grateful to Lee Kuan Yew. His death was the occasion, not the cause, for the expression of feelings that were always there.

We need not be concerned about impressing foreigners. Papa thought he was answerable only to his own people. Even then, he wanted to do only what was right, regardless of whether it was popular or politically correct. It is now apparent that though he never courted popularity, most Singaporeans know how much he did for them and that he devoted his life to his country.

As he himself put it towards the end of his life: "I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There's nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life."

I was educated in Chinese-language schools up to the equivalent of the O levels. My anti-colonial sentiments are hence somewhat stronger than those who attended English-language schools.

I watch with despair when Singaporeans buy into the dismissive views of some Westerners about Singapore. And I was very happy to see Singaporeans reject Western journalists who wrote dismissively of Papa and the response of Singaporeans to his death.

We must keep our heritage and respect the culture and language of our different races and be proud of Singapore. Never be impressed by the white man who thinks he is superior to you. We are no less and probably more capable than he is. If Papa and his Old Guard colleagues did not believe that, they would not have fought for independence and built up this country.

We should walk proud with no chip on our shoulder, and retain the mutual respect and empathy that we now know we are capable of. It will make life a little easier and our interaction more pleasant. We should do this in our everyday life without the need of some tragic event like Papa's death to bring out our better selves.

Papa's death revealed a lot of good things about Singapore and Singaporeans. There will never be another Lee Kuan Yew. Let's not miss the chance to learn the lessons Papa's death taught us about ourselves.

If there were any unresolved conflicts within me since Papa's last serious illness and subsequent death, writing this article has exorcised them. In the coming days and months, I will have to start planning for my own life after Papa - and so must my fellow Singaporeans.

The worries that drove Mr Lee to write books
He worked tirelessly as he wanted the young to grasp what's critical to Singapore's success
By Warren Fernandez, Editor, The Sunday Times, 5 Apr 2015

Soon after The Singapore Story, the first of the two-part memoirs of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, was published in 1998, a copy landed on my desk in the Straits Times newsroom.

I had not expected it. It was from Mr Lee, and was signed by him. He penned a simple message that seemed characteristic of him: "To Warren Fernandez, With my thanks for the attention to detail and to the broad shape of the book to make it reading friendly."

It was a kind reward for our efforts. I was one of several journalists roped in to assist him with the editing of his manuscript. This followed on from an earlier book on him that my colleagues and I had written, titled Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas.

Admittedly, as a young journalist then barely out of my 20s, being asked to critique the work of the country's founding father seemed a daunting task. So, when the opportunity arose, I asked him with some trepidation exactly what he was expecting us to do, and why he was taking such great pains with his book.

He answered matter-of-factly: "I want it to be read. No use if I write it and people don't read it. I want them to read it, especially the young, and understand how we got here."

This recollection came to me last Sunday when Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recounted how Mr Lee had been relentless in his efforts to secure Singapore's future, including writing book after book in his final years.

"His biggest worry was that younger Singaporeans would lose the instinct for what made Singapore tick. This was why he continued writing books into his 90s," said PM Lee in his eulogy to his father at the University Cultural Centre.

"Why did he do this? So that a new generation of Singaporeans could learn from his experience, and understand what their security, prosperity, and future depended on."

Indeed, Mr Lee seemed determined to give his memoirs his best shot. He was assiduous in seeking out and responding to our critiques. Initially, I had wondered if he would really be open to our suggestions. But I soon discovered that each time we sent him our views, a revised version would come back in a flash.

"Is this better? Does it work now?" he would ask.

We replied: Could we have more details? More personal anecdotes? More context to help explain the point being made, and guide the reader along?

Again the revisions would come, with a similar response: "Does this work?"

Back and forth it went, version after version, so many that we sometimes found it hard to keep track of all of them. Mr Lee never seemed to tire of the process. And so over time, the caricature of the man as a fearsome leader, who brooked no dissent and was impervious to others' opinions, became less and less real to me.

So, you might ask, just what was Mr Lee so worried about that he felt a need to put all these thoughts to paper? Was it a concern that younger Singaporeans might not support his ruling People's Action Party as strongly as their parents had?

Obviously as a political leader, he must have wanted his party to continue to win support, but his concerns seemed to go much further. I came to this conclusion gradually as I pondered his responses to questions we posed him on various occasions. He would say often that his primary concern was not just the support for, or survival of, the PAP, but for whoever could deliver good government in the interests of the people of Singapore.

"Do people have good jobs? Do they get the education to prepare for those jobs? Can they afford to buy their own home? How will they defend those homes? How will they provide for their children? These are the issues that cut to the bone," I recall him saying, in words to that effect.

Beyond these were even deeper issues which he seemed especially concerned that younger Singaporeans grasped - not just intellectually but also instinctively - namely, just how unlikely a nation Singapore is, how deep the emotive pulls of race and religion can be, or how these latent forces can be so easily roused and whipped into a frenzy for political effect.

And how vulnerable a little red dot like Singapore was, and remains - even though, or perhaps especially as, it has prospered over the years - in a world where the positions of seemingly friendly countries could ebb and flow, and change without much warning.

So, as I watched last Sunday's solemn ceremonies to send Mr Lee to his rest, I could not help but wonder what he would have made of all that unexpected outpouring of grief.

To what effect, he might have asked, or just how does this help Singapore?

Clearly, many Singaporeans were deeply saddened by Mr Lee's passing. Many of us had hoped that he would hold out until August at least, to join in the 50th anniversary celebrations, especially the parade at the Padang, where he had made so many momentous proclamations. Indeed, it would have been fitting for him to be there. You can just imagine the cheers and applause that would have greeted him, judging by the response he received at past parades.

Perhaps that might have pleased Mr Lee. Yet, I can't help but suspect that he would have wanted more than just some fleeting feel-good moment on Aug 9.

Rather, he might have been more heartened by how his passing served to galvanise the country, including the young, into remembering some of the ideals he stood for, the no-holds-barred battles he fought, the tough-minded decisions he took, and yes, also the fallout that some of these entailed.

In a way, the events of the emotional week of mourning did more to focus minds on the real significance of SG50 than anything else so far. That was Mr Lee's parting gift to Singapore. Since he could not rise from his grave to fix problems he spotted, as he once proclaimed he would, he at least managed in death to rally his people around, just one last time, as he had so often done in life.

These sombre thoughts were running through my mind as the National Anthem sounded, and I watched on television the crowd in the hall, and outside, singing Majulah Singapura and reciting the Singapore Pledge.

How many of us know what it all means, or even how the anthem and pledge had come about, I wondered. I confess I had to look it up to be sure. I was reminded for my pains that the anthem many call the Mari Kita was actually composed in 1958 as a song for use by the City Council at public events. A shortened version was later adopted as a state anthem when Singapore gained self-government in 1959, and later became the National Anthem of our independent Republic in 1965.

It had deliberately been written in simple Malay to make it easy to remember, and expressed well the yearning for a "new spirit" of unity, amid the bitter divisions of race and religion in this disparate society. This would ultimately give rise to a new state founded on the principles of racial equality and meritocracy.

Go ahead, play the tune in your mind: Mari kita (come let us all), rakyat Singapura (people of Singapore) sama-sama menuju (proceed together towards) bahagia (happiness); cita-cita kita yang mulia (may our noble aspirations bring) berjaya Singapura (Singapore success). Marilah kita bersatu (come let us all unite), dengan semangat yang baru (in a new spirit), semua kita berseru (as together we proclaim), Majulah Singapura (Onwards Singapore), Majulah Singapura.

The same goes for the pledge, as MPs recalled recently how Mr Lee had once rushed to the House to speak after he read a newspaper report which led him to feel he had to make clear to all that the lofty ideals expressed in the pledge were noble aspirations to be strived for, but which would not be made reality simply by repeated assertion.

That, I figure, is what Mr Lee worried about. He wanted us to not just know the words and mouth them, or buy his books and not reflect on them. He wanted us to realise just how much work it would take to live up to the ideals, safeguard what had been built, and secure our future.

For unless we did, the words and books, the anthem and pledge, the battles fought and won, the global metropolis built from mudflats, would simply not endure. And that, as Mr Lee was wont to say, would be that.

He wasn't afraid to show his true colours
Open display of grief shows Mr Lee's qualities mattered more than his actions
By Han Fook Kwang, Editor At Large, The Sunday Times, 5 Apr 2015

If Lee Kuan Yew were able to see the tens of thousands who waited for hours in line to pay their last respects to him, what would he think?

A sense of gratitude, no doubt, but perhaps also surprise at the open display of emotion.

In life, he wasn't one who sought adulation, once proclaiming it was better to be feared than loved.

His public persona reinforced the image of a hard-headed, no-nonsense leader who didn't care much about whether the people approved of his ways as long as he believed they were in the country's interests.

In turn, many did fear him, even if they also respected what he achieved.

How then to explain the widespread show of emotion at the passing of Singapore's founding Prime Minister?

Even those critical of the current government and its policies joined in the mourning.

A friend related to me that within his social circle, some of whom were openly anti-government, several were in the crowd that waited in line for hours.

Such a spontaneous response from so many, young and old, including those ambivalent towards his record, could have come only from an instinctive grasp of the man and his achievements.

In the moment of grief, who he was mattered more than what he did.

Of course, the two are intertwined.

He achieved much because of who he was.

But I believe the "who" made a deeper connection because of three qualities that defined who he was to Singaporeans.

First, and which has been widely pointed out, was his frugality.

He lived in the same house for 70 years, keeping it in largely the same condition. He wasn't interested in doing it up to keep up with his neighbours.

He wore the same jackets, preferring to patch them up rather than buy new ones.

Singapore was lucky to have a leader who wouldn't have known what to do with the money had he been tempted to go the way of many other corrupt leaders.

Even luckier that his wife shared his frugal ways.

This made a deep impression on the people, especially during the earlier days when he was actively in charge, and they could size him up at close quarters.

His frugality made people see him as part of them, not someone apart and distant.

Second was his strong and determined leadership.

Everyone knew who was boss in Singapore when he was around.

You didn't need to understand his arguments or even agree with his policies.

You felt the force of his conviction and personality.

This, too, made a lasting impression during the years when the people needed someone strong to chart the country's future.

Third was his passion and commitment to Singapore, his lifelong project.

I don't need to explain this because, of all the qualities he displayed, this was the one most universally acknowledged.

Singaporeans could instantly relate to these three qualities of the man at an emotional level.

But the way they responded also says something about themselves, a people who have sometimes been given less credit than they deserve.

You know the usual complaints: that they are spoilt, always complaining and don't know what is good for them because of so many years of peace and abundance.

They might be some or all these things but there is also a Singapore spirit that has developed over the years, a shared understanding of what the country means to them.

I think this also includes knowing which leaders have their interests at heart.

It is fashionable these days to say that old-style leaders like Mr Lee are no longer relevant because the people want a different kind of ruler.

Indeed, arrogant, top-down and self-serving leadership would be instantly exposed in today's 24/7 news cycle and social media.

But the new media landscape also means that political leaders here and elsewhere are judged endlessly - for what they say, their body language and the action they take in response to the issues of the day.

Many find it hard to cope with this ceaseless exposure and suffer the consequences of their character being put on public trial.

Under this sort of scrutiny, it is almost impossible to put on a false front for long without being found out for who you really are.

Lee Kuan Yew would have thrived in these conditions.

He was the type of leader who would welcome the public examination because he wasn't afraid to show his true colours, warts and all.

It doesn't mean he would use the same tactics and policies because circumstances and expectations have changed and the old methods might not work.

But being who he was, he would likely find new methods and policies in tune with present-day needs and expectations.

There's a lesson here for leaders everywhere.

A glimpse of the best that we can be
By John Lui, The Sunday Times, 5 Apr 2015

I spent a few days the week after Mr Lee Kuan Yew died speaking with people in the large crowds paying tribute to the founding Prime Minister. I was struck by how nice everyone was.

If you have ever been with Singaporeans in a crowd - rush hour at an MRT station, for example - you will know that as far as politeness in a group is concerned, there is a size limit.

Past a certain point, people feel anonymous. And it is the same in real life as on the Internet: Where anonymity begins, civility ends.

This time, it was different. I've reported on crowds before, such as at political rallies, and I'd be lucky to get one in three people I approached willing to be interviewed. No one owes me an interview, but often I will meet with an eye-roll or a dismissive wave of the hand. Maybe my cold approach needs work.

This time, though, almost no one turned me away, whether at the tribute centre in Bedok Central or along the funeral procession route in Bukit Merah Central.

I guess some of that openness might have to do with grief, the need for humans to reach out and talk about their pain. But what also struck me was the respect that individuals showed one another, even when they numbered in the thousands.

I spoke with a family with a boy in a wheelchair. He had a broken ankle. Dad was too embarrassed to push him forward, through the throng lined up along Jalan Bukit Merah. He did not want to cause a fuss. I will just stay back here, he said.

Then someone noticed him and motioned for him to move forward, then another person did the same and, soon, Dad, son and the rest of family were reunited at the front.

It wasn't quite the parting of the Red Sea, but it looked miraculous to me. We tend to be passive givers - we give way when asked. This was proactive giving. I'd never seen that in the flesh before.

Loss muted the innate selfishness in all of us, at least for a few days. The best part was that it was infectious. One act of kindness cascaded down the line. And it made people feel good, both those doing it and those watching. That act of generosity fitted the occasion.

I've read articles by writers who have tried to give a name to the feeling that brought Singaporeans out of our shells, bursting that bubble of privacy in which we encase ourselves.

Some call it patriotism, others call it piety, others, respect. Some say it is about being obliged to give thanks to the architect of the nation.

But what they missed by not being there, on the ground, was the sense of people not wanting to be alone. I have friends who joined the thousands queueing at Parliament House. They went because the crowd was huge, not in spite of it. They wanted to look at others and say, wordlessly: "I feel the same way."

Another thing happened with Mr Lee's passing. It opened up evaluations about him as a historic figure and, indirectly, the kind of Singapore he left behind.

The Western press mostly sang from the same old hymnbook - they admire the GDP growth and the clean streets, but it's too bad Asians aren't smart enough to have all that without turning the city into Robotopia.

Whenever I read that, I always feel like the Singapore Tourism Board missed the chance to create a Horror Asia For White Folks theme park, where every bias and stereotype is confirmed in the most edutainingly scary way. Have a mug of Antiseptic Beer, watch the Oppression Parade march down Main Street every day at noon, stay for laser show at 7pm.

Singaporean teenager Amos Yee also exercised his free speech, but as his Christianity-bashing, anti-Lee Kuan Yew rant on YouTube and subsequent arrest for making offensive remarks has shown, this nation does not lack its own colourful critics.

The case instantly divided people into two groups - those who feel Yee must be dealt with and those who say he's just a kid, give him a break.

It's fascinating to be faced with a case that asks us to choose the kind of Singapore we want to live in, post-Lee Kuan Yew: One that thinks that Singapore still rests on fault lines or one that thinks that we are more resilient than that.

The problem is that there is no safe way of testing which hypothesis is true. Singapore is not a lab; it is our lives.

But in the outpouring of affection and respect for Mr Lee that I witnessed, and how it united people young and old, across lines of race and religion, I saw what shape our lives could take. In that moment, it felt as if nothing was beyond reach.

The emotional commitment that Mr Lee inspired
The unprecedented display of emotion after Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death was because people respected Mr Lee as a man of principle, whose leadership made their lives better, even if they disagreed with some of his policies.
By David Chan, Published The Straits Times, 4 Apr 2015

THE period of national mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew will remain vivid in the memory of Singaporeans for many years to come.

For seven days, Singaporeans experienced what I called "nationally shared emotions".

It was a collective grief, accompanied by a deep sense of gratitude to a great man who devoted his adult life to building a city-state that Singaporeans can be proud to call home.

As a behavioural scientist, I was constantly asked over the last two weeks to explain the psychology underlying Singaporeans' public display of emotions.

Singaporeans are now returning to the normalcy of their daily lives. It is time to take stock of Singaporeans' recent collective experiences. And it would be irresponsible to not address the question of a post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore.

Personal experiences, shared beliefs

MANY Singaporeans grew up with Mr Lee as their iconic leader.

They heard his hard-hitting speeches and experienced his commanding presence even if it was only through watching the television. They have shared beliefs that he was the primary person responsible for transforming Singapore.

But why are younger people - who have not known Mr Lee as their prime minister - also intensively moved?

It is true that they learnt in school that he is the founding father of modern Singapore. But they have also heard about the real experiences of older people or others who know about Mr Lee. And they grew up listening to stories about the rare combination of leadership abilities and values embodied in the man.

In other words, Mr Lee has been Singapore's national leader, who has been revered or talked about among Singaporeans for over 50 years. His influence and impact on Singapore and the lives of Singaporeans has been long and lasting.

And when Singaporeans look at their country, many are likely to agree that, overall, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Psychology of public reactions

DID Singaporeans simply feel obliged to acknowledge that Mr Lee was primarily responsible for the country's improved material conditions? Research on psychological commitment has shown that people can be motivated to do something when there is a sense of obligation.

By itself, commitment based on obligation - as in feeling duty-bound to do something - can explain behaviours reflecting determination and perseverance, such as queueing for many hours to pay last respects to Mr Lee. But it cannot explain the visible grief and public display of emotions.

Complaints of inconvenience, which should occur to some degree if people feel that they have to, even when they do not want to, were conspicuously absent.

Moreover, volunteering and looking out for each other were in abundance. To understand public reactions, we need to go beyond commitment based on obligation to include commitment based on emotion. Emotional commitment is about motivation based on "want to".

When people are emotionally committed, they experience a strong feeling of attachment and sense of belonging. They feel like "part of the family". Studies have shown that emotional commitment is often accompanied by a display of emotions. It also leads to "citizenship" behaviours, such as putting up with inconveniences, pro-social behaviours, taking initiatives to improve a situation, and volunteering.

But given Mr Lee's strict enforcement of obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, or an authoritarian approach, can we still say that people are rooted to him through emotional commitment?

In fact, there is no inconsistency. It turns out that emotional commitment can be developed over time through positive personal experiences and beliefs based on perceptions of principled treatment.

First, Singaporeans have personally enjoyed many positives in their life experiences that are attributable to Mr Lee's efforts and decisions. For example, in addition to living in a vibrant metropolis, Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure country and a harmonious society that emphasises multiracialism.

Despite the usual complaints of stress and strain, Singaporeans have personally experienced a place that is highly liveable, for themselves and their family.

Second, in addition to being a pragmatic leader, Mr Lee has been widely perceived as a man of principle.

While there may not be a consensus on the desirability of all his principles, many that he zealously safeguard have benefited Singaporeans though the building of a fair and just society.

Singaporeans from all social backgrounds have been able to excel and be rewarded under a meritocratic system based on performance rather than one's connections.

People have also experienced fairness and justice from a government with zero tolerance for corruption. And many would describe Singapore as a land of opportunity, where self-reliance can lead to achievements of goals.

Mr Lee is seen as a man who practised what he preached, said what he meant, and meant what he said.

So, beyond his intellect, there was a deep respect and trust for Mr Lee's character. Note that this is not about his personality or rationale for specific policies. Singaporeans may disagree strongly with some policies advocated by Mr Lee or dislike some of his personality traits. But they appreciate the values that he painstakingly cultivated, and the principles that he unwaveringly upheld for Singapore.

Singaporeans' shared values include integrity, fairness and social harmony, and guiding principles such as the rule of law, accountability and people-centricity. For over 50 years, Mr Lee translated these values and principles into Singapore's collective narratives and convictions. And so, today, Singaporeans hold strongly to their beliefs in meritocracy, multiracialism, incorruptibility and self-reliance.

For Singaporeans, Mr Lee's death activated the realisation that the generally good life that they and their children have been enjoying did not come easily. Neither did it come automatically. It came about because of Mr Lee and the team of pioneers he led.

The recounting of past events and Mr Lee's past speeches in the media played a role in this mental activation.

But it was not the primary reason for the public's reactions. People could have responded the way they did only if they have existing strong beliefs, trust and respect for Mr Lee.

And real experiences of positive well-being living in Singapore. These beliefs and experiences have, over time, developed into a commitment that is based on both obligation and emotion.

It is noteworthy, though, that none of the above tells us anything directly about whether Singaporeans are happy or unhappy with the government of the day or prevailing policies.

What's next?

THE national mourning has also turned out to be a period of reflection. It is likely that Mr Lee will remain an inspiration for many Singaporeans moving forward.

But how do we imagine a Singapore without Mr Lee Kuan Yew?

There are good reasons to be confident that a post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore will continue to thrive. Precisely because of what Mr Lee has done in building up Singapore and putting it on the map, the world now knows of the Singapore brand - Singapore is a choice place to invest in and partner with.

And this is more than just its strategic location, excellent infrastructure and global connectivity. Backed by its solid record - including the past two decades when Mr Lee was no longer in charge - it is a nation of trustworthy people who can and will deliver what is promised.

In my view, this is Mr Lee's greatest legacy. He has put in place institutions and values that ensure Singapore will continue to survive without depending on any one individual. Singaporeans can be optimistic about the future of Singapore without Mr Lee.

But Singapore's continued success is not a given or guaranteed. The country needs capable and trustworthy leaders who are citizen-centric with a global outlook. Leaders who ensure that the fundamentals of economics and foreign relations are well taken care of.

The country also needs communities who will speak up and step up to address those issues that the Government cannot tackle alone, or those that are better resolved without government intervention. This builds social capital.

And the country needs individual citizens who would uphold shared values and guiding principles.

This should translate into how people think, feel and act. But it also includes the conscious efforts to transmit values and principles to the next generation.

Singapore has the foundations for us to be confident that we can make things happen. As individuals, there is hope to achieve our goals and aspirations. Singaporeans can be optimistic about the progress and future of our society.

And when we recover from adversity and adapt to changes, we become more resilient, individually and nationally.

This psychological capital, together with economic and social capital, will see us through.

The writer is director of the Behavioural Sciences Institute, Lee Kuan Yew Fellow and Professor of Psychology at the Singapore Management University.

Grief, gratitude and how a nation grew closer together
The outpouring of grief and depth of emotion shown by Singaporeans following the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the early hours of March 23 was unprecedented. Insight looks back on the week in which Singaporeans mourned their founding prime minister.
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 4 Apr 2015

IT WAS a scene replicated across many parts of Singapore the morning after news broke that the country's first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had died at 3.18am on Monday, March 23, at the age of 91.

In homes, offices, MRT platforms and bus terminals - almost any place where a television set, radio, smartphone or computer terminal was turned on to a news channel or website - people were gripped by what they heard.

Some bowed their heads in sorrow. Others buried their face in their hands in anguish or disbelief, or offered a silent prayer.

Yet others sat still for several moments, stunned, making sense of the moment they knew was inevitable, yet somehow hoped would not happen.

Concern over Mr Lee's health had become a major talking point in recent months. He had not been seen at a public event since the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the People's Action Party in November.

Confirmation of his condition came only in late February, just after Chinese New Year: He had been warded in the intensive care unit of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) with severe pneumonia since Feb 5.

Regular updates on his condition from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) gave rise to hope, worry, then dread.

On March 17, the PMO said Mr Lee's condition had worsened due to an infection, 40 days after he was admitted to the hospital. Brief daily statements followed for the next five days, each time saying he had weakened further.

Singaporeans from across the island began turning up at SGH to offer prayers and good wishes, to stand vigil, to will him on.

The hospital eventually designated a special area for them. So large were the number of people, get-well cards and flowers for the man that few knew in person, but who all said had made a significant difference to their lives - from the homes and opportunities they had, to the stability, economic security and brighter future their children now have.

A tent was eventually put up outside to shelter the gifts, cards and flowers, and the area it covered was expanded a day later.

In their messages of support, well-wishers shared a common sentiment: gratitude, whether for help given personally or in shaping the country they live in.

Mr Patrick Ang, 41, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorised wheelchair, and sells Singapore Sweep tickets, left a card.

He wrote to Mr Lee for help after he was robbed in his Bukit Merah rental flat three years ago. Mr Lee helped him move to a new rental flat in Clementi.

Deliveryman Zuraimi Abdul Karim, 55, dropped by with his sister to offer a silent prayer: "A whole generation knows the hardship he faced building Singapore. He's a great man to us."

Tanjong Pagar Community Club, at the heart of the constituency that Mr Lee represented for almost 60 years since he was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1955, also set aside space for cards and flowers.

Even though Mr Lee stepped down as prime minister in 1990, he was still an influential member of Cabinet as senior minister, and then as minister mentor, until 2011. After that he remained an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.

The crowds at SGH and Tanjong Pagar grew over the weekend of March 21 and 22, when hundreds flocked to the community club, many unable to hold back tears.

They remembered growing up when the area was filthy and dilapidated, and recalled how Mr Lee had more than delivered on his promises to improve their conditions.

Then came the dreaded news in the small hours of the morning of March 23. As the nation awoke to find that Mr Lee had died, many tuned in to television and radio broadcasts and live streaming online as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, visibly tired, told them: "The first of our founding fathers is no more."

Flags would be at half-mast, there would be a seven-day mourning period, a state funeral service. The details came thick and fast, planned with an efficiency that Mr Lee had made into a Singapore hallmark.

By the time Mr Lee's body returned to the Istana grounds shortly after noon on Monday, hundreds had gathered outside its main gates to bid farewell.

The casket was laid to rest in Sri Temasek, the official residence of the prime minister, for a private wake for family members and close friends.

Six, then 10 community tribute centres were opened across the island for the public to pen messages and pay their respects, and 18 in all were open a day later.

Over the week that followed, some 1.2 million visited these centres to leave notes of thanks in Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English. They brought artwork and craftwork, soft toys, pictures.

Some highlighted their gratitude for the policies that brought the country from Third to First World status; improved their housing; provided education and jobs. Minorities especially singled out Mr Lee's commitment to multiracialism and meritocracy. Many others said Mr Lee and the progress he brought to the country made them proud to be Singaporean.

"It is a bond that goes beyond policies," Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah said in Tanjong Pagar of the affection for Mr Lee.

"He gave this nation pride."

Lining up in the sun

THE strength of that bond was evident in the crowds that lined the streets to see Mr Lee's casket make its way on March 25 from the Istana to Parliament House, where he would lie in state.

The route was packed, some having arrived at sunrise that day. Amid the throng, a man held a plastic miniature Singapore flag aloft, and that, too, was at half-mast.

Inside Sri Temasek, officers draped the State flag over the casket, the crescent and stars lying over the head and close to the heart of Mr Lee, before carrying and laying it on a gun carriage.

As the procession made the 2km journey along Orchard Road, Bras Basah and North Bridge Road, queues were quiet, respectful. And as it reached Parliament House, there were some who cheered, applauded, and called out: "Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew!"

By noon on Wednesday, the line of people converging at Parliament's gates had grown impossibly long: stretching along the banks of the Singapore River that he vowed to - and did - clean up, and the queues snaked to Hong Lim Green, Battery Road and Coleman Street.

Thousands braved the sweltering heat, waiting patiently in line for over eight hours to file past Mr Lee's casket, even if it was just for a few seconds.

Among them was housewife Jenn Lee, 54, who grew up in Tanjong Pagar and remembers Mr Lee as her MP: "He transformed this from a shipping port into a big city, and I wanted to show my gratitude and express how blessed we are to have had him lead us."

The queues were a scene never before seen in Singapore. So overwhelming was the public's response that the State Funeral Organising Committee chose to extend visiting hours not once, but twice - from the originally scheduled 10am to 8pm, first to midnight, and then round the clock until Saturday evening.

"When we planned this one week of national mourning, we of course expected a tremendous outpouring of emotions," National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on March 26.

"But the reality exceeded our expectations."

Organisers had, by then, implemented a more organised queue system, with the Padang as the starting point - including a separate line for those who were older or had special needs. Like many public-spirited businesses and individuals had done previously, bottles of water and umbrellas were made available to those in line.

Inside Parliament House, ushers encouraged visitors to move along quickly - though individuals still made the effort to bow; some knelt, waved, saluted.

And many wept.

Try as the organisers did to discourage the public from joining the queues when waiting times were at their longest - eight, nine, 10 hours - and to head for community tribute centres instead, the crowds kept on coming.

Transport officials chipped in, working with SMRT and SBS Transit to extend train and feeder bus services past normal hours to operate round the clock.

PM Lee and several ministers visited those waiting in line to thank them for coming and for being patient. Those waiting, in turn, urged them, PM Lee in particular, to take care of themselves.

"Singaporeans aren't given to outward displays of emotion. We have a reputation for being diligent, task-oriented and focused on our work," Mr Walter Lim, who runs marketing agency Cooler Insights, wrote.

But, somehow, this reserve crumbled over the week, he added of the overwhelming outpouring of sentiment.

The queues grew longer on Thursday, when a special session of Parliament was held. There were few dry eyes in the Chamber. The most poignant reminder of Mr Lee's absence was a spray of white flowers placed on his empty seat in the House.

Outside Parliament, tributes came from community and religious groups, which held memorials and special services to honour Mr Lee and his contributions.

Political scientist Bilveer Singh of the National University of Singapore, who joined the queue at the Padang on Thursday night with his wife and waited seven hours, tells Insight: "You felt there was a nation out there."

Recalling how volunteers handed out apples and drinks, and strangers shared snacks and stories, he added: "We were all united. And we were all crying, we were in tears, especially when we saw the hearse."

Even the military guards who stood ramrod straight as they kept vigil by the casket struggled to fight back tears, which others dabbed away for them.

By Friday, the volume of people swelled even further. With the work-week behind them and a weekend ahead, many felt it would be all right to tough it out. Besides, with the cut-off for the queue scheduled for Saturday night, many took the plunge to stand in line.

But with an eye on the increasing numbers, and safety, organisers closed entry to the queue late on Friday night till the congestion cleared. The lines reopened early on Saturday morning. Yet when the 8pm queue cut-off time came around on Saturday, many were left disappointed.

By the time the last visitor left Parliament House at around midnight, some 455,000 people had paid their last respects in person.

Whichever way you look at it, the numbers are astonishing, said political scientist Lam Peng Er of the East Asian Institute.

The figure of 1.7 million visitors who were at the lying in state and community tribute sites translates into one in two Singaporeans turning up to pay their respects.

Dr Lam's explanation for the turnout: "For most Singaporeans, their lives were intertwined with his." Many, in person or through their parents, knew what life was like when Mr Lee took office in 1959 and the tremendous change Singapore has since witnessed.

Standing in the rain

AND Singaporeans were prepared to do it all again on Sunday - in driving rain as the skies opened up as Mr Lee's casket left Parliament House shortly after noon for the procession to the funeral service at the University Cultural Centre in Kent Ridge.

For a handful of those waiting for the funeral procession outside City Hall and across the Padang, the torrential rain brought back memories of the 1968 National Day Parade, also at the Padang, when a downpour drenched all those who were taking part.

But the parade carried on, and as Mr Lee said at a National Day dinner at the Tanjong Pagar community centre a few days after that parade: "All those who watched Friday's Parade could take heart from the display of discipline and determination in the face of heavy rain and high winds."

He added: "This is what makes Singapore take shape: the growing confidence of the younger generation that has got the gumption, the guts and the gusto to carve a future for themselves in Southeast Asia."

Waiting to wave Mr Lee off at Queensway on Sunday was Ms Wan Fatt Ngai, 64, who was a student cadet at the Padang in 1968.

"We were all wet, rooted to the ground, but nobody moved. It was so cold," she recalled, adding that she remembered Mr Lee being fiery and inspiring.

"It didn't mean anything to me then. It was only later as I looked around at the changes to the country - the houses, the clean river - that I realised the impact this man had on our country.

"It seems fitting that we are sending him off in the rain," she added.

Many who braved the downpour on Sunday, 47 years on, were students just like Ms Wan was. Others also lined the streets along virtually every stretch of the 15.4km-long route to Kent Ridge.

In all, an estimated 100,000 lined the streets. Many gathered from early morning, and others joined in from nearby churches, mosques and temples, or their homes along the route.

Wherever they stood in line, many said they were grateful for the opportunities that Mr Lee and his team opened up for them and their children. And so they designed placards, gave out flowers and cheered his name as the cortege made its way down rain-slicked roads.

After the procession passed, many headed home or to community and tribute centres to watch the funeral service.

The 10 eulogies celebrated Mr Lee's dedication to his family and work, his devotion to the country, and his determination to make life better for his fellow Singaporeans.

And when the civil defence sirens sounded at around 4.30pm, many nationwide rose to join in a minute of silence, a final honour for Mr Lee.

Trains stopped at stations with their doors open, as did buses, and staff and passengers at Changi Airport.

The moment of silence over, in unison Singaporeans recited the pledge and sang the National Anthem - with sadness, but also with a realisation that it was now up to them all to take the nation that Mr Lee bequeathed to them higher, further along.

A new Singapore spirit?

THE sense of loss and grief over the week-long period of national mourning reignited what many Singaporeans feel they have lost in recent years: a sense of national cohesion and what held them together as one people.

And on this one occasion, political and ideological differences were set aside. Those who were previously content to sit back and allow critics and angry voices to dominate social media and the online space, came out to express their views.

As Mr Walter Lim noted, whether people loved or loathed Mr Lee, his death appears to have sparked something.

"For the first time in like, forever, the silent majority have made their feelings felt everywhere - online and off-line. We are not emotionless and passionless. We care and we show it when the occasion calls for it," he wrote.

"This peaceful revolt is exhibited in how many new voices have emerged. For the longest time, Singapore's online community was known to be anti-government, antagonistic and attention-seeking. With the passing of Mr Lee, a new movement amongst the moderates has emerged."

But Mr Lim feels Mr Lee's death also reunified Singaporeans, who might ordinarily be preoccupied with other concerns.

Singapore High Commissioner to Australia Burhan Gafoor said at a memorial to Mr Lee in Perth on April 1: "What began as a week of national mourning became a week of national bonding. On the streets of Singapore, there was a palpable sense of unity, a sense of community and a distinct feeling of pride in being Singaporean."

Dr Lam tells Insight that the events of the past week spoke much to citizens and to outsiders about the resilience of Singaporeans as a people.

"They showed that ordinary people could stand in line when they are motivated and driven by conviction. If you are an investor, you might think you've picked the right place, where people may grumble, but when it comes to the crunch, they can rough it out," he said.

"It also sent a signal to our neighbours and friends: our country is small but it is special. It is more than just high-rise buildings or a financial centre. People are quite tough and can pull together. In a way, it was a cathartic coming of age - you could say it was Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last great service to the country."

When Singapore marks its 50th anniversary of independence in August, there will be more than a tinge of sadness that Mr Lee is not there to celebrate with the nation.

But if the scenes from the seven days from March 23 to 29 are anything to go by, then there is hope for a real and renewed commitment to cherish that sense of togetherness and to collectively keep it going into the future.

It is the least that the people and the country can do to repay and honour the man who gave his all to rally and hold Singaporeans together in the first place.

An honour to stand vigil for Mr Lee
A group of officers stood vigil throughout Mr Lee Kuan Yew's lying in state at Parliament House last week. Danson Cheong talks to several of them.
The Straits Times, 4 Apr 2015

FOR five days, they stood vigil by Mr Lee Kuan Yew's casket, keeping a solemn watch as Singapore mourned.

"It was the one duty we wished we didn't have to do," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (NS) Lionel Chai, 48, one of the 80 guards who kept vigil at Parliament House last week.

The vigil guards, made up of uniformed officers from the Police, Army, Navy and Air Force, stood in formation - one at each corner of the casket, and a more senior officer at the head of the group, facing inwards.

It is the nation's highest form of respect.

Vigil guards were also deployed at the state funerals of former Cabinet ministers S. Rajaratnam and Goh Keng Swee, as well as at the wake of former president Ong Teng Cheong.

By now, Singaporeans have come to view them as stoic guardians, but few know that these uniformed men also struggled to deal with the sorrow that united the country.

"With our heads bowed, we could not see much, but we could hear people sobbing and, out of the corner of our eye, we could see people kneeling and praying - it was very moving," said DAC Chai.

"You'd feel the grief flow through you, but I reminded myself not to let it affect the dignity of the moment."

Even for these senior officers, it took all of their concentration to keep their composure. Indeed, midway through the interview last Saturday, DAC Chai asked for a minute of privacy. He returned, his eyes red.

Coincidentally, he was also the last vigil commander on Sunday. He stayed behind after his last "watch", to view on television Mr Lee's casket leaving Parliament House for the University Cultural Centre.

There were more than 20 guards in that room, but you could hear a pin drop, he said. "I think all of us realised at that point that Mr Lee was gone," said DAC Chai, who spoke to The Straits Times again on Wednesday.

He talked about how, together with his comrades, they took turns to work round the clock in shifts of 30 minutes each. Enduring numb feet and sore backs, each guard performed about four watches a day.

Twice during each watch, a woman vigil orderly came around and whispered in their ears. "Are you okay? Press on," she would say, telling them how much longer they had left.

She dabbed the sweat from their brows, wiped tears from their cheeks and adjusted their caps or white ceremonial uniforms, if necessary.

"She motivated us," said Superintendent Chan Hee Keong, 41, one of the officers activated to bolster the ranks of vigil guards when the lying-in-state hours were extended to round the clock.

There were only 30 vigil guards initially.

About a decade ago, Supt Chan was one of Mr Lee's security officers, making sure he was safe while he went about his duties from his Oxley Road home to his office at the Istana.

"He was a very disciplined person, and had an intense devotion to Singapore. Even when he was at home, he would still be working," he said.

Another guard, Military Expert 6 Toh Tee Yang, 38, said he would tell his two young children stories of Mr Lee. "I hope to impart the same discipline to them."

Even to the younger officers, Mr Lee was a shining example of leadership, said Deputy Superintendent Sergius Wat, 26. "It is an honour to be able to give our former PM a final farewell."

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