Visionary Lee Kuan Yew transforms Singapore into modern, prosperous island

The crowd cheers as Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (C) arrives at the Marina Bay Floating Platform for the annual National Day Parade celebrations in Singapore in this August 9, 2012 file photo. — Reuters pic
The crowd cheers as Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (C) arrives at the Marina Bay Floating Platform for the annual National Day Parade celebrations in Singapore in this August 9, 2012 file photo. — Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, March 23 — Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding prime minister who died today, was a great visionary who has left behind a legacy of a modern and prosperous Singapore.

Kuan Yew passed away at 3.18am today at the Singapore General Hospital where he had been admitted on February 5 for severe pneumonia. He was 91.

He was regarded as one of the most prominent and influential leaders not only in Asia but globally. 

As Singapore's first prime minister, Kuan Yew, often described as having wielded an authoritarian style of leadership, was gifted with great ideas, values and leadership that successfully transformed the tiny island at the southern tip of Malaysia into what it is today — a world-class and most liveable city. 

After overseeing the nation's separation from closest neighbour Malaysia in 1965, he applied determination, political will and good governance to mould the city state into an outstanding global financial and economic centre.

Born into a wealthy Chinese family on September 16, 1923, in Singapore, Kuan Yew, dubbed the founding father of modern Singapore, helmed the government for three decades, making him one of the longest serving prime ministers in the world. 

He led the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), of which he was the co-founder and first secretary-general, through eight electoral victories between 1959 and 1990.

Kuan Yew rose through the ranks of his country's political system before becoming the first prime minister of Singapore on June 5, 1959.

He led the city state into a merger with Malaysia in 1962, but broke away from the federation three years later. 

The breakaway was considered one of the biggest challenges for Kuan Yew in his entire political career.

After the separation, ties between the two neighbours were on the up and down, until 2003 when Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became the prime minister of Malaysia.

More recently, with Kuan Yew's son Hsien Loong as the prime minister in Singapore and Datuk Seri Najib Razak helming Malaysia, bilateral relations have been at their best — politically, economically and between the peoples. 

Kuan Yew stepped down as the prime minister in 1990 and was appointed a Senior Minister by the second Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.

In August 2004, he took up the advisory post of Minister Mentor in the government administration led by his son and current prime minister Hsien Loong.

Kuan Yew, who had graduated with First Class Honours in Law from the University of Cambridge in 1949, announced his retirement from the Cabinet post on May 14, 2011, after the 2011 General Election but remained as the Member of Parliament for Tanjung Pagar.

Whatever one thinks of Kuan Yew, his deed in dedicating his life to working and planning for the sake of Singaporeans for more than half a century will always be remembered.

It cannot be denied that he had turned Singapore from a relatively underdeveloped colonial outpost into a nation with an outstanding economic growth and prosperity.

He made Singapore a unique model, demonstrating how innovative policies and effective governance can transform the living environment and, in the process, influence the development of one of the world’s most vibrant cities of today. — Bernama