SINGAPORE, March 23 — Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Monday aged 91, was renowned for his sharp tongue, quick wit and controversial remarks. Here are a selection of his comments:
“Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.”
“I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters — who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.” (National Day Rally in 1986)
On press freedom
“Go on the Internet, you can publish your party’s views, you can produce your party magazines, your party newspapers, nothing to prevent you from doing all that. But if you commit anything libellous, we’ll sue you. Anything which is untrue and defamatory, we will take action.
“The foreign media used to say we are dull, sterile, no fun, no buzz, now they are moving away from these descriptions. But we are not moving away from our base positions. We are not going to quail under their sustained attacks. If you quail, you’re weak and a fool.”
“In new countries, democracy has worked and produced results only when there is an honest and effective government, which means a people smart enough to elect such a government. Remember, elected governments are only as good as people who choose them.”
Sex between two men is illegal in Singapore and punishable with up to two years in prison, though it is rarely enforced.
During an interview with CNN in 1998 he said:
“Well, it’s not a matter which I can decide or any government can decide. It’s a question of what a society considers acceptable. And as you know, Singaporeans are by and large a very conservative, orthodox society, a very, I would say, completely different from, say, the United States, and I don’t think an aggressive gay rights movement would help. But what we are doing as a government is to leave people to live their own lives so long as they don’t impinge on other people. I mean, we don’t harass anybody.”
Then in 2011 in his book Hard Truths, he said:
“No, it’s not a lifestyle. You can read the books you want, all the articles. There’s a genetic difference so it is not a matter of choice. They are born that way and that’s that. So if two men or two women are that way, just leave them alone.”
“I used to play golf, but found it did not give me vitality because it’s a slothful game.
“Nine holes of golf will take you one-and-a-half, two hours. I run in 20 minutes, I feel better off. So the cost benefit made me drop golf.”
On chewing gum
Singapore banned the sale of chewing gum in 1992, citing littering — sticking used gum on tables and chairs — as well as vandalism. Passengers reportedly started sticking chewing gum on the door sensors of commuter trains, disrupting services.
“If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”
“Singapore is my concern till the end of my life. Why should I not want Singapore to continue to succeed?
“I have no regrets. I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do.”
National Archives of Singapore
Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going by Lee Kuan Yew
One Man’s View Of The World by Lee Kuan Yew
The Man and His Ideas by Lee Kuan Yew
BBC — Reuters