Lee Kuan Yew transformed Singapore into a global economic powerhouse
March 23, 2015: Lee Kuan Yew, the statesman who transformed Singapore from a small port city into a wealthy global hub, has died at the age of 91. The authoritarian leader dies on Monday following a seven-week struggle with pneumonia.
The Cambridge-educated lawyer set Singapore on a path that has seen average incomes rise 100 times, with investments across the globe, a widely respected civil service and world-class infrastructure.
A state funeral will be held on 29 March, after a week of mourning. In an emotional televised address, his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to him. “He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another man like him.”
Singaporeans and world leaders paid tribute on Monday to a man described by US President Barack Obama as a “true giant of history”. In Singapore, a steady stream of people arrived at the hospital and the Istana, the prime minister’s office, to offer their condolences. A charismatic figure, Lee co-founded the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has governed Singapore since 1959, and was its first prime minister.
Lee’s political career spanned 30 years as premier and 20 years as senior government adviser. But in his last years, he was a shadow of his old self as his health deteriorated following his wife’s death in October 2010.
A complex and controversial figure, he was often criticised for his iron-fisted rule, forcing several opposition politicians into bankruptcy or exile.
“We faced tremendous odds with an improbable chance of survival,” Lee wrote in his memoirs. “We inherited the island without its hinterland, a heart without a body.”
But under his stewardship, Singapore courted international capital and used foreign labour to plug its manpower gap until it became one of Asia’s wealthiest, safest and most stable societies.
With inputs from Agencies