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Tuesday, March 24, 2015 @ 10:41 pm
Last night at 3.18am, the first prime minister of Singapore and widely recognised as the founding father of modern Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, passed away at the Singapore General Hospital, where he had been admitted for respiratory illnesses since February.
It was inevitable and many people were expecting it, but the news still came as a shock for most Singaporeans. Even I, who was blessed to be born in the "transitional" generation in which we lived through the authoritarian Mr Lee's government and the softer, authoritative government after that.
There are already countless biographies and obituaries on print and online about Mr Lee's life and contributions to the nations. So I'm not going to write about that. What I'm going to write about is what I remembered of Mr Lee's legacies.
When he was the prime minister, I was still a young schoolgirl. Life was pretty stable by then. We weren't technically poor like in the previous generation, although my father would argue otherwise. Most people I know had homes to live and their children attended schools. You can say that we didn't really experience hardship as defined by the pioneers.
I don't remember much about the policies but I do remember a lot of national campaigns and their mascots when I was in school. Like the courtesy campaign, no spitting campaign and the brush teeth campaign. Who remembers brushing their teeth after recess, squatting by the drains in school? I believe it was Colgate who sponsored the mug, toothbrush and toothpaste. Gosh that was nostalgic!
As I got older and learnt more about Mr Lee's policies, there were some that were truly appalling to me. Like the "Stop at Two" campaign and the drive to get educated women married and procreate. Simply because Mr Lee believed that educated parents would produce better quality offsprings.
Firstly, I don't believe that anyone should dictate how many children we should have even though I believe in the importance of population control. Producing the number of children that we can comfortable afford would be a better campaign.
Secondly, a bachelor's degree and beyond does not guarantee highly evolved human offspring. I've met way too many highly educated parents who are seriously dumb in parenting.
When I was growing up, there was no racial tension or issues of integrating with other races. In fact, we didn't even realise that race was that important! Although we looked different and followed different customs and practices, it wasn't hard for us to be friends or neighbours. I guess it's true when they say that children are colour-blind.
However, just a generation before, people were living in racial clusters and there were not many opportunities for racial integration. Each racial group was suspicious of the other. There was even a deadly riot from inter-racial clashes! You wouldn't even have thought that that was Singapore's history, looking at how multi-racial and multi-religious we are now.
That I have to thank Mr Lee. His methods might be harsh but very few would be able to look far and wide like Mr Lee. If he hadn't taken away the lands of the racial groups and make them stay in race-quota HDB flats, I wouldn't have grown up with wonderful multi-racial friends and neighbours, and even family members.
I've heard many complaints about his authoritarian ways, but like any typical Singaporeans, we are like children who whine and complain until a candy is given to our hands. I may not agree with some of his policies, but I wouldn't be living how I'm living now without his dedication and commitment to the national vision. How many of us are willing to commit our lives to the greater good?
Now that I have children of my own, I'm thankful for the safe and secure environment that Mr Lee had put in place since independence. I can't imagine raising my children anywhere else. We may not get free medical, free housing and free education, but that's the price to pay for economic, political and social stability.
Rest in peace Mr Lee. You've done well for a mere mortal.
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