Rest In Peace, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

One of the message boards in Singapore International School here in Hong Kong, where students write their condolences

One of the message boards in Singapore International School here in Hong Kong, where students write their condolences

Here's another...

Here's another...

One of our neighbours whose children attend the Singapore International School in Hong Kong sent me those..

I also found this... Personal Encounters With Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Been watching former university mates post of their vigils, reading Singaporean and non-Singaporean friends' much more timely responses to the loss........

"I won't deify him, for there were people who suffered from his decisions." - from lilbluebottle's In Memoriam, here. She quotes him:

Those who married spouses who are not as bright are tearing their hair out because their children can’t make it. I have lived long enough to see all this play out.”

“So when the graduate man does not want to marry a graduate woman, I tell him he’s a fool, stupid. You marry a non-graduate, you’re going to have problems, some children bright, some not bright. You’ll be tearing your hair out. you can’t miss.”

– Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going (2012)

“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.”

– The Straits Times, 20 April 1987

She goes on to say, "His policies made it possible for my parents to own long leases on their homes, for their children to get educated in some of the best universities in the world, not from legacy or hereditary right, but from hard work and the availability of background-blind scholarships."

I don't have a personal encounter with the man, but I do with the country, and if a measure of a great person is the work of their hands, what they leave behind......:

Singapore gave me my first taste of freedom and independence at the age of 17 when I pursued A levels and later Uni and a 3 year government grant bond. I tell people this story a lot in Hong Kong - that I remember changing dorm rooms at least 3 times, and when the Permanent Resident forms and a letter assuring me of approval of PR upon my finding a job and I should probably include said letter in job applications arrived at the right dorm room. Like, even my mum could barely keep my rooms straight, but the Singapore Government knew which room I was in! 😀  (For the record though, it was still hard to get a job coming out, I graduated at a time the market was bad so it's not like I just waltzed in and bagged a prime job there.)

Moving around in Malaysia, growing up in places where I remembered not to walk with my back to oncoming traffic, narrowly avoiding being stuffed into the car of a man who walked onto my school playground and simply walked away never to be seen in the area again, I revelled in the ability to walk from Bugis to Raffles and City Hall at 3am unaccompanied.

One of my uni mates posted a day or two ago how he was at the time coming on 4 hours sitting vigil amongst a vast sea of others, in the background of his selfie. In another life, I probably would've been sitting vigil like my seniors - but maybe in some "ulu-fied" lonely place because I could.

My aunts, uncles and grandma moved to Singapore - 30, 40 years ago? I don't remember a time when they lived elsewhere, just this Bishan house, among others - at one point they took the roof off, added a second storey, koi pond.... During one of the construction periods I was quite little, when I looked down to find a police car pulling up behind my cousin, who was steadying the shaky construction scaffolding I had employed to reach the flowers off a tall tree at the garden gate.

(Never did it again; I didn't need to be reprimanded much, though I remember some incredulousness I had made it all the way up that shaky thing and so quickly so yeah I suppose that's one place the Miss got the climbing thing from - BUT the principle difference between my daughter and me is I was very hungry for approval, a Tiger Parent's dream. The Miss is Excuse Me, But You've Mistaken Me For Someone Who Cares.)

More than a decade later I borrowed my cousins' rooms, now empty as they studied abroad, to prepare for my own A levels (CJ Hostel was famously under construction at the time). They always appeared so cool and creative to me -  I remember one room had "large little men" painted all over the ceiling, walls, reaching down over the door frame... My other cousin, a year my senior at CJC, was very popular and on the student council. Back then our grandmother would tell me how she wrote in about issues, appeared on talk shows by Television Corporation Singapore.

Their father my uncle became a top heart surgeon after moving to Singapore initially, later on ranking on some global scale in the top 10. (Now semi-retired for awhile, he also worked on setting up some clinics or hospitals in Malaysia. He has both waived fees for those who couldn't afford it as well as operated on HK movie stars like Chow Yuen Fatt and Indonesian royalty. (That I know of. I never followed closely, just dropped in here and there, saw pictures or press or else colleagues highlighted a news article), among many philanthropic activities I have not kept track of closely enough to write adequately about.)

I have other cousins, including in the Singapore Air Force (he was a major last I heard ages ago; his late father had retired a colonel). Another is in the financial sector, periodically interviewed on CNBC. And I have more cousins in Singapore, besides.

So many experiences, so many opportunities, chances in life, not so long after Singapore first became.

So many lives.

 “At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.” - Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Oh, what a life. Rest in peace, sir.




ps: I was also thinking now he can be with his beloved wife after not seeing her for the last 4 years <sheepish> Still an idealist. Even if that gets run over by a big stinky garbage truck whose driver also tries to record it on iPhone sometimes... 

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About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
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  • True Blue Sporean

    I hope you do not mind me asking you this. But what is stopping you to take up Singapore citizenship since you and your family have strong links to Singapore? I often see this “want to stay Malaysian but love Singapore attitude but cannot take up Singapore citizenship.” Yes, I know the Malaysian properties are cheap and yes there are family ties but I am a firm believer you cannot have your feet one each on the divider line. One foot in Malaysia or Singapore.

    I see more commitment among those Malaysians who get Aussie, Canadian or USA PRs to make the decision to be citizens of those countries,

    But with Singapore there seems more of an internal emotional tussle going on perhaps being in such a close proximity to Malaysia gives a very strong illusion that Singapore is Malaysia and vice versa culturally and economically.

    BTW, I spent half my life living under LKY dictatorship or governance depending on which angle I am looking at. Yes a great man but not perfect.

    My hope is that the authorities do not go overboard in idolising him to the point that he remains a saint for generations to come. I see that happening, please don’t.

    • Aileen

      While we live and work in HK, I don’t even have that Singapore PR any more. When my previous one expired, I was told I needed to come back to Singapore to work. (Ditto at least one of my cousins who then married Aussie and lives there.) That was maybe 7, 8 years ago. We then lived in HK and earned the HK PRs. I fulfilled the 3 years (worked 5 years) in Singapore requisite of the study grant I accepted, then got married to someone who got a (then lucrative) job in HK and moved here more than 10 years ago. During the course of hectic careers our two children were then born here in HK. Because of where I was career-wise (being a freshie in Singapore vs through the years in HK for one), the majority of my savings from my former career are from having worked here.

      The questions you asked me (and no I don’t mind, though usually people ask me such things on email with their real name; I understand however why you don’t sign your real name here 🙂 aren’t ones we have faced – had Singapore continued to be the country that gave me my livelihood (in the same way it gave me my education and so I fulfilled my bond), and all the benefits my immediate family received then citizenship would be the next step (at least for me personally).

      More than 10 years ago however, I quit my job and followed my fiancé here (simply a very personal choice born of a long distance relationship in my past that ended very sadly because we grew to love the two very different countries we had studied and then begun our early careers in. I did not want another serious relationship to end that way and ironically now found myself making my life here instead.)

      I may not be the “right” Malaysian to ask, re your question. I don’t know about that bit where you mentioned “more commitment” to become Aussie, Canadian etc than to become Singaporean, I haven’t really encountered that (sheepish) I thought Malaysians give up their citizenships equally when they so choose, at least it appears to be the case with those I am aware of. I agree that appears to point to a lack of true national identity, and to that my own personal response is but then I have to acknowledge who has shown me kindness.

      Certainly not ideal, but I don’t know how else to go. I’m born a Malaysian, some of the nastiest encounters I’ve ever had have been with fellow Malaysians (so I tell friends I have no right to be “racist” :P) hence a caveat on my responses and then I had a wonderful early adulthood in Singapore – I cried for awhile when I left, and it took me more than 2 years to adapt to living here, all I had known was that happy time in Singapore – and then I had a very fulfilling 6 more years of work here (not always fun though) and now two children whom I love more than anything here. Can I summarise that further? Not really, at this stage I don’t know how yet. Because our decisions are often coloured by our own experiences and I know only to acknowledge all the great ones I’ve had.

      Thanks for bringing this up…

      • True Blue Sporean

        Aileen, thanks for your detailed reply. You are kind and patient to provide personal reasons on why you stayed Malaysian. Yes, I knew you lost your Spore PR once you settled down in HK.

        I have asked past colleagues why they chose to remain “forever Spore PR”, that is the tag I use for Malaysians. Does not seem to be a trend among PRCs and Indians who are more committed to say goodbye and leave for USA, Australia etc once they get their PRs there Or they return to their motherland for good. Former Malaysian colleagues don’t actually articulate it well so I still feel like I do not really know what exactly is causing them to stay in this forever PR phase. Some have been in Spore for more than 20+ years. I brought up this PR issue in the light of the passing of the PM, Based on some personal accounts, online forums & news reports, I noted that some Malaysian Chinese are ardent fans of the late Spore PM, including those with Spore PRs and those residing in Malaysia. I just cannot reconcile their passion for him and their reluctance or indifference to take the leap for Spore citizenship. An enigma indeed.

        As your kids get older, do you forsee they will have difficulty coming to terms with the Malaysian national identity since they are more immersed in an expat culture mixed with Canto culture?

      • Aileen

        VERY GOOD QUESTION. When asked, Rockstar’s answer is like this: “My parents were born in Malaysia and are Malaysian Chinese. Me and my sister are born in Hong Kong.” This is actually how a lot of his friends describe themselves and is one thing i like and find interesting about where they go to school.

        A rough breakdown of the nationality/ ethnicity of Rockstar’s classmates would be about a third from mixed marriages, a third Asian and a third Caucasian. (Asian usually Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Philippino, Indian, Hongkie, Mainlander; fewer Singaporeans since there is a Singaporean International School here which is dubbed (by some parents of kids going there) “The Madness School” I think because of workload – I’ve met Hongkies and lotsa Malaysians who attend there so it’s not only Singaporeans, and our neighbours tell me somewhat regrettably their kids don’t pick up Singlish from going there 😀 (Btw Hongkies I’ve asked DON’T like their kids to speak English with a Hongkie accent and love for their kids to get to practice with kids who don’t speak with that accent..) And before you ask, we never really considered much beyond ESF because their interview managed to bring out the best in Rockstar where he was really not the “interview-savvy” kind of child… 😀

        But back to Rockstar’s schoolmates – it’s not uncommon for them to describe themselves for e.g., “My mum is Japanese, my dad half Danish and half English. I was born in Japan, my sister was born in Denmark etc etc”.. It’s a mouthful, but I like the nod to diversity and recognition of the inability to stereotype based on nationality or skin colour.

        Is there a loss of “national identity” for my kids in that sense? Possibly. But there are worse things in life. Also, sometimes I think a too-aggressive national identity can risk racism or biased-ness towards others and given how small the world is nowadays it’s probably more detrimental today than it was in previous generations. Do I see “racism” here? Oh, definitely. Technically EVERYONE has at least a teeny bit of racism 😀 I get it too, being a bibik belachan nyonya (I get asked by Mainlanders all the time if I’m Rockstar’s mum because apparently he looks “very Chinese” but I don’t 😀 and one of my RMs has even said “Oh definitely someone in your family must’ve messed around cos those aren’t pure Chinese features.”)

        No, these things don’t offend me. Intent to me plays a big part – whether someone INTENDS to be nasty or idiotic or not. I get “offended” over much less technically by people whom I believe deliberately do the stuff. Your heart matters.

        Which brings me to a comment about LKY – he took so much flak for the whole “big brother gah-mun is watching everything you do,” but I believe he truly believed that was so Singapore could survive earlier on, and become great later on. He sincerely believed in what he did. Singapore has come so far. To me that’s what matters (and the fact he wasn’t nuts when he believed in what he did 🙂 Why do I think he has a sincere heart? How he was with his wife. He had no problem with his wife doing better than him in some areas, or earning more than him. This is how I believe he didn’t do some of those things others don’t agree with, for ego.

        Some great men make tough, questionable decisions to achieve their goals because of ego. Some do it because they sincerely believe that’s what they need to do. I may not agree with all of it, but I believe he believed.