Opinion Columns Writing

Thank You Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Sir…

March 23, 2015

Today is one Monday afternoon, many will always remember for a very long time. As MediaCorp changes its regular programming, the piano instrumentals on 987FM, (what I would normally classify as a Party Channel) become somewhat, unintentionally heartbreaking… 

Classic everyday tunes like Beyonce’s “Halo”, Bruno Mars’ “Just the way you are”, Utada Hikaru’s “First Love”, Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”, Westlife’s “Flying Without Wings”, which were never so sad, became somewhat unbearable. The one tune that summed it all up was Elton John’s “Candle In the Wind”, which somehow allowed it all to sink in deeper – the great loss, to Singapore. The world will miss him too.

As the PM announced, this morning, “Today, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is no more…”

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I felt sad and lost for a while, although I never knew the man on a personal level. Nevertheless, growing up alongside a grandmother, who lived through the Japanese Occupation, I have heard a lot about this man and that was how I started off linking Singapore to him. It’s almost like, “Think Singapore, think Lee Kuan Yew.” I am far from being a politician. Neither am I an ardent supporter of politics. I am but a mere Singaporean, an overseas Singaporean at the moment, and I am sad, deeply saddened…

As deeply saddened as majority Singaporeans may be, on the other hand, there are others who seem to rejoice and say, “It’s time for him to go. He should have been long gone. Finally, he’s gone….” This group of haters are those who simply choose to disagree, in fact, choose to strongly disagree, to the extent they inhumanly make a mockery out of the passing on of Singapore’s Founding Father. Those who refuse to admit that it is a great loss, despite other World Leaders having claimed so. Those who somehow strongly disagree that the Nation should be deeply saddened, simply refusing to acknowledge that it is the passing of one person who has done so much for Singapore, for what and where it is today.

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 As his health was deteriorating, some even resorted to faking news of his death, to the extent of publishing Photo-shopped documents. Do these people even realize that he is also someone’s father, someone’s grandfather, someone’s uncle, possibly someone’s Great grandfather? Try putting yourself in their shoes, how would you feel? To fabricate news of his passing before he actually did – simply, blatantly rude and ungrateful I would say. To this group of haters, sit back and pause for a moment and let us all ask ourselves this question: How many people can actually look at themselves in the mirror, and actually say they have helped to build a Nation? Think. Reflect…..

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Born in Singapore and having grown up in Singapore, I never went to Kindy (kindergarten), the ‘PAP way’. I only started my education the ‘PAP way’, when I was in Primary School and I am glad I did. I remembered as a child, when I talked to other kids who went to ‘PAP kindy’, I felt like I missed out but I am thankful. Thankful, because I learnt very early on, at a tender age, that the policies are not there for nothing.

As a Singaporean living overseas, I am very thankful, till today, I am still very much Singaporean. After all these years of being away, Singapore is still very much home. Singapore’s loss today has made me realized one of the two main reasons (apart from family) why I still choose to keep that red passport after all these years – our founding father. With this, I mean, all that he’s done. 

Having been a bit of a globetrotter over the years, most of the time when I present my red passport at immigrations around the world, the look on the officer’s face will change to either a neutral one, from that of a strict, grumpy look, in fact, even a smile sometimes. Some even gave the “thumbs-up” sign. Occasionally, there are also those who will start talking about how Singapore has strict policies but at the same time adding that, that is something to be proud of. Some joke about the ban of chewing gum but NOT mock. The ease at how I am able to get through immigrations around the world has been amazing so far and who is responsible for this, none other than the man, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, himself.

As soon as the news of his passing was announced, messages from some of the major world leaders follow, not shortly afterwards. Many only had good things to say. Yet, there is that group of haters who somehow criticize, in a lowly, shallow, uneducated manner, choosing to highlight the man’s negative traits as they claim.

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The man may not have done every single thing right, but then again, who does? In being human,no one is perfect, nothing in life is totally, equally fair, BUT at least he did what needed to be done, then and now. And haven’t Singaporeans been living well amidst all the many policies, including the undesirable ones? His policies – not every single one of it was the best BUT look at Singapore today. Many who disagree, may say that the policies he implemented were too much, did not make sense. To this, I say maybe a few BUT he had his reasons. Whatever he did, his priority was only one – Singapore. We don’t have to look far, (with no offence) take a quick look at our neighbours, for instance – compare our Singaporean way of life to theirs, any volunteers to be in their position?

And because I am a Singaporean living overseas, to put it bluntly, I have not “lived on” money earned from living based on his policies, for almost 15 years now. The saddest thing is that these “haters” somehow do not realize that they have been and are somehow still living off earnings that come off his policies, some are/ were government servants, yet at the same time, condemn the “hand that feeds” them somehow. Even, if as a hater, you aren’t somehow earning money based on his policies, surely the roof over your head is a result of one of his policies, from the time of his regime. Need you question that comfort you have which people in other countries have to fight for? Dear haters, still not too late to wake up,perhaps? Live in reality, maybe?

To those haters who only know how to make thoughtless mockeries, if you think he has not done much right, then why haven’t you done anything if you are so unhappy? Not prepared to give up your life? Why have you not budged an inch apart from mocking and criticizing? Oh you may say, it was because of him you couldn’t do anything. Oh, those are just reasons! Reasons, because if he were in your shoes, if the situation was vice-versa, he would have done something for sure. What is the use of words without any action? 

If you think living overseas is better and has better policies, go and live overseas, start from scratch, from ZERO, ZERO in all aspects, financially, socially, health-wise and education-wise. Try to put your foot in the door of jobs, as a foreigner in a foreign country, try looking for a roof over your head as a foreigner, in a foreign country…

By chance, I went abroad for education and by chance, I decided to pursue options of living overseas and I am thankful. It was never planned. All these chances I had, have made me treasure and appreciate my Singapore, our Singapore, more than I would ever have. Unlike some of those of others nationalities, never once, have I been embarrassed to admit that I am Singaporean and never once, have I looked at ‘leaving’ Singapore as a good thing, for it was never planned – to me, it is just life.

Having lived in the North Americas and Australia over the last 15 years of my life, each time I am away, if not consciously, somehow, subconsciously, I still deeply miss Singapore. It is not the perfect place to be (nowhere is) but it is home. A safe, comfortable place I call home.

Indeed, I am thankful, thankful I was born to a country with a leader like him. Thankful, I have somehow once felt what it was like to live under his policies and regime. All that, has made me strong that I survived on my own two feet, overseas.

I am married to a foreigner, who once got annoyed because all I spoke about at one point, before we were married, was how great Singapore was. But having been around the globe, and also more frequently to Singapore now, the foreigner husband now understands the many reasons behind why I speak so highly of my birthplace, that he too, calls it home now.

At times, Singaporeans may claim that life in Singapore is tough. Things are so much better overseas. To this, I would say:

Dear Singaporeans, let’s look broadly and loosely at these 6 basic aspects of our daily lives

1.Social:

-Each morning, we wake up, turn on the tap and there you go, clean water is available for our daily use. Drinking water is readily available from the taps. We walk out onto clean streets as we begin our day.

-Being in Singapore, makes the word feel small. Name some essential products off the tops of your heads that cannot be found in Singapore. Almost close to none.

-Going out past midnight is never an issue for any gender in Singapore. Security and public transport is always there. Try doing this in another country and see if you can feel the same way, especially, in terms of security. 

2.Health

– World-class facilities in terms of healthcare are readily available. Our hospitals are one of the best in the world. Some of us are not thankful for the various subsidies made available, and insist that Singaporeans be given free healthcare. Ever thought about the implications of a free healthcare system. Try going overseas and see what is in store for you.

 3.Education

– There is a place for everyone, regardless of intellectual ability. In fact, a Singaporean student overseas has  one of the least pre-requisites to meet when looking into admissions into overseas Universities, due to one main reason that ENGLISH is the first language of Singaporeans. Who is responsible for this?

4.Financial

– In many years, the Singapore dollar has remained strong, just nicely, keeping rather closely behind other major currencies. Singaporeans can travel around the globe and not feel as much pinch, as compared to those from other Nations. Who has tried to maintain control on this?

5.Political

-That little red passport has been well accepted and respected around the globe, only because the man has maintained good political ties with International Leaders around the world throughout his lifetime. Singaporeans are somehow assured of political stability. Who has been behind this?

6.Technology

-Singapore has one of the fastest Internet connections around the globe (and speeds are only getting faster), at reasonable prices – enough said.

The above is only a handful, not even close to a bird’s eye view of why Singaporeans should be thankful for what and where we are today. The man surely deserves some credit, in fact more. Way more…

He may not be perfect, he may not have come up with policies, which were favourable to all, but he did what needed to be done during his regime, for what and where we are today. It is with no doubt, he is the one person who holds a huge responsibility behind that great little red dot on the map, giving it the international reputation it has today. One who who has tried to balance his love, family, country and ambitions, his way – Singapore’s Founding Father who had his many firsts. Whatever he did, he did it all for a cause.

As an overseas Singaporean, I am not writing this because I am suffering or unhappy living away from home. Neither am I writing this with the purpose of preaching in any way. What do I gain? Some may say I am being hypocritical – what do I know when I am actually overseas. My conscience is clear. It is because I have been away, overseas, that I am penning down, only my sincere thoughts in an attempt to build on some of life’s important elements, that of respect, appreciation and basic courtesy – those which I have learned, the hard way, as an overseas Singaporean.

To all Singaporeans, let’s hold our hands together, be thankful for what and where we are at today, keep looking forward, with respect and appreciation for that one man, as we work on all he has left behind, towards an even better Singapore…

Dear Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Sir, you were a great man indeed. Great is an understatement. No amount of ‘thank you’ is enough for the ‘giant’ that you have been. You once said, “Rest on laurels? I wish I could do that. No, you rest when you’re dead”. May you now get that much needed, well-deserved rest. 

Dear Sir, you will be remembered for a very, very long time, in a very long time to come. As the saying goes, “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do”, you’ve done your best during your time, for what it’s worth, for what and where we are today. You, Sir, sacrificed your life. You left a legacy in Singapore’s history and around the world. As you lay to rest, we offer you our deepest respects, thank you from the bottom of our hearts and farewell to you, Sir. May your soul rest in peace…

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