March 23, 2015 By Interactive News Desk

Lee Kuan Yew: Legacies in Black and White


Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, died on Monday at Sinagapore General Hospital where he had been admitted in February due to pneumonia. A lawyer educated from Britain, Lee is believed to be a charismatic leader who led the nation into one of the world’s wealthiest nations and a global trade and financial center. Despite the criticism leveled against his autocratic positions towards the press, he was praised for his market-friendly state policies. Although being distanced from the political arena for the past years, he was always an advisor for his son, Lee Hsien Loong, the current prime minister of the country.

Lee had managed to lead Singapore from the colonial burden of Britain to a global city within a short span of time. With the aim of making Singapore a cosmopolitan country, he made English a common language, opened its door to multinational companies, whose investments and expertise helped Singapore become an economically well-equipped nation, thus succeeded in developing strategic political relation with foreign countries. Diane Muazy, professor of political science at the University of British Colombia, says that the distinctive feature of Lee’s political career is that it’s devoid of corruption, arguably a great model for much of the corrupt monarchs in the region.

Corporate-friendly as Lee was, business community has flocked to mourn the death of their ‘spiritual mentor’. Lim Ming Yan, president and Group CEO, Capita Land said  that the business community was deeply saddened by the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He told that Mr Lee was the master builder of Singapore’s economic and social landscape. He also said that Lee’s commitment to Singapore, unyielding spirit and astuteness were indeed qualities to be admired, remembered and embodied.

His important decisions consist of his initiative to pursue international recognition of Singapore when Singapore was admitted to the United Nations. He also had tried to build up the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and even asked help from Israel. He made it an obligatory for all Singaporean citizens aged 18 to serve National service either in the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force or the Singapore Civil Defence Force. He was also noted for his stringent economic intervention, which has become a determining factor in Singapore becoming a ‘garden city’.

While extending his support towards LGBT minorities, Lee was severely criticized for his undemocratic stance on the press and his political opponents.  He even formulated defamation law to interdict the dissenting voices in the state. His government had also banned foreign publications and made a rule that drew certain limits for the press and required to promise to abide by the stringent media rules.

Lee was also noted for his Islamophobic remarks. Wikleaks has published diplomatic cables attributing controversial comments on Islam to Lee. It quoted Lee as having described Islam as a “venomous religion”. Lee qualified his remarks by saying, “ I did talk about extremist terrorists like the Jemaah Islamiyah group, and the jihadist preachers who brainwashed them. They are implacable in wanting to put down all who do not agree with them. So their Islam is a perverted version, which the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Singapore do not subscribe to”. However, the incident followed hot on the heels of the release of Lee’s controversial book titled ‘Lee Kuan yew: Hard truths to keep Singapore Going’, in which Lee stated that Singaporean Muslims faced difficulties in integrating because of their religion, and urged them to “be less strict on Islamic observances”.

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