In a sincere eulogy, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recounted his father’s achievements in detail, described various aspects of his personality, emphasised his father’s popularity and reminded Singaporeans to hold fast to his father’s fundamental ideals.
PM Lee began by saying: “This has been a dark week for Singapore. The light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished.”
Recounting Singapore’s tumultuous early years, PM Lee described how his father championed merger; but Singapore was expelled from Malaysia two years later. Despite that, Singapore rose “from the ashes of separation” to build a nation. Rather than “appeal to Chinese voters alone,” Lee Kuan Yew “went for the nobler dream of a multiracial, multi-religious nation. Singapore would not be based on race, language or religion, but on fundamental values—multiracialism, equality, meritocracy, integrity and rule of law.”
Internationally, Lee “raised Singapore’s standing in the world… articulated Singapore’s international interests and enlarged our strategic space.”
Recognising the contributions of Singapore’s other founding fathers, PM Lee said: “Mr Lee didn’t blaze this path alone. He was the outstanding leader of an exceptional team, a team which included Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam, Othman Wok, Hon Sui Sen, Lim Kin San, Toh Chin Chye, Ong Pang Boon, Devan Nair, and quite a number more.”
“They were his comrades and he never forgot them.”
Describing his own government’s incorruptibility, PM Lee said that his father imparted his own personal traits of frugality to the government, making it clean and corruption-free.
On his father’s flexibility, PM Lee recounted how his father wooed investments from MNCs at a time when the conventional wisdom said that MNCs were rapacious and exploitative. He also scrapped the “Stop at Two” policy when Singapore’s birth rates fell below the replacement rate.
Speaking of Singapore’s development of NEWater and desalination water technologies, PM Lee described this as turning “a vulnerability into strength”.
Calling his father the “chief gardener of the city,” PM Lee described how his father grew trees on the Istana grounds and would “personally check on the heath of the trees.”
PM Lee also explained how much succession meant to his father. He described his father’s role in Cabinet while Mr Goh Chok Tong was Prime Minister: “He provided stability and experience and quietly helped to build up Mr Goh’s authority. He knew how to guide without being obtrusive, to be watchful, while letting the new team develop its own style, its own authority.”
When PM Lee became prime minister, and his father was Minister Mentor, his father “left policy issues to us, but he would share with us his reading of world affairs and his advice on major problems which he saw over the horizon.”
As PM Lee began to describe Mr Lee Kuan Yew as a father and a husband, he voice began to quiver and he became slightly emotional.
He described how his mother’s death affected his father. “When my mother died, he was bereft. He felt the devastating loss of a lifetime partner, who he had said had helped him become what he was.”
Towards his own children, Mr Lee Kuan Yew “wasn’t very demonstrative, much less was he touchy-feely. So not New Age, but he loved us deeply.”
No longer sticking to his script, PM Lee became emotional. “So this morning before the ceremonies began at Parliament House, we had a few minutes. I sat by him, and meditated.” He paused for a moment to compose himself.
PM Lee then described his father’s immense popularity, both in the PAP and in the nation. At the PAP’s 60th anniversary celebration, party members “gave him a rousing, emotional standing ovation. Those of us who were there will never forget it.” During the last National Day Parade, “the crowd gave him the most deafening cheer of the whole parade.”
Ending off his eulogy, PM Lee quoted the epitaph on Sir Christopher Wren’s grave. It reads: monumentum requiris, circumspice (If you seek his monument, look around you). “Mr Lee Kuan Yew built Singapore. To those who seek Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s monument, Singaporeans can reply proudly: ‘look around you’.”
“We came together not only to mourn. Together, we celebrate Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s long and full life, and what he has achieved with us, his people in Singapore.
“Let us continue building this exceptional country. Let us shape this island nation into a great metropolis reflecting the ideals he fought for, realising the dreams he inspired, and worthy of the people who have made Singapore our home and nation.
“Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew. May you rest in peace.”