RIP Lee Kwan Yew

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Singapore’s visionary first Prime Minister has died.

Fairfax reports:

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister and architect of the tiny Southeast Asian city-state’s rapid rise from British tropical outpost to global trade and financial centre, has died aged 91, the government has announced.

“Mr Lee passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital today at 3.18am,” a statement posted on prime minister Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook page said on Monday.

“Harry” Lee became Singapore’s first prime minister in 1959 and held onto power for over three decades, overseeing the island’s transformation from a malaria-infested backwater into one of Asia’s most prosperous nations.

Even after stepping down as leader, the fiery Lee was never far from the decision making process, holding a cabinet level post until 2011. He was a member of parliament until his death. ?

Lee combined market-friendly policies with strict controls over the press, free speech and his political opponents. He was hailed by some as a visionary and criticised by others as authoritarian.

Lee’s death and his son’s expected retirement within the next few years will mark the end of an era, but industry leaders say any change of the guard will have little impact on business in the city-state, renowned for its robust institutions.

Lee co-founded the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore since 1959 and led the newly-born country when it was separated from Malaysia in 1965.

He stepped down as prime minister in 1990, handing power to Goh Chok Tong, but remained influential as senior minister in Goh’s cabinet and subsequently as “minister mentor” when his eldest son Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister in 2004.

It was Lee Kwan Yew who put Singapore on the map, with his authoritarian law and order policies but also his embracing of business to provide the welfare for citizens of Singapore.

I’ve always loved visiting Singapore…far more so than almost any other Asian city. I think part of that is Lee Kwan Yew’s legacy of law and order and cleanliness…you certainly feel safe in Singapore and the streets and surrounds are clean and tidy.

I never agreed with his controls over the press but Singapore is still freer than most other countries in the region that we trade with.

Security and stability contribute much to Singapore’s prosperity. That was Lee Kwan Yew’s legacy.


– Fairfax