23 March 2015
The day we bade goodbye to the founding father of Singapore
I was too young to witness the adversities faced in the early days of Singapore’s development. Multi-racial riots where curfews were imposed were only things I’d heard from my mother. She told me that people of different races and religions were attacking one another, leaving many dead and injured.
The expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965 was also something I have very shallow knowledge of. The fear of surviving as a tiny island without much land or natural resources was something I couldn’t quite relate to, even till today.
Born in the late 1970s, what I could remember as a child was mingling with my Malay and Indian classmates. After our weekly swimming lessons, we would have roti prata together at nearby coffeeshops. We got along so well it is difficult to imagine us fighting against each other due to race or religion.
Can water rationing exercises be considered an adversity as this is the only thing I have a recollection of as a child. Yes, our limited natural resources included the shortage of water. Over the years, the purchase of water from our neighboring country made constant front page headlines. How much bargaining power does tiny Singapore have when the sale of water was frequently used as a condition to other unrelated bilateral negotiations?
He has the foresight to make us come so far. The little red dot has made its name on the global world map. We are known for our political stability, racial harmony, zero tolerance for corruption and being a safe country. We are the third richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita (2014). And we now produce our own water, from waste water. Our water technology is so advanced we have numerous awards to show.
Who had the vision and belief to get us from a malaria-infested colonial outpost to currently the forth most livable city in Asia (2014)? Who contributed his life to overcome the overwhelming odds and give us the low employment rate we see today? Who made it possible for 90% of the citizens to be house owners (2014)? Who thought that making English as a first and compulsory language would help open doors for Singapore?
Today, we live in the comfort of a smart and connected city. We are able to walk about in the wee hours of the morning and not fear about our safety. There isn’t any legitimate need for registered guns in our households (in fact, it’s forbidden). We live in a garden city, surrounded with lush greenery and well-connected parks. Our transport system may not be perfect today as compared to yesterday. But comparing with many other cities, we are doing okay. We could hail a bus from less than a few hundred meters from wherever we stand. This is not a given in many cities.
Thank you, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Thank you for contributing your entire life to give us the comfort we have today. May you be reunited with your beloved wife, Mdm Kwa Geok Choo. I will come and pay my respect to you at the Parliament House.
Rest in peace, sir.
[More about Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s contribution at this link]
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