Today, we honour our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away early this morning. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was, without a doubt, a great leader, a real blessing and inspiration to all Singaporeans.
If we look at an atlas of the world, Singapore, the country, fits quite nicely into the letter “o” in its name. Indeed, in most atlases, they have to make a point of enlarging the dot so that Singapore may be pointed out. That is how small Singapore is.
When Singapore became, rather unexpectedly, independent in August 1965, it had to find its own way into the future: the dream of a common market in Malaysia was broken, and Indonesia was still conducting konfrantasi (military confrontation against) Singapore.
Singapore had to reach out beyond its immediate surroundings and “leap frog” the region to adopt the whole world as its hinterland, its source of capital, investment, research and technology, management capability, and, most of all, markets.
Singapore is the result of human imagination and human endeavour.
Singapore has attained First World status economically, and has become a guide and a hope for many nations.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew personified leadership that was visionary and courageous, which set Singapore on the good and right path to all we have been able to accomplish in the first 50 years of independence. Plans for economic and social development were carefully conceived and well executed.
But there is a deeper cultural reason to explain Singapore’s success since independence.
The explanation lies in an ability to trust Singapore to be honourable and be a place where promises are kept, the rule of law is maintained, justice is assured, intellectual property rights are protected, meritocracy is practised, and government policies are consistent.
Singapore offers integrity, incorruptibility, reliability, quality, and trustworthiness, keeping promises even though it may involve lots of hard work and overcoming unexpected difficulties.
“Trust” and “trustworthy” are the key words. Trust is the lifeblood that determines the quality of relationships that undergird every community and society. And honour is the foundation of trust, where the people, business and government deliver on their word of honour.
Honour has been the foundation of Singapore’s trustworthiness. It is a fundamental virtue in the compass for the country’s success in the years to come. It is a virtue which has to be renewed with every generation of Singaporeans as well as be a constant reminder to all Singaporeans.
Honour is the essential quality that distinguishes Singapore from many nations in the world. It is the special brand of Singapore.
Mr Lee, we owe so much to you on the way to think, the attitude to life, and the resourcefulness and determination to get things done. This is our expression of gratitude and praise, that you left us a legacy that is for us either to enjoy and build upon, or to take for granted and waste.
Lesser leaders count the value of their leadership on the basis of the organisation breaking down after they leave.
Great leaders count the value of their leadership on the basis of the organisation they leave behind being able to go on to greater heights with strength and vigour.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew was, without a doubt, a great leader.
Photo Credit: http://www.lee-kuan-yew.com/leekuanyew-memoirs.jpg