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Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore dies at 91
Lee Kuan Yew, the father of Singapore who co-founded the People’s Action Party and Prime Minister for 31years died at the age of 91. He turned Singapore from a third world poor nation into a first world economy. At 35, he assumed office as the first prime minister of an elected government of self-governing Singapore. Singapore in the 1950s was a poly glut population of slightly over a million of which 75.4% was Chinese, 13.6% Malay and 8.6% Indian.
A Cambridge educated lawyer and charismatic leader; he led Singapore independence from Britain and through merger and separation with Malaysia. He believed that the long term future for Singapore was to re-join Malaysia, so they merged with it to form Malaysia in September 1963. By July 1964, there were communal bullying and intimidation by the Malaya. The Malay- Chinese race riot in Singapore left him and his colleagues with no option but to leave the union in august 1965.
In 2013, there were protests over People’s Action Party plan to allow immigrants into the country. He voluntarily stepped down in 1990, a decision that is rare in Asian. He remains a mentor to the leadership of the country until 2011 when his eldest son Lee Hsien Loong became Prime Minister of Singapore for the second term. He was however, criticised for his Iron grip on power. He had a told a rally in 1980 that ‘whoever governs Singapore must have that iron in him or give it up. I’ve spent a whole lifetime building this and as long as I’m in charge, nobody is going to knock it down.’
Lee kuan yew brand of capitalism which emphasised the role of government encouraged the Chinese brand of communism. It was Lee who provided the blueprint which Deng Xiaoping used in changing the economic fortune of China. In his book ‘from third world to first’ he wrote ‘their (china) view of Singapore changed further in October the following year, 1979, when Deng said in a speech, ‘I went to Singapore to study how they utilised foreign capital. Singapore benefited from factories set up by foreigners in Singapore; first, foreign enterprises paid 35 per cent of their net profits in taxes which went to the state; second, labour income went to the workers; and third, it (foreign investment) generated the service sectors. All these were income (for the state).’ What he saw in Singapore in 1978 had become a point of reference as the minimum the Chinese people should achieve’. As Prime Minister he visited many countries of the world. He was in Nigeria in the 1960s during the first republic.
A state funeral will be held on March 29 after a week of mourning. According to his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, ‘he fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another man like him’.