Dear Mr LKY,
Thank you so much for this nation, this country, this home that you built up from scratch. Thank you for this sheltered environment I live in, thank you for this comfortable life I live, thank you for this safe and secure country. Thank you for giving up your life, just so that we the people of Singapore can live a life of comfort and luxury. Thank you for being a man of such great foresight, with fortitude, passion and courage. Thank you for being such a visionary leader, and believing in your people 50 years ago when we had close to nothing. I can only imagine the immense stress you were under when we were expelled from Malaya 50 years ago, with the lives of 2 million people in your hands. Yet, you rose to the occasion and took it upon yourself to set up a cabinet of capable leaders and built the Singapore we know today. I know that no amount of “thank yous” will suffice for all that you’ve done, and no amount of tears wept will bring you back. But from the bottom of my heart, I am nothing short of thankful. Thank you for dedicating your life to the betterment of ours. This city that you’ve left behind, is your legacy, your tears, sweat and blood. Rest In Peace, Founding Father.
In the words of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, “this week has been a dark week for Singapore”. I didn’t expect myself to be this affected by the death of LKY. I remember just a week ago I was telling my friends that I really really hoped he would make it to watch Singapore celebrate 50 years of independence because that is the least he deserves for all that he has done. On Monday morning however, I woke up to my father telling me that LKY had passed away at 3.18am that morning. At that point in time, it hadn’t really sunk in but at night as I watched the news, the reality of it all hit me, It is so strange to think that the millions of Singaporeans are mourning and grieving over a man that majority of us never even knew personally. But then I realised, it didn’t matter if we knew him personally or not. We grieve because we, as Singaporeans, all lost a legendary figure, someone who we all looked up to, or at the very least, respected. Look around you, this is the fruit of LKY’s labour. The skyscrapers in the CBD, the breathtaking night skyline against MBS, the bustling metropolis, all of these wouldn’t be possible without his foresight and leadership. There are very few people that I truly respect and LKY was one of them. In my very humble opinion, Singapore wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for his astuteness, his foresight and his leadership. Sure, he might have made mistakes and many disagree with his policies or actions, but to err is only human. He wasn’t a populist and he did what he felt was right and necessary at that point in time. Such a man of great stature is very hard to come by and tbh, I feel like his passing marks the start of a new chapter in Singapore history. I am so glad I decided to stay on and queue for 6 hours at the Parliament House so I could pay my final respect to him. Knowing myself, I would have regretted if I didn’t.
This week, I also saw a side of Singapore I’d never seen before, not even during national day. Singaporeans united as one country to mourn for our founding father, extending genuine acts of care and concern to others. Even in death, LKY manages to unite the nation :’) As I watched, the state funeral on tv today, my heart broke so many times — once as the gun carriage left the Parliament House, another time as LHL read his eulogy, not as a son but as a PM, and another time as Mr Sidek read his eulogy in tears, and another as LHY read his eulogy filled with stories about LKY’s personal side, something which the public does not often see, and another time as the tv showed pictures of the pioneer generation breaking down in tears at tribute sites. Those were the people who walked alongside LKY and made Singapore what it is today. I think, to the younger generation, LKY was a leader with great aplomb, great oratorical skills, great vision. To the pioneer generation however, he was all that, and more. He was their only hope in what had seem like a world of doom. He led them out of the darker days and gave them what he promised – a new life. And so I suppose, his death hit them harder than most of us.
It’s literally “started from the bottom, now we here.” I am in awe, truthfully speaking, at the transformation Singapore has gone through from 50 years ago till now. I cannot fathom how someone can be so extraordinary, to have visions of a metropolitan Singapore 50 years later, to have faith in his people, to have the ability to motivate his people, to have garnered the trust of 2 million Singaporeans. But he has done it and I honestly don’t think there will be another like LKY. Having studied history for a lvls, I am more than well aware of how important good leadership is in the governance of a country. My SEA case studies have shown me that there are actually countries who have regressed due to poor leadership. And to me, LKY himself alone, is a great leader that I really find inspirational and admirable.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
— Mary Elizabeth Frye