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Intertwined Destinies- Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore – April 21st, 2015

Mr K.Kesavapany, Singapore Ambassador to Jordan

Five decades ago, 9th August 1965, to be precise, a new country made its appearance in the global stage as a free and independent entity. The date also marked the year when Mr Lee Kuan Yew became the Prime Minister of this fledgling nation.

Cast adrift after three years of co-existence in Malaysia, there were doubts whether, this speck of land, surrounded by bigger countries, could survive. Even Mr Lee Kuan Yew had his doubts, as shown by the tears he shed on the day of Separation.

However, human spirit being what it is, Mr Lee and his able team of Ministers set aside their fears and concerns and led the people to build a new nation based on Rule of Law and Meritocracy.

The task was indeed daunting. The British Colonial Government left us with $500 million in reserves. 14% of the workforce was unemployed. 80% of the population did not have their own roofs over their heads.

Singapore was so dirty that some called it ‘”Sewer of the East”.

Lesser men would have thrown up their hands in despair and walked away.

The resolute team of our first Generation leaders took these obstacles as challenges. Slowly, but steadily, they put in place the building blocks for the new nation of Singapore. Jurong Industrial Estate was developed and foreign investments were attracted. National Service was introduced so that the newly secured independence would not be snatched away by predators, near and far. Our young soldiers rose to the occasion by declaring that they will live and die for the nation.

Most importantly, the various races were made to feel safe and secure by the adoption of multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-religious policies. In a secular nation, all religions had equal standing. All four languages – English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil had equal status. In public housing, communities were mixed so that a Ghetto mentality would not develop.

In the area of Foreign Policy, the Government adopted a stance of Friendly to all and In the area of Foreign Policy, “Friendly to all and enmity towards none.” The formation of ASEAN in September 1967, gave added security. We became a nation that earned the respect of the international community, thanks largely to Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s profile on the international stage.

In five months time, Singapore will celebrate the 50th year of its independence. However, the Founding Father will not be with us. Having fulfilled the goal he set for himself on 9th August 1965, he has left to join his beloved wife.

We, who are left behind, will pledge that we will continue with the task of making this little red dot, table even more stable.

In the words of his good friend, ‘Dr Henry Kissinger, ‘The world is a better place because of Lee Kuan Yew”.

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