I was born in the trying period of the 60s. I was very young but I can still remember the racial fight between the Chinese and the Malays. I can sense the high tension of the adults then but I was too young to understand what actually happened or fear the repercussion had that situation gone beyond control. When I was much older, I understand that it can take a little remark poking fun at one's race or religion, all hell will then break loose.
Growing up, I have only known one big figure as our PM and he was our LKY. He continued to loom large in my life as our country started to develop from a place full of slums to a metropolis -a promise our then PM made to the nation when we were kicked out from Malaya. Goh Keng Swee was another respectable person whom I admired greatly.
The place where we used to live was a magnet for gang fights. I was once bullied by a gangster but fortunately for me and my siblings, we did not join any secret society. It was easy to join the triad for protection. Between the 60s and 70s, I can see all the street fights and sleazy activities were slowly but surely weeded out. Our parents and those before them had it even harder. LKY and his cabinets were unwavering in their pursuit to give us a safe and sound environment.
I used to hate the idea of serving NS. Why must we "wasted" 2 or 2 and a half years of our time serving NS? I was hoping to get into SHATEC to study hotel management but had to give up altogether when I had to serve NS. We have peace. There is no war here. But we must serve NS, I used to question that. Only in my adulthood, I understand we are living in a volatile region. I also understand we may be a small red dot but having a strong armed forces means we cannot be easily pushed over by others. A decade ago, our Navy was rendering help to our neighbour when fatal disaster struck their land. Our state-of-the-art equipment was a God-send to the disaster area that greatly impressed me. We are able to help a much bigger neighbour. It was the long term vision of LKY and his comrades who insisted that we will have to count on ourselves to defend our own shores, thus the NS policy. I am proud to have served my NS stint like many male Singaporeans. Our SAF continues to punch above its weight.
I cannot say I agree to all the policies meted out by LKY and his team. One was the curtailing of press freedom. I was most bitter when our news article which was supposed to appear in Sunday Times was embargoed at the last hour. It was a shipwreck tragedy where I was one of the survivors and we had wanted our government to help us to re-float the wreck and to help find for missing bodies. It was a major event in the early 90s but we were just pushed aside. I did question the limitation on press freedom especially ours had nothing to do with race or religion issues at all. It was an appeal to our government from us as private citizens. We did not get our answer and the ship is still lying somewhere in the Straits of Malacca. I will never forget that incident.
Many said LKY was an authoritarian and I subscribe wholeheartedly to that and for good reason too. Some, especially the misinformed western media used to call him a dictator. I see a dictator who lives in a land of violent, one who rules and kills people indiscriminately. Did he? Is our place a violent place to live in? He did jail some who opposed him but during the tumultuous period of the 50s and 60s, the communist threat was real. He had to do what he felt was most appropriate during that period so that we can live in a peaceful and safe environment. I am sure it was a hard decision by him.
I was talking to a person who works at the Istana. He shared this with me. He said LKY was a frugal man. He said LKY even reminded the staff working at the Istana to make sure the last bits of toilet paper cannot be wasted. I was most impressed when I learnt it from someone who has served him before.
Our country is not a perfect place to live in but in my opinion, it is near perfect. I can't ask for more. Foreigners who work or visit our place only have good words for our government especially LKY. This makes me proud as a Singaporean. This red dot is resources poor but it is a thriving city where people from all over congregate. We won't get to become a thriving city had our pioneering leaders not laid a solid foundation for us. We had to make it happen or we cease to exist. I don't cry easily but my tears just flowed when I watched a video posted on FB on LKY recently who said this,
"At the end of the day, what have I got?"
"A successful Singapore."
"What have I given up?"
He was a God-send to Singapore during our difficult period for without LKY and his fellow comrades, this is a different Singapore now. It is my greatest pleasure to pen my thought on this great man. This is my highest tribute to LKY and may you rest in peace, Sir.