I think this is going to be a long one…
Our first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew has passed away. It was a week of mourning for Singapore and a week of history lessons for myself. I have finally learned so much which my textbooks did not teach me. I have finally understood the real meaning of rumours. Oxford defined it as a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth. All that I have read about him and his family on the internet were not to be taken as a fact. They were simply individuals’ perspectives and values. Live recordings can’t deviate very far from the truth.
Even my father, who was not very much pro-government, in his current old age, agreed that without LKY, we wouldn’t be here. Of which, I must I agree.
In the early 90s, when I was still with a publishing firm, the Indonesian and the Philippines offices were the most important offices for us. When the Indo and Phil sales managers wanted to stop print to insert a last-minute advertisement, no one dared said “no!”. Not even the GM. The reason given was always “you want your bonus or not?”. We, the operation side, would always be most unhappy. Stop print means delaying out-of-press date. Until year 2000 when I left to become a SAHM, no one cared about these two countries’ sales anymore. With the departure of their leaders, there goes the importance. Look around us, in this region, we have continued to shine.
During my three years stay in China, every Sunday we went to church, we must produced our passports or copies of our passports to prove we are foreigners so we could attend church. I am glad, we didn’t have to do that here. I think, this in itself, is enough to be grateful for a leader who believed in racial harmony and free religion for all.
One other thing which I have taken from this past week event was LKY’s deep love for his wife. I first got to know bits of it from his daughter’s writings in the Straits Times. In the Parliament tribute, Dr Ng Eng Hen related such a touching moment…
In 2009, Mr Lee led a delegation on an official trip to many states of Malaysia. DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam and I were part of it. The delegation was having dinner, when Mr Lee asked to excuse himself so that he could speak on the phone to Mrs Lee. Due to previous strokes, Mrs Lee could not speak but remained conscious and aware. Mr Lee had made it a routine to speak and read to her each night. He did not want to break this routine even though he was in Malaysia on a long trip. He asked the nurse to put the phone to Mrs Lee and spoke to her. He did this every night while we were in Malaysia. We stood aside to respect their privacy, but that image of Mr Lee, hunched over the phone speaking to Mrs Lee who could not speak back, will stay with me for a very long time as a simple but pure picture of true devotion.
In the words of LKY when he gave his eulogy to his late wife… “you love the one you marry.”
Such devotion from a man with such a high status, I respect. If this virtue is rubbed onto every husband and wife, we would have very happy kids and happy families.
At the end of the day, this was a man of deeply-rooted values. A fighter for his beliefs right till the end. These words of his summed up why he did what he did…
This is my country. This is my people. You will trample over us, over our dead bodies. We dug our toes in, we built a nation.
For those who know me, you know I am one who will never Q for anything nor anyone. I don’t Q for even the best food in town. I don’t Q for kitties or doggies, I don’t and never will Q for any stars but last Friday, I saw myself Q-ing with the tens of thousands. It was very orderly, it was very respectful. It was very efficient. The system is what they called the chamber-system. From the city hall MRT station, we moved along slowly until we reached the Padang. Then we were asked to join the various chambers, there, we were told to sit and wait. It was about a two-hour wait. Then the long walk began from Padang to the Parliament House. Whoever came up with this was very clever. The walk took three hours, all in all, it was a five hours wait but I didn’t feel the wait was long because of the walk. We were moving and that really helped a great deal.
In these five hours, people were looking after each other. We were given free umbrellas, drinks, food, boxes were passed around to collect rubbish. It was the Singapore I knew. The real Singapore is back. Not sure about others, where I was, I saw no new citizens. People around me were the born and bred Singaporeans. You just know it when you see one. Don't label me as xenophobic, I truely believe that the true blue Singaporeans will always rise up in times like this.
This was where it all began. Those were not litter. Cardboards for people to sit and wait. Bottled water for people to drink.
We were now behind the Padang. Yeap, free cold yoghurt drink for us.
Finally, the white tentage where bags were checked and the Parliament House.
On Sunday, together, with the thousands of neighbours, I stood under the pouring rain and said my last farewell to a great fighter. (No pictures taken out of respect for the great man). This is an experience I would not want to miss.
At the end of the day, I felt a strange feeling. “We could always call him back to office but no, he died, at 91, there was really nothing else he could do.”