Singapore founding father Lee Kuan Yew dead

Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015)   | Photo Credit: Wong Maye-E

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister and architect of the tiny Southeast Asian city-state's rapid rise from British tropical outpost to global trade and financial centre, died on Monday, aged 91, the government announced.

Although Mr. Lee had receded from the public and political scene over the past few years, he was still seen as an influential figure in the government of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his oldest son.

"Mr Lee passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital today at 3.18 am," a statement said.

"Harry" Lee became Singapore's first prime minister in 1959 and held onto power for over three decades, overseeing the island's transformation from a malaria-infested backwater into one of Asia's most prosperous nations.

Even after stepping down as leader, the fiery Mr. Lee was never far from the decision making process, holding a cabinet level post until 2011. He was a member of parliament until his death.

Mr. Lee combined market-friendly policies with strict controls over the press, free speech and his political opponents. He was hailed by some as a visionary and criticised by others as authoritarian.

Mr. Lee's death and his son's expected retirement within the next few years will mark the end of an era, but industry leaders say any change of the guard will have little impact on business in the city-state, renowned for its robust institutions.

Mr. Lee co-founded the People's Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore since 1959 and led the newly born country when it was separated from Malaysia in 1965.

He stepped down as prime minister in 1990, handing power to Goh Chok Tong, but remained influential as senior minister in Goh's cabinet and subsequently as "minister mentor" when his eldest son Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister in 2004.

The older Lee left the cabinet in 2011 and had cut down his public appearances in recent months due to his age and declining health.


Lee Kuan Yew

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, often described as the "shrewdest politician of the region," was the head of Singapore's Government since 1959. Here is a profile of Mr. Lee published in The Hindu on May 16, 1969. > Read more

>‘Lee Kuan Yew didn’t dislike India, he was disappointed by India’

New employment law in Singapore

As Prime Minister, Mr. Lee brought in several reforms aimed at ending Singapore's dependence on Malayan trade and making the city state a manufacturing power house. Here is a report in The Hindu on June 25, 1960 on some of the earlier reforms.


Stepping aside to corner more power?

On November 28, 1990 after 31 years at the helm of affairs, Mr. Lee handed in his resignation as the Prime Minister of Singapore. He was then the world’s longest-serving Prime Minister. Here is a report from The Hindu of December 2, 1990 analysing his decision to step down.


  • September 16, 1923: Lee Kuan Yew is born in Singapore as a British subject.
  • 1942-1945: Worked as transcriber of Allied wire reports under Japanese occupation of Singapore.
  • Studied law at Cambridge University, graduated with double First Class Honours.
  • 1949: Returned to Singapore with firm belief in self-governance.
  • When the People's Action Party was formed in 1954, he became its Secretary-General.
  • He has been the head of Singapore's Government since 1959, through three general elections.
  • Mr. Yew had visited India three times.
  • Lee Kuan Yew's quotes: “First, to understand Singapore, you've got to start off with an improbable story. It should not exist . . . We haven't got the base, the space, the wherewithal.”
  • "Suddenly, we're on our own. ... It's one thing running Hong Kong under British or Chinese protection; it's another matter governing tiny Singapore." (1965)
  • "If there were no international law and order, and big fish eat small fish and small fish eat shrimps, we wouldn’t exist.”

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 11:23:29 AM |

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