Today brings about the passing away of Singapore’s first Prime Minister and Founding Father, Lee Kuan Yew. I learnt about this news while on my way to school in the morning, and had turned on the facebook application on my phone to see people sharing news on the matter.
It certainly is a momentous event in Singapore, and a ubiquitous conversation topic amongst people from all circles of Singapore society for the day. For many people in Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew cuts a larger-than-life figure that is almost intertwined with the core of Singapore identity. For supporters, Lee Kuan Yew was chiefly responsible for the economic success and well-rounded development of modern Singapore society, whilst for detractors, he was an authoritarian whose heavy-handed methods suppressed democratic ideals and civil liberties. I know of a handful of people around me who fall into one camp or the other, though often, I am unsure about the reasons for either their support or hatred. I would like to be objective, but this is certainly not an easy task. I just think that credit should be given where they are due, and criticisms levied for where they are justified.
The only time I have come across Lee Kuan Yew in person was when I was walking through the Botanic gardens after school. That was some time ago last year in October I think. Lee Kuan Yew was being driven in a golf cart within the park, with two bodyguards sitting at the back of the cart. I was caught up with excitement with the sighting, and turned to an unacquainted schoolmate walking behind me to exclaim in as calm a manner possible that the person in the cart upfront was Lee Kuan Yew. But the cart moved quickly, and it wasn’t long before it had moved into another section of the park out of sight, so the schoolmate whom I had exclaimed to didn’t get to see it.
I guess a part of me was in awe, another somewhat intimidated, and yet another eager enough that I just might have called out “Hey! Uncle Harry! Take a photo with me!” But that would have been downright awkward and inappropriate given the formidable figure Lee Kuan Yew is.