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A tribute to the iron within Lee Kuan Yew

It has been a difficult week, fraught with emotions. Many Singaporeans had prayed that the foremost of our founding fathers would pull through his illness; now, we offer Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his family our condolences.

Benjamin Ho Chi Hao

It has been a difficult week, fraught with emotions. Many Singaporeans had prayed that the foremost of our founding fathers would pull through his illness; now, we offer Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his family our condolences.

All of us feel the loss of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, for he has been an integral part of our lives. His contributions in leadership and nation building are imprinted indelibly on our collective history and individual experiences.

As we relive his legacy and possibly learn more about him through the news, many foreign publications and organisations have published grudging eulogies, suggesting that his failure to create a freer, more democratic nation overshadowed his achievements for Singapore’s good.

There are also voices among our own, here and abroad, who seek to diminish his contributions, seemingly finding their courage in his passing.

Love him, hate him or be ambivalent, his leadership is what enabled the People’s Action Party (PAP) to pull Singapore together and get us through the early decades of independence, allowing us to chart Singapore’s path towards the future.

I agree with his words: A leader must have “iron” in him. The iron in Mr Lee never became brittle, but stronger and sharper instead as he grew through his experiences and made the hard decisions that would strengthen Singapore.

He was a steadfast, principled leader who humbled those who challenged his good work with their lofty claims of impropriety.

Though these challengers, some of whom went into self-imposed exile, and his detractors have levelled the charge that Singaporeans fear Mr Lee and the PAP, I disagree: Their fear is of their own making, the consequences of actions they chose.

What have others to fear of a fellow human, especially “a good man (who) leaves an inheritance to his children’s children”, to quote the book of Proverbs? Mr Lee has not left future generations with a debt they cannot repay.

We, too, have iron in us, but it is how we choose to strengthen it by our own means in contributing meaningfully to society that shows our worth.

Mr Lee and other founding fathers long gone have left a legacy and a firm foundation for the continued building of our country, so that we who inherit Singapore may prosper together.

Though now we grieve, continuing our Singapore story is the best tribute we can give to those who came before us.

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