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Jakarta Post

Your letters: Lee Kuan Yew and lessons for us

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Tue, March 31, 2015   /  07:11 am
Your letters: Lee Kuan Yew and lessons for us

National mourning: Pallbearers adjust the national flag of Singapore covering the coffin of the late Lee Kuan Yew during a state funeral held at the University Cultural Centre on Sunday. AP/Wong Maye-E

The late Lee Kuan Yew was not just a leader, but the greatest leader Singapore has had. Lee will not just be remembered in Singapore'€™s history, but as someone who made Singapore'€™s history.

As John C. Maxwell said: '€œA leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.'€ Lee brought his people to a level of prosperity that Singaporeans can be proud of.

In the book titled Confessions of an American Media Man, Tom Plate, a Los Angeles Times columnist who interviewed Lee in 1996, shared how Lee turned a city of street gangs into the most secure country in the world.

When his wife asked him about the most interesting and safe place for a woman to go alone, Plate answered '€œSingapore'€. In his interview with Lee, he was astonished at Lee'€™s explanation of how he freed Singapore of the street gangs that were making people'€™s lives a living hell. At that time, the gangs controlled the streets not only by night but also during the day. A gangland battle was a daily occurrence.

'€œIt was impossible to build a peaceful society with this kind of arrogant misconduct,'€ said Lee. When Plate asked him how he fought the gangs, Lee replied, '€œWe had the army arrest them and put them in jail.'€

Plate inquired about the trials of the gangsters but Lee said there were no trials. He explained that he had no option but to take firm measures, since trials would only create dangerous environments for witnesses, as the gangs would kill anyone who gave evidence against them. Lee had to ask the army as the police were not strong enough to protect witnesses.

Some people, perhaps including us, think Lee governed Singapore with an iron fist, even violating human rights. We judge Singapore as not being a democratic country because freedom of expression is curtailed and the government watches over people very closely.

The US once accused Lee of being a hardline leader, but let'€™s ask Singaporeans today whether they feel oppressed and if their '€œundemocratic'€ government is so bad. In his funeral on Sunday, about 1.5 million turned out to pay tribute to Lee.

Let'€™s ask ourselves, since we are so proud of our democratic country, where is the prosperity as mandated by Pancasila even after our country'€™s 70 years? Many of our people are still struggling to make ends meet and have access to poor health and education services.

Titus Jonathan
South Tangerang

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