(Translated from his speech in Tamil)
I wish to express my deepest condolences to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s family.
I deliver this speech with great sorrow. When I was born in 1978 Mr Lee was the Prime Minister. In fact Mr Lee was the Prime Minister from the time that we got independence. His achievements are immeasurable.
Many other colonies also gained independence at about the same time that Singapore had gained its independence. Those countries had larger populations, larger land mass and more natural resources than Singapore. However, Singapore, unlike many of these countries, under Mr Lee’s leadership saw outstanding development.
Now, we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Our per capita income and GDP is larger than many other countries. The main reason for this is Mr Lee’s policies.
Under Mr Lee’s rule, Singapore had a phenomenal growth. However when he took over, the people were poor, had low levels of education and the unemployment rate was high.
Mr Lee’s government systematically improved people’s lives. His government built large numbers of HDB flats to house the people. These flats provided modern housing with water and electricity directly to the people coming from the kampongs.
He made education affordable (and almost free) to all Singaporeans and provided adequate schools for all. As a result Singaporeans have joined the ranks of the best educated people in the world. More importantly he created a dynamic environment for economic development. As a result our people who were well educated had well paying jobs.
Mr Lee’s values were clear. He believed in honest clean government. He firmly believed that everyone should be given equal opportunities. He was also firm in ensuring that no discrimination should be shown to anyone on account of differences of race, language and religion. Indeed, this was very important for the minority races.
Even though the Indians only form about 10 percent of the population, the Tamil language remains as one of the official languages. Mr Lee, under his multi racial and multi lingual policy, made a provision in the Constitution to include it as one of the official languages.
Many world leaders have lauded Mr Lee. They include people such as Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton, Helmut Schmidt and Henry Kissinger. They praised him for his vision, tenacity and his contribution to the rapid development of Singapore.
It is indeed our fortune that Mr Lee has been Singapore’s leader. It is the duty of the present generation to take his work forward for the wellbeing of Singaporeans.
The Singapore Tamil Writers Association commemorated Mr Lee’s 90th birthday with 90 Tamil poems. I wish to end my speech by quoting few lines from one of the poems … contained in the book ‘A Tribute to the Great Man Lee Kuan Yew 90”
You treated everybody equally
Made Tamil one of the four official languages
Like a mother caring her child
Who would do such a thing?
You condemned political violence
Hated empty slogans
We celebrate you as an epic hero and rejoice
May you long live forever and ever
I’m sure he will live in all your memories for many generations to come.