<Photo by contributor>
Mr Lee Kuan Yew's passing is a great loss to Singaporeans.
Despite criticisms from western media and idealistic liberals who criticised Lee for his "dictatorship" in Singapore, this small country has punched above its own weight and proved those liberals wrong – Countries can thrive without those impractical liberal values. We don't need unrestrained freedom of expression because we need to consider the cultural, racial and religious sensitivities of the different communities in Singapore. We don't need western-model of freedom of assembly where people can gather as and when they like to protest senselessly because we have many open channels to feedback to government and political leaders about flaws in policies; if they don't listen, citizens have the right to vote them out. Aljunied GRC is a prime example.
In the past week, I witnessed Singaporeans from all walks of life who spent hours queuing up at the Padang to pay their last respects to our founding father. I was part of them. The unforgiving weather did not deter Singaporeans, the usual bunch of whining lot from queuing up to 10 hours just to catch a glimpse of a great man in parliament house who transformed Singapore from third to first. Volunteers flanked the queue under the hot sun to distribute water, snacks and offer words of encouragement to Singaporeans who took time off to queue up to 10 hours, just to murmur a word of "Thanks" to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
I have a 8 year old son. My wife and I took him to pay our last respects to Mr Lee. As there is a rule that allows families with children under 6 to join the priority queue, we were offered to join the priority queue but I firmly told the usher that my son is already 8. It is not right that we take advantage in this situation. We queued for 5 hours but it felt like an hour. In the queue, I saw Singaporeans who were completely strangers, making small talk with one another, passed around drinks, snacks, and some offered their home made cookies to others. I entertained my son with an iPad (not the best way to parent I admit). But my iPad battery ran low halfway into the queue. One young man, who noticed that, offered me his power bank to charge my iPad. I was so touched by his gesture. Is this the Singapore spirit?
In the past, I have been reading comments on social media by unhappy anonymous Singaporeans who said Singaporeans will cheer for LKY's death because he was a dictator and he is no different from the leaders in North Korea. The same group of unhappy Singaporeans also said all of us will take the first flight out when crisis strike and National Service is a waste of time. Now I think back, I wonder if those online commenters were really Singaporeans. Dr Mahathir and Othman Wok had openly wrote that riots were instigated by extremist elements who came down from the north in the 1960s.
I recall after Hotel New World collapsed in 1986, Singaporeans from all walks of life, regardless of race and faith, worked tirelessly in the disaster recovery and displayed the Singapore spirit.
Now, in 2015, I witnessed the Singapore spirit again.
I want my son to remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the Singapore spirit. I bought zip-lock bags to seal up the newspapers which reported on Mr Lee's passing so I can keep in my safe and pass it to my son when he gets older. He may not remember the day we queued up to see Mr Lee. So when he grows up, I hope these newspapers can give him a starting point to read up more about our great Mr Lee Kuan Yew who gave us Singapore.
R.I.P MR Lee.