The Week in National Mourning: In Memory of Lee Kuan Yew

ends today, with a state funeral and a cremation. I have felt uneasy, unsettled all week, and I think that strange. My logical mind tells me there will be no practical change to my way of life; the death of a country’s founding father, a man who has been officially out of politics for twenty-five years, has no direct bearing on my life. After all, he is someone we hardly bring up in regular conversation (except when we are complaining…?). Why the grief then?

Perhaps we’ll miss his piercing intellect; I know I will miss his writing, where he makes difficult and complex political and social issues direct and comprehensible (that is, simple, not simplified), a skill many professional writers struggle with. Perhaps we’ll miss his no-nonsense manner, the sharpness (Tony Blair, former British PM, calls it bluntness) of deep insight that made him an advisor to world leaders. (This is something Singaporeans are surprised and proud of – the international tributes from significant political figures are deeply moving and inspirational, aspirational. Also, it must be rare to receive outstanding tributes of praise and thanksgiving from both past and present Chinese and American leaders.)

Perhaps it isn’t as abstract as all that: the very fact that he did create this immensely successful paternal state makes us see him as ‘Ah Kong’ (grandfather).

I queued five and a half hours alone to pay my respect to the late Mr Lee. To be sure, it felt a little anti-climatic: after the long wait, you are ushered in, you bow, and you are urged to hurry out because there are 8 hours worth of people behind you wanting to do the same. But no regrets doing so: I’ve been brought up to know that the dead can’t come to the living anymore, the living must send off the dead. My family did turn up at Tanjong Pagar though, and because we were there on a night where the crowd was thin, we were allowed time to contemplate the life and works of Mr Lee.


(My dad wrote in Mandarin: Hope you’ll bring Mrs Lee to our SG50 celebrations in August)


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