Senior Minister of State (Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs) Masagos Zulkifli today (March 26) paid homage to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew in a Special Sitting of Parliament. Here is his speech:
Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s children — that was the nickname given in jest by Pangar when we visited him in Kota Tinggi whenever his friends asked about us. At that time, Singapore had recently separated from Malaysia and my uncle may be unconvinced that we will be protected in country with a Chinese majority. Before he passed away, I had the opportunity to meet him. My uncle still teases us as Lee Kuan Yew’s children among his friends. However, this time my uncle added that he was proud and full of admiration because we were able to become professionals and could compete in the Lion City with the other races.
Similarly that is how the global community views our achievements in Singapore. The attitude of doubt and concern, whereby some even looked down at us when we separated from Malaysia, had transformed into admiration and respect. In any country whenever we flash our passport, we can feel that we are respected because we are Singaporeans. The best things that we currently enjoy in our lives would not be possible without the vision, the passion and the determination of Mr Lee. He built a developed nation that provides for the well-being of Singaporeans even though our country do not have natural resources and at that time, many Singaporeans were unemployed. In addition, racial conflicts flared up easily during that period. The whole country was tense.
Without a doubt, I can say Mr Lee established an administration that is transparent, eradicated corruption and crime. Singapore gained the confidence of international investors who came here to work and to do business. Nonetheless for me, the most outstanding policy of Mr Lee’s came in the form of his unique social compact. After his failure in advocating a Malaysia for Malaysians, Mr Lee was determined to create a Singapore for all citizens regardless of race, language and religion. Everyone will have a space to cultivate their language, culture and religion. But at the same time, they were cajoled into accepting the government’s policy of expanding the common space so that they can mingle in housing estates, schools and their workplaces. The ghetto areas have disappeared. Slowly but surely, a multiracial society living together peacefully is embedded in the DNA of Singaporeans. That is the view of Professor S Jayakumar, whereas DPM Teo is thankful that Singapore prospers because all the leaders are mature and understood that harmony existed not because everybody got what they demanded, but harmony existed because everybody was willing to make sacrifices that may be painful at times, so that we can all prosper together.
As a result, places of worship like the mosques, churches and temples can exist side by side and residents take turns to celebrate each other’s festivals by having open houses for their friends. And friends became closer because they shared same interests, and not because they speak the same language. It was Mr Lee who supported the creation of the Mosque Building Fund (MBF) which helped build many mosques that are magnificent and thriving. However, no matter how much funds are collected, it will be useless if the foundations of harmony are weak and are not upheld by everyone. Because mosques that will be built will face protests and those that have been built will be burned down. You can see the prove everywhere. A harmonious, multiracial society is his most precious legacy that had helped our progress while protecting the minorities.
If a harmonious society enables the minority Muslim community to carry on with their religion peacefully, Mr Lee’s system of meritocracy became the benchmark in education and employment for everyone. The Malay community should be proud because they have proved to the world that their excellence in education and employment did not happen because there was special treatment for the minorities. We were able to achieve our success and compete in the world-class educational systems and funds were given to the Malays to succeed in education. We were successful in our careers due to our performance and our self-esteem was safeguarded and is respected by the other communities.
When I accompanied him to Malaysia, he spoke to a leader who spread lies about the Malay community in Singapore. He challenged that the Berita Harian paper is distributed there and so that everyone can see how prosperous the Singapore Muslim community is in Singapore, and how many of their children became engineers, became scientists and became doctors. I (was) so proud to stand beside him on that day. Clearly he was proud of our achievements. Therefore it comes to no surprise the global community and world leaders I have met like Mr Tony Blair and the Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Alam expressed admiration toward the racial harmony that is evident in Singapore. In fact they were enthusiastic about the confidence among Muslims, who would not only perform prayers diligently in the magnificent mosques that they had built themselves but they were also able to integrate easily as Singaporeans who are able to live successfully in a meritocracy system without any favouritism. This is the identity of Singapore Muslims that was built by him.
My heart is heavy not just because Singapore lost a leader. He has created a name for our small nation in the world. We, child of Lee Kuan Yew, as the father who was the architect of modern Singapore. Without him we would not have thought of Mendaki or the MBF. May the future generations honour Mr Lee’s contributions and build on his legacy (and) beware about instigations that may separate us … Thank you Mr Lee for leaving us a harmonious nation and identity.