As Singaporeans, we will remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s contributions, sacrifices and legacies. Let us forge a consensus on how best to value his imprint on Singapore.
Some suggestions have been aired, including erecting a statue, declaring the date of his death a public holiday and renaming iconic edifices such as Merdeka Bridge and Changi Airport, with the latter the subject of an online petition.
Garnering signatures and pressuring our Government via petitions is not the best way to pay tribute to him. In fact, it dishonours one of his governing principles, namely, not to rule by populist pressures.
Lest we forget, our Government has turned down previous petitions with greater popular support.
Before we proceed to find more meaningful ways to acknowledge his leadership role in transforming Singapore to what it is today, we should perhaps list the institutions, programmes, endowments, scholarships, et cetera, that already bear his name.
This would enable us to see what can be done to accord greater credence to his contributions and to do so proportionately without going overboard.
In our zeal to honour him, let us not ape what some countries have done, namely, deifying the status of their leaders. While Mr Lee’s standing as the founder of modern Singapore is recognised, we should not overlook the indefatigable support and sacrifice of his Cabinet lieutenants and other comrades since the 1950s, as well as many segments of Singapore society.
His death also offers us a timely, if not golden, opportunity to reflect on his legacies. Our guiding principle should be the commitment to continue his positive, praiseworthy policies, and a determination to review and leave behind his less acceptable vestiges.
If we approach his passing in this dignified, tempered manner, his contributions would not be in vain and we could prepare and look forward to the next phase of the Singapore story with an even greater sense of inclusiveness, commitment and confidence.
*This commentary by Hussin Mutalib first appeared on Voices, Today, on 6 Apr 2015.