Sanjay Perera: Lee Kuan Yew’s Legacy In Our Collective Trust

“Where does Singapore go from here?” (April 4) is an excellent piece that calls on Singaporeans to reflect on the precious legacy handed down to us from the first-generation leaders and people.

The sense of loss from Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s passing is not only national but, for some of us, personal. A close friend’s sibling, when paying her last respects at Mr Lee’s bier, asked permission to stand there a little longer to say a prayer. She stood there for 10 minutes.

She informed her brother that Mr Lee’s death reminded her of their father’s demise. It connected her to the memory of what their parents told them about coming to Singapore as immigrants to start a new life.

This is understandable. I recalled the loss of my own father, a pioneer in local broadcasting who worked closely with Mr Lee and the first-generation leaders, during Mr Lee’s funeral.

My father’s working experience was intertwined with the country’s struggle for success and the political compact that had to be forged with the populace.

He was the television floor manager when Mr Lee cried over Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. Despite the tears and Mr Lee’s request to stop for a while, the cameras kept rolling. That iconic moment is part of the national consciousness.

My father spent nights in discussions and going through the speeches of ministers and Mr Lee before they were broadcast. It was a time of synergy, and all the talent that could be mustered was used to enhance political stability.

Sometimes, when my father was required to see Mr Lee at the Istana, a car was sent to fetch him from his office at Caldecott Hill.

The reason: As my father did not drive at the time, Mr Lee did not want him to be given lifts by others who would then try to influence his thinking en route to see the Prime Minister.

After those discussions, if it was going to rain, Mr Lee would ask a security officer to drop my father off at a bus stop or taxi stand to make his own way back. He often came home late, as Mr Lee was hard at work.

Despite my disagreements with some of Mr Lee’s policies, my father would remind me that many may yet realise how much we are indebted to Mr Lee. The turnout at his funeral vindicates this view.

It is indeed left to us to carry on the strengths of his legacy. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that Singapore carries on successfully and peaceably.

Those who choose to push the country onto a path that countermands this for reasons motivated primarily by past quarrels, but cloaked in the guise of democracy, and instigate verbal violence on social media, are irresponsible.

Political change must arrive responsibly. Those who fail to understand this undermine a legacy that has been placed in our trust.


*This article by Sanjay Perera first appeared on Voices, Today, on 7 Apr 2015.



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