Lee Kuan Yew is not our founding prime minister

I refer to the 29 Jul 2014 Straits Times report “Same name, different lives”.

The report referred to former Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew as our founding prime minister who reared a nation and whose name stirs up equal amounts of pride and anger. The report was supposedly inspired by a similar search in US for present day persons with the name of Abraham Lincoln and those of other former presidents.

It is wrong to refer to Lee Kuan Yew as our founding prime minister because Singapore was never founded by Lee Kuan Yew but by Sir Stamford Raffles instead.

• Receiving independence in 1965 after separating from Malaysia was also not an act of founding just as Frasers Centrepoint Limited wasn’t founded in 2013 when it became independent in 2013 after separating from its parent F&N Group. Similarly, Raffles Institution wasn’t founded in 1990 when it became independent in 1990 but was founded instead in 1823.

• A name change from State of Singapore to Republic of Singapore in 1965 also cannot qualify as an act of founding just as each name change from RTS to SBC to TCS to MediaCorp TV cannot qualify as an act of founding.

• The founding title can be bestowed on individuals to whom the people of the nation owe the debt of their freedom and independence. Lee Kuan Yew himself said in his memoirs that we were already ¾ independent in 1959 so by his own admission, we owe him nothing for ¾ of our independence. Our last ¼ independence was courtesy of Tungku Adbul Rahman who kicked us out so again we owe Lee Kuan Yew nothing for him to deserve the founding title.

• The founding title can also be bestowed on individuals who put their lives on the line to fight for our independence. Since Lee Kuan Yew did no such thing, again he does not deserve to the founding title. We should not cheapen what founding means.

Lee Kuan Yew did not rear the Singapore nation but inherited it instead with all the trappings of a nation intact – British law, civil service, police force, schools, hospitals, world class port, considerable economic development that included ship repair, airlines, telecommunications, substantial industry, high quality entrepreneurs, skilled labour force (The Economic Growth of Singapore: Trade and Development in the Twentieth Century, W. G. Huff, pages 31-33).

Abraham Lincoln is revered by practically all Americans. Since Lee Kuan Yew’s name stirs up anger half the time, Lee Kuan Yew is no Abraham Lincoln, no unifying figure that the nation can celebrate as one.


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