Mr Lee Kuan Yew celebrated his 90th birthday on Monday. Elgin Toh speaks to Singaporeans from all walks of life to find out what Singapore's first prime minister means to them personally and what they consider to be his lasting legacy
Mr Dinesh Senan, 51, is chairman and CEO of sustainable clean technologies firm VIA Group Holdings.
Mr Senan: I WRITE not to deify Mr Lee Kuan Yew nor to suggest that one needs to agree with everything he has said and done. I write instead on his 90th birthday to reflect on his sheer dedicated effort over his entire adult lifespan, on his vision and his accomplishments.
History, I predict, will carefully assess and consequently enlarge further the full impact of his weighty legacy. The man has transformed a very troubled colony (troubled by communist insurgencies, triads, illiteracy and poverty) into a vibrant nation whose global influence is out of proportion to its tiny base.
Underlying his accomplishments is the tremendous force of his authenticity. What he feels and thinks, he says and does. This often meant bluntness of expression and political incorrectness.
Authenticity won him global influence. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher said "he was never wrong". Mr Lee has earned such respect through a lifetime of consistent inner alignment, raising Singapore's image in the process.
His other key attribute was pragmatism, even as he pursued a grand vision. The odds in the 1960s were against us succeeding at all, let alone at this pace. To a huge extent, it was his audacious yet pragmatic vision and his wilful determination that put us on this path to rapid development.
He chose a bold vision: to leapfrog the traditional path of import substitution into export-oriented activity. His formula: Paint the vision, then build infrastructure to support the best global companies, while educating our workforce to meet their demand. The result: Thousands of multinationals set up regional headquarters here.
Above all, he has been a teacher who rolled up his sleeves and took the mantle of leadership of, and accountability to, the people.
We learn from him that tough times demand tough-minded leadership; that we should always dare to dream, but have our feet planted firmly on the ground; and that no one owes us a living.
Most of all, I thank you, Mr Lee, for leaving me and my children a Singapore we are so very proud to be a part of in this world.
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