'Differences in opinion, but strong respect'

'Differences in opinion, but strong respect'

Lee Kuan Yew at 90: He blazes with intellect and sometimes warmth

Mr Soh Yi Da, 24, is a fourth-year political science student at the National University of Singapore.

Mr Soh on Mr Lee's legacy: Young Singaporeans have less of an emotional connection to Mr Lee Kuan Yew than do their parents or grandparents.

By the time I was in my formative years, Mr Lee had long stepped down as prime minister. I came to know him better through books, articles and videos.

But the assumption that we therefore are less appreciative of his contributions to this country can sometimes be overstated.

I know many young people - myself included - who are excited to see Mr Lee at public events and at National Day Parades.

I don't agree with Mr Lee on every issue.

For example, he thinks dialects complicate the learning of Mandarin. I believe reviving dialects will in fact raise Mandarin standards while strengthening our cultural roots.

Yet, differences in opinion do not affect my respect for him.

I met Mr Lee in a closed-door dialogue with young Singaporeans at the Pyramid Club in 2006.

I was struck by the speed at which he responded to questions. His intellectual horsepower and the firmness of his views were also a breath of fresh air at a time when leaders globally tend to be well-spoken lightweights who frequently flip-flop or repeat crowd-pleasers.

In recent years, some young people have shown a desire to rebel against the conventional narrative of Singapore's history, which is centred on Mr Lee and his People's Action Party team.

They believe history's underdogs - such as the leftists of the 1950s and 1960s - have not been duly recognised for their contribution to the Singapore story. I fully agree with the thinking behind this revival, which has spawned books and films featuring alternative accounts of history.

But in their eagerness to correct what they saw as wrong, some have cynically gone to the other extreme by attempting to erase what Mr Lee and his team have done.

There is no historical basis for that. Would not the second injustice be at least as grave, if not more grave, than the first?

History has a place for everyone. In my mind, Mr Lee will always be a most distinguished trailblazer with visionary foresight.


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