"Everything Mr Lee did was to make Singapore better," says Ong Pang Boon in eulogy

"Everything Mr Lee did was to make Singapore better," says Ong Pang Boon in eulogy
Mr Ong Pang Boon delivering his eulogy for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Eulogy delivered by Former Cabinet Minister Mr Ong Pang Boon at the University Cultural Centre:

Mr President Family Members of the Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew Friends The first time I heard of Mr Lee Kuan Yew was during the 1952 postal workers' strike, when I was a student at the University of Malaya.

At the time, the English and Chinese papers reported widely on how this legal adviser representing the unions argued successfully against the colonial government for the unions' and workers' welfare. Like many other young people, I was deeply impressed by this brilliant lawyer.

So when the PAP decided to contest the 1955 election, I did not hesitate to support the PAP as a volunteer, and was assigned to be Mr Lee's election agent. But after the election my employer posted me to Kuala Lumpur, and I thought that was the end of my political involvement. In 1956, Mr Lee was en route to the Cameron Highlands for a holiday with his wife and eldest son, and arranged to see me at the Kuala Lumpur Station Hotel. To my surprise he asked me to join the PAP as its organizing secretary.

I was determined to join the battle for independence from colonial rule, and accepted his offer without a second thought and joined the march for change. I have never regretted that decision. As the PAP's organizing secretary I had to work closely with Secretary-General Comrade Lee, and other Exco members. This gave me a better understanding of Mr Lee. He was a consummate and farsighted politician, maximizing every opportunity to advance his political advantage and the PAP's interests.

Although English educated, he understood that power rested with the pro-communist students from Chinese schools and the trade unions. Hence, he was always worried that the PAP could be hijacked by the pro-communists. We fought with the pro-communists several times in the early years.

But we won because Mr Lee had the strong support of like-minded comrades like Dr Toh Chin Chye, Dr Goh Keng Swee and S Rajaratnam. In 1959 the PAP won the general election on the back of the Chinese-educated voters of Singapore. I joined the first PAP Cabinet, with Mr Lee as Singapore's first Prime Minister. He was a dedicated Prime Minister with broad perspectives.

During Cabinet meetings, there would sometimes be differing views on certain issues, but after active discussion, he was able to accept alternative views and ideas. I served in the Cabinet until 1984. What struck me most about Mr Lee was his complete passion for Singapore. He spent every moment thinking of how he could improve Singapore and Singaporeans' lives. Once he decided that a certain policy was in the interest of his beloved Singapore, he would implement it, even if it meant making himself unpopular.

There were critics who disagreed with Mr Lee's policies. But I believe the man should be measured on the following considerations. First, everything Mr Lee did was to make Singapore better. He could be forceful towards his political opponents and those who disagreed with him.

But throughout his life, he was always wholeheartedly fighting for the best interest of this small and vulnerable nation. Second, without Mr Lee the Singapore story would be quite different.

He was the lightning rod that galvanized the pioneer group of PAP leaders and grassroot supporters in our battles first against colonial rule and then the pro-communists and communalists. In short, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a far-sighted leader who had the courage to realize his vision.

Without him, Singapore would not be what it is today.

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