The fortress that was Lee Kuan Yew

The fortress that was Lee Kuan Yew
Among the leaders of our region for whom, for different reasons, I have great respect and even admiration, are the late President Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, President Sukarno of Indonesia, and King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (pic) also falls into this category of leaders of our time, and his passing away is certainly a loss for the region.

This was a man who transformed Singapore from a Third World to a First World country. In his dealings with the world at large, he was truly a remarkable statesman.

The British, in their military wisdom, created fortress Singapore, but soon found out that their guns were pointing the wrong way. Lee, in his time, also created fortress Singapore. Only this time, the guns are pointing the right way. Johor.

It is understandable that he took this position as, in his mind, the geopolitical realities indicated that the threat could come from Malaysia and, by extension, from Indonesia. Being surrounded by a Malay world could, in time, lead to instances of instability that would threaten the young nation of Singapore.

This is the siege mentality that the former Foreign Ministry secretary-general, Tan Sri Kadir Mohamad, mentions in his book, Malaysia-Singapore Fifty Years of Contentions.

This siege mentality led Lee to state to the Malaysian Chief of Armed Forces in 1990 that "... he would not hesitate to move his troops if in any future Malaysian Government, such as one controlled by the Islamic Opposition Party, should ever threaten to cut off the island's water supply ..."

The mutual suspicion and mutual mistrust led to this uneasy and testy relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. From Malaysia's standpoint, we never entertained any aggressive intentions towards Singapore. There were never any reasons for Malaysia to do that.

We have already removed several irritants in our bilateral relations. There is still unfinished business to tackle but I believe we can now sort things out in ways that would work for the benefit of both countries.

We already made a good start in putting ASEAN as a basis of a constructive and meaningful relationship. I do not think we will want to destroy what we have built through hard work and sweat.

Finally, we cannot forget that it was Lee, looking at the geopolitical realities of the time, who advised China's Deng Xiaoping in 1980 that having the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) radio station broadcasting from Chinese soil "... was not a good indicator of China's warming relationship with ASEAN".

Deng subsequently told the CPM leader, Chin Peng, to transfer the station out of China. It was moved to Thailand.

For that we can be thankful to Lee Kuan Yew.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.