The giant's influence stays on

The giant's influence stays on
"Merdeka Malaysia!": Lee Kuan Yew leading victory cheers outside the Singapore Badminton Hall on Sep 2, 1962, after winning the referendum on Malaysia.

MediaCorp announced that during the 7-day national mourning following the death of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, regular television and radio programming would make way for special programmes and coverage to commemorate the giant's passing.

The deep sadness has spread even across the sea to Johor Bahru.

Johor Bahru and Singapore have been maintaining a close yet sensitive relationship. Singapore used to be part of Johor, as well as Malaysia. Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia and later withdrew.

That part of history has become a lifelong memory for the older generation of Johor Bahru. Johor Bharu people, particularly the Chinese, still have affection for Singapore and adore Lee.

The influence of Singapore and Lee can be found everywhere, forming a unique tie.

The growing process of many Johor Bahru Chinese have been heavily influenced by Singapore. They watch TV and listen to radio programmes aired by Singapore's TV and radio stations. Many Singaporean artists have been idols of many Johor Bahru people.

Some people called it a cultural soft power while some called it a cultural colonisation. In any way, it is undeniable that it has been influencing the Chinese community in Johor Bahru.

Due to the influence of TV programmes, many Johor people actually know Lee better than any other leaders of their own country.

The influence of Lee is not limited only to Johor Bharu or Johor, but some of his political views, such as the "Malaysian Malaysia" concept has been influencing the political environment of Malaysia since the 1960s.

It has become a concept of contending racism. Some remarks and political views of his have also been regarded as sacrosanct by many foreigners.

During the era of declining primary products from the late 1960s to 1980s, many rubber tappers and miners in Malaysia faced an unemployment crisis.

At that time, Singapore needed a huge number of foreign workers to implement its post-independence industrialisation programme. Many Malaysians thus left home and became the first batch of foreign workers of industrialised Singapore.

Among them, many stayed in Singapore and became the "founding generation" of the country.

In 1979, Lee promoted the Speak Mandarin Campaign but ironically, Chinese is not the language spoken by the majority Chinese families today.

Instead, Chinese has almost replaced dialects in Johor Bahru and been widely spoken by Chinese families.

Lee's population control policy has also been affecting us. In early days, Lee ran the "Stop at Two" programme and today, many Malaysian Chinese prefer small families.

The mindset is believed to have been influenced by the then Singapore's family plan.

Over the years, Singapore has maintained a balanced national population structure through immigration policy. Lee admitted that among immigrants in Singapore, 40 per cent of them were from Malaysia.

In fact, when Lee formed its Cabinet for the first time in 1959, only two of its nine ministers were born in Singapore. Even today, there are still elites from Malaysia in Singapore's Cabinet.

Malaysian talents can be found in all fields, enriching the talent pool of Singapore and contributing to Singapore's success. It is an undeniable fact that Lee's talent policy has attracted many Malaysian talents.

Many important policies of Lee have affected Malaysia and some were even regarded as destructive.

For instance, the closure of Nanyang University formed by the Chinese community, making Chinese schools part of history, has triggered a severe controversy.

The Nanyang University Alumni Associations Of Malaya opines that Lee is inexcusable in suppressing Chinese education.

However, the closure of Nanyang University has also indirectly induced the Chinese community in Malaysia to attach a greater attention to the survival of Chinese education in Malaysia, while strengthening their determination in defending the last hope for Chinese education in the region.

The giant has fallen and regardless of praises or criticisms, Lee's influence is believed to continue for some time.

At least, we will remember that in the history of Malaysia and Singapore, there was a strong and powerful leader called Lee Kuan Yew.

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