Inspired by Mr Lee's love for his wife

Inspired by Mr Lee's love for his wife

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Wei Ling both thanked their father's security officers in their eulogies at his private cremation on Sunday.

Karuppiah Kandasamy, a former bodyguard who served the late Lee Kuan Yew, said that while he was inspired by Mr Lee's drive and passion for Singapore, what impressed him most was the former prime minister's love for his wife, Kwa Geok Choo.

"I picked up a lot from Mr Lee on how to love," said the 74-year-old, whom the Lee family fondly called Mr Kanda.

"Before I became his bodyguard, I was turned down once by my wife's parents when I asked for their blessings (to marry her)."

He was then 24 and his wife, 18.

"When they found out I was a policeman, they turned me down because back then, the mentality was that those who were in the police would end up having more than one wife," he said.

"But six months later, they changed their mind and allowed us to get married. I guess I could relate to Mr Lee in that way."

Mr Lee and Madam Kwa married in secret as they felt her parents, college and the scholarship authorities might not approve.

Mr Kanda, who now works in the private security industry, said Mr Lee would take long walks with Mrs Lee at the end of each day.

"They would talk non-stop for the whole 45-minute walk, about their day and everything else," he said.

"(From him), I learnt how to love my wife and, like him, I have a great woman by my side."

Mr Kanda's wife, Anapurini, 68, said there was a significant change in her husband after he became Mr Lee's bodyguard in 1970.

"He started to take me along wherever he went. On tours, overseas, even when he just went to play football. He always wanted me to be near him," she said.

Mr Kanda was assigned to Mr Lee's family on Nov 16, 1970, and he served for 20 years until he retired.

His main duties were to ensure the safety of Mr Lee, following him on overseas trips. Wherever Mr Lee went, Mr Kanda would be close by.

Although Mr Lee had his own assistant, Mr Kanda was sometimes tasked with shopping for his clothes and making sure his swimming trunks and goggles were ready for his swim, the former bodyguard said.

"When I was first assigned to be his SO (security officer), I was afraid I might do something wrong. But I slowly built up courage, and the family accepted and trusted me around them."

Mr Kanda said he remembers Mr Lee as a disciplined man. The former bodyguard will never forget his last day working for the founding father on Aug 15, 1990. The next day was Mr Kanda's birthday, and he received what he describes as the best birthday present of his life; a personally signed testimonial by Mr Lee, he said.

Mr Kanda never used the testimonial as a job reference. Instead, he had it framed and it hangs proudly in his living room.

He said: "I will always remember Mr Lee. Even on my deathbed, I will be thinking of him."

This article by The New Paper was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.

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