Lee Kuan Yew improved financial status of Indians: Trade unionist G Muthukumarasamy in eulogy

Lee Kuan Yew improved financial status of Indians: Trade unionist G Muthukumarasamy in eulogy
Mr G Muthukumarasamy delivering his eulogy

Eulogy delivered by Mr G Muthukumarasamy, General Secretary for Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated at the University Cultural Centre:

Thank you for the opportunity given to me to say a few words about our former Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. There is so much to talk about Mr. Lee. He was an outstanding leader but outstanding father, as far as I know. And I feel very privileged to have met him. Mr. Lee has inspired my own personal development as a worker, a unionist and a leader. And that glory is credited to him. When I was young, my father would often tell me about Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee saw the hardships experienced by the Indian community at the time and he was determined to help and make a difference. Or else none of them would be able to stand on their own feet.

During those days, most Indian families had single incomes because they did not allow their women to work. However, Mr. Lee greatly encouraged and emboldened Indian women to join the workforce, to learn a skill and help their families financially. As more Indian women started to work, their families began to earn higher incomes. He wanted to protect the women who worked late at night.

Because Mr. Lee had also made sure that public housing was affordable, the combined incomes of the husband and wife enabled Indian families to purchase a basic house and start families. Today, we see many dual-income families in the Indian community. If he didn't do that then, we wouldn't be here today. We have to thank Mr. Lee for that.

I would like to share with you a personal interaction I had with Mr. Lee many years ago. Many people talk about Mr. Lee's dedication, self-discipline and strictness - you can say that I experienced this firsthand! When I was an apprentice wireman at PWD, my colleagues and I were asked by my supervisor to go to the newly-built Changi Cottage to service the air-conditioning system. We did not know who lived there or used the space. When we got there, we serviced the air-conditioning system as per my supervisor's instructions. As we were finishing up, Mr. Lee, who was then PM, came in to the room. When we saw him, we got extremely nervous but finished the job.

When we were done, Mr. Lee asked me to call in my supervisor. What happened next is still in my mind like it happened yesterday. When my supervisor came in, Mr. Lee said, "When a job is given to you, you should do it. I asked you to service the air-conditioning. Please service it now."

My colleagues and I were worried that we had not done the job correctly. We watched as my supervisor serviced the air-conditioning. When he was done, Mr. Lee reiterated that he had given him the job because he thought he could do it - not for him to turn around and re-assign it to his team. He told my supervisor that he did not want to see him again.

The incident left a deep impression on me. Mr. Lee believed in one thing - one must do correctly what he is told and everyone should do their own work. If a third person is asked to do the job, the impact would not be right. We must not pass the job to others, and walk away from it. We must show involvement in our work and do it properly. This is how a leader should be. I felt I should share this experience.

His philosophy does not disappear at any point of time.

Mr. Lee also gave much support to the unions and their members. In those days, there used to be lembaga (Adult Education Board). He strongly encouraged union members to study at the Board. In one of his May Day speeches, he would urge union members to upgrade their skills. Many heeded his call to do so upon his advice and became technicians and engineers.

I was one of them and I'm proud of that. If he didn't do that, we wouldn't have progressed to today.

Mr. Lee would also encourage union members to live and work together harmoniously and help each other out. He would often say, do not be contented with what you have, and motivated all to progress in life. We are very fortunate to have had a leader like him. Mr. Lee's passing is a great loss to our country. He was passionate about and dedicated to Singapore and Singaporeans, and this cannot be merely expressed with words. Nevertheless, we cannot help but sing his praises.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I pray to God for your soul to rest in peace.

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