Lee Kuan Yew taught me how to love my wife

Lee Kuan Yew taught me how to love my wife
SAFE: Mr Karuppiah Kandasamy (far right) would always be close behind Mr Lee, as shown in these two photographs which were taken in the early 80s.

While Mr Karuppiah Kandasamy was inspired by Mr Lee Kuan Yew's drive and passion for Singapore, what impressed him most was his love for his wife, Madam 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 married Miss Kwa in secret as they felt her parents, her college and the scholarship authorities might not approve.

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

"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 lady by my side."

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

"He started to bring 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 joined the Singapore Police Force in 1960 when he was 20. He excelled as a police trainee and was selected to be an instructor at the Police Training School at Thomson Road in the mid-1960s.

In 1970, he was called up to join the elite Police Security Branch and on Nov 16, 1970, was assigned to Mr Lee's family, where 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 behind.

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, he 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."

MEMORIES

Mr Kanda said he has many memories of Mr Lee as a disciplined man, but one that he will never forget was formed on his last day working for him.

"I will always remember my last day, Aug 15, 1990. I spoke to Mrs Lee when she was going to her office and told her that it was my last day. She said that I must tell the prime minister," said Mr Kanda.

When he told Mr Lee about his retirement plans, he asked him why he was doing so.

"I told him that I had exceeded my retirement age by five years and had to go. He then asked me if I had another job. I told him there were two jobs waiting. He then told me: 'Well, if you have to go, you have to go.'"

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 was first published on Mar 31, 2015.
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