Memorable moments with Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Memorable moments with Mr Lee Kuan Yew
Mr Peter Ho, former Head of Civil Service (left), and Ms Yong Ying-I, Permanent Secretary of the Public Service Division and the Singapore Government's Chief Human Resource Officer.

MS YONG YING-I, PERMANENT SECRETARY OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE DIVISION AND THE SINGAPORE GOVERNMENT'S CHIEF HUMAN RESOURCE OFFICER

"When I accompanied Mr Lee to visit the new Khoo Teck Puat Hospital a few years ago, he peppered (the hospital CEO) with numerous questions about health-care delivery and serving patients.

He then peppered me about the problems with the building design. For example, he wanted to know whether the corridors get wet when it rains - they do. Whether the building might be less warm if we improve the planting of creepers down some of the walls. He even wanted to know whether... when it rained, it flooded and it overflowed to the hospital. The answer, fortunately, is no.

This attention to details by the boss matters. If the boss cares, everybody else up and down the line cares. If the boss doesn't care, standards can begin to slip."

FORMER HEAD OF CIVIL SERVICE PETER HO, ON MR LEE'S EMPHASIS ON LEADERSHIP

"Many years ago, when I was training to be an army officer under the SAF Overseas Scholarship scheme, I was summoned, together with (current DPM) Teo Chee Hean, to the Istana.

There, two young 18-year-old officer cadets presented themselves to PM Lee Kuan Yew. And he told us that the maritime command, as the Navy was then called, needed to be beefed up, and he wanted us to go over from the army. It was an intimidating encounter for the two of us.

When he asked us... to give it a try, it was hard to say anything, except to nod and gulp in agreement. These two landlubbers went on to join the maritime command. Teo became the Chief of Navy. I held a more modest position as Head of Naval Plans...

When I (look) back to those days, I see the PM making it his business to build up the Navy and to get good people into it. If something is important to him, he does not just take a personal interest, but also makes sure that the system is properly resourced by the right people and the right leaders."


AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE CHAN HENG CHEE, WHO WAS SINGAPORE'S AMBASSADOR TO THE US WHEN MR LEE MET THEN US PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON IN 2000

"Mr Lee, then Senior Minister, was told he would have a meeting with National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and President Clinton would do a 'drop-by' for about 15 to 20 minutes. Senior Minister had a conversation with Berger first. Then President Clinton strolled in, Coke can in hand, and sat on the sofa opposite Mr Lee. The back and forth went on and the meeting lasted about 45 minutes. I was told later that President Clinton was so impressed by Mr Lee that he turned to his officials and demanded: 'Why have I not met this man before?'

Later, Bill Clinton came to Singapore a couple of times after he stepped down from his presidency on his lecture rounds and he met Mr Lee again. He invited Mr Lee to the Clinton Global Initiative a few times. Finally, Mr Lee made an effort to attend a CGI in Hong Kong, scheduled from Dec 1 to 3, 2008. This was shortly after his heart surgery on Nov 29 to implant a cardiac pacemaker. He made an effort to show up, against his doctors' orders, because he had given his word. I am told as he spoke, the wound on his arm, where his drip had been, started to bleed. But he kept on speaking and he bled onto the sleeve of his jacket. That's the kind of commitment Mr Lee shows and that is his way."

Next Page: SR Nathan on Mr Lee's caring way

 

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