Mon, Jan 24, 2011
The New Paper
'It made MM Lee very real'

[Above: Proud sister Julia Chan-Lee (left) and mum Sophia Chan with Mr Robin Chan (centre), one of the seven authors of MM Lee's new book.]

By Tay Shi'an

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» Hard Truths For S'pore: MM Lee

WHEN her younger brother showed her excerpts from the new book on Minister Mentor (MM) Lee Kuan Yew, Mrs Julia Chan-Lee, 30, was fascinated.

She said: "It made MM very real. It gave depth to what we only knew through textbooks and newspapers. It has increased my admiration for what he's done as the founder of this country."


Yesterday, Mrs Chan-Lee and her mum were at the book launch as her brother, The Straits Times (ST) reporter Robin Chan, 27, went on stage as one of the seven authors of Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going.

Officially launched by MM Lee himself, the book is the result of 16 interviews conducted with him over 10 months by a team of ST journalists, led by ST editor Han Fook Kwang.

The book contains MM's views on diverse topics like Singapore politics, relations with our neighbouring countries, the environment and insights into his family, children and grandchildren.

Yesterday, MM drove home his key message: That "this precious, accidental, improbable, unlikely nation that we have created should be nurtured, should be carefully strengthened and built upon."

That we should not forget what a miracle it was, that a country made of people of different races and languages "turfed out" of Malaysia would become the success it is today and how fragile that success could be if future generations get complacent.

MM also joked about comments on how he was anxious to get the book project going.

He said: "When you are 80-plus, you're not sure how long more you've got. So I want to leave a message which I have slowly formed out of my 80-plus years of experience."

Dr Tony Tan, chairman of Singapore Press Holdings, said MM was driven to pass on these insights and views to a younger generation, fearing they may lose sight of the "special circumstances" and "extraordinary effort" needed to make and keep Singapore a success.

This drive came across loud and clear for Dr Gillian Koh, of the Institute of Policy Studies, who attended the launch.

She said: "His view is we are a nation in the making, and there are some key messages we need to keep reiterating...He's a very realistic and pragmatic person; he hasn't changed one bit. And that realism drives him to want to share his message. He's quite determined, fighting to the last breath."

Swiss national Christian Pauli, 44, who has lived in Asia for 18 years, with the last 10 years in Singapore, was impressed by MM's "down-to-earth appeal" and how he clearly puts his message across.

The chairman of the Swiss Business Association here was struck by MM's openness on issues such as homosexuality.

In the book, MM said he believes gays are born that way, that "some people are that way and just leave them be".

Mr Pauli likened this attitude to how MM Lee has taken Singapore forward. He said: "When things happen, you don't always have to make a fuss about it. It's there, you cannot change it, you have to get over it and go forward...

"All the challenges around Singapore, he's gone forward and made so much progress...It's absolutely amazing for a country with no resources other than good human resources and good people. Compared to other countries in South-east Asia, Singapore really went the right way, the good way."

But he also did not forget MM Lee's warning, that there is still "a long way to go".

Mrs Sophia Chan, 59, the mother of ST's Mr Robin Chan, said: "I'm very glad he was included in this book project, to work with a great man and with a group of intellectual people.""

Get your copy

Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going, published by Singapore Press Holdings' Straits Times Press, includes a DVD and is available at leading bookstores for $39.90 (inclusive of GST).

Those interested in buying a copy can also send an e-mail to stpressbooks@sph.com.sg or call 63198347 (May) and 63198341 (Jasmine).

The book can also be bought online from www.stpressbooks.com.sg.


This article was first published in The New Paper.

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