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It has been a year since the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Our founding prime minister passed away on 23 March 2015, 3:18 am. The entire city was plunged in gloom and most remember the way tens of thousands of Singaporeans rushed to pay respects to him in the parliament house.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew had contributed much to the early development of Singapore. The Singapore he took charge of in 1965 was markedly different from the Singapore most of us know today. Unemployment rates were high, living conditions were poor and society rife with unrest.
He tackled these problems with methodicity and discipline. Together with his team of politicians, they created job opportunities by encouraging multinational corporations to invest in Singapore, further developing the shipping industry and setting up Jurong Industrial Estate. They built affordable public housing and imposed strict racial quotas to facilitate racial harmony. They cleaned the city and set up a healthcare system incorporating both public and private sectors to ensure that all citizens remain healthy and fit for work.
He also carried out his tasks with a humility that shocked many Singaporeans. One such example was personally participating in the cleaning of Singapore River and launching a tree-planting campaign. He firmly believed that a clean, green environment would lead to healthier and more wholesome social conditions. Because of his remarkable initiative, Singapore was transformed from a third-world fishing-port into a bustling urban metropolis.
Even though Mr Lee was the Prime Minister of Singapore, he took time to pick up second and even third languages. He never missed a single Mandarin or Malay lesson despite all the parliamentary meetings he had to attend. He was said to be a humble student and eventually was fluent enough to give speeches not only in English, but in Mandarin and Malay as well.
Beyond being a revolutionary statesman, he was also a husband and a father. One of his favourite pastimes was taking walks in the park with his wife. He also conversed regularly with his children and would often take them with him when he was making his rounds. He believed in living an active life, swimming and jogging frequently when he was younger. As he got older, his daughter Dr Lee Wei Ling had a lift installed in his Oxley Road home–but instead of taking the lift, he always took the stairs.
Singapore has now outlived Mr Lee Kuan Yew by a year. Multiple remembrance events are held around the country, marking his legacy. Mr Lee has passed on, but has left behind a well-structured government and a flourishing Singapore. One of Mr Lee’s greatest qualities was his ability of foresight. As Singapore looks back and remembers his contributions to the country, may she also look towards the future and ensure that his legacy lives on.