Monday, March 30, 2015

In Memoriam: Opinion pieces on Lee Kuan Yew from the newspapers around the world

24 Mar 2015

"Many of us heard him and will never forget him," writes former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in the Washington Post.

SINGAPORE: Following the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew on Monday (Mar 23), newspapers from around the world have published opinion and analysis pieces about his life and his accomplishments.

Henry Kissinger, Washington Post

"I began this eulogy by mentioning my friendship with Lee. He was not a man of many sentimental words. And he nearly always spoke of substantive matters. But one could sense his attachment. A conversation with Lee, whose life was devoted to service and who spent so much of his time on joint explorations, was a vote of confidence that sustained one’s sense of purpose.

"The great tragedy of Lee’s life was that his beloved wife was felled by a stroke that left her a prisoner in her body, unable to communicate or receive communication. Through all that time, Lee sat by her bedside in the evening reading to her. He had faith that she understood despite the evidence to the contrary.

"Perhaps this was Lee Kuan Yew’s role in his era. He had the same hope for our world. He fought for its better instincts even when the evidence was ambiguous. But many of us heard him and will never forget him.”

Roger Cohen, The New York Times

"You don’t have to like Singapore to admire it. Once you begin to admire it, of course, you may discover in yourself a sneaking affection. The achievement of Lee Kuan Yew, the nation’s founding father, who died Monday at the age of 91, is immense. The 20th century produced few greater statesmen and perhaps no greater pragmatist.

"The fact that the elements for cataclysm exist does not mean that cataclysm is inevitable. Lee demonstrated this in an age where the general cacophony, and the need to manage and spin every political minute, makes statesmanship ever more elusive. The determining factor is leadership. What defines leadership above all is conviction, discipline in the pursuit of a goal, adaptability in the interest of the general good, and far-sightedness."

John Burton, Peter Montagnon, Kevin Brown and Jeremy Grant, The Financial Times

“His greatest achievement was to promote the concept of good governance in Southeast Asia, a region long plagued by corrupt, inefficient governments.  As Singapore’s Prime Minister for more than 30 years, he built his small island republic into one of the world’s economic success stories.”

The Guardian

“Mr Lee’s wide-ranging connections and blunt advice – he astutely balanced the major powers – won him respect in both Beijing and Washington. In the region, Singapore sparked talk of ‘Asian values’, with other leaders envying not just its wealth, stability, efficiency and cleanliness, but also its tight controls and its culture of obedience. Its success was welcomed as proof that a vibrant economy and sustained development could – or would only – thrive under authoritarian government. Mr Lee once warned that democracy’s exuberance ‘leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development’.”

The Economist

“If you seek his monument: Look around Singapore. Prosperous, orderly, clean, efficient and honestly governed, it is not the work of Lee Kuan Yew alone. But even his severest critics would agree that Mr Lee, who died early on March 23rd (Singapore time) at the age of 91, played an enormous part.

"Under him Singapore, with no natural resources, has become one of the world’s richest countries. Many admirers look to it as a model, and Mr Lee as a sage. He did indeed have much to teach the world; but some, especially in China, draw the wrong lesson: that authoritarianism works."

Parag Khanna, Foreign Policy

“What more can be said about Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father, who passed away on March 23, local time? Simple: He will be one of the most admired leaders of the 21st century as well.

"Lee would surely regret not having survived just a few more months to witness Singapore’s 50th anniversary celebrations this August. But he can rest in peace knowing that the country he led from 1959 to 1990 is the world’s most successful post-colonial nation.”

Zuraidah Ibrahim, South China Morning Post

“To outside observers, a favourite question seems to be whether Singapore can survive Lee Kuan Yew. While this might have been a worry among Singaporeans of his vintage, it is no longer a preoccupation of many, particularly the younger generation. Many have not grown up with him as the prime minister.

For them, Lee is a mythical figure. He is a founding father who - depending on whom they listen to - was a domineering force, or the fearless leader who spilled sweat and tears and ached to his dying days for the Singapore story to continue.”

Alex Lo, South China Morning Post

“Singapore, and to a greater or lesser extent Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China, all achieved riches and a measure of stability by not following Western scripts. Lee's Singapore also challenges the widespread Western notion that no government can succeed without being fully democratic and that authoritarianism must lead to corruption and inefficiency. Lee showed how a strong government could not only avoid those vices, but was a prerequisite of the twin political virtues of prosperity and stability.”

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