INTERNATIONAL students from Singapore are paying tribute to their nation’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away early this morning. Meld reporter Kai Yi Wong reports.
Singaporeans around the world awoke this morning to the news that Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of the island-nation and a well-respected statesman, has passed away aged 91.
As a mark of his influence, tributes have flowed in from all corners of the globe, with US President Barack Obama hailing Mr Lee as “a visionary” as well as a “devoted public servant”, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo calling him “one of the most influential politicians in Asia”.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott hailed Mr Lee as one of the “significant leaders of our time”.
“Our region owes much to Lee Kuan Yew… Here in Australia and beyond, leaders sought and learned from his wise counsel,” Mr Abbott said.
Possessing a crystal clear vision of the future, Mr Lee built sleepy Singapore up from a third-world settlement to an independent republic whose GDP per capita today has outstripped that of Japan and Hong Kong, making it one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
Amid internal strife in the 1960s and 1970s, Mr Lee skilfully led the country out of its troubles and in the process, gained a reputation among world leaders for his temerity and straight-shooting governing style.
Student communities took to social media to express their condolences and share tributes to Mr Lee.
On the Singaporeans of Victoria (SOV) Facebook page, a short note was posted in remembrance of Mr Lee. The non-profit organisation – a collaboration among various Singapore student associations – also switched their bright red logo for a more solemn black one.
RMIT University’s Singapore Student Association also replaced their logo with a monochrome grey version.
Across Melbourne, students paid tribute to Mr Lee and reflected on his life and contributions to Singapore.
President of RMIT University’s Singapore Student Association Noel Phua, 25 described how the younger generation of Singaporeans should carry on the hard work done by Mr Lee.
“When we were born, the Garden City was already flourishing and harvesting the fruits of our pioneers,” Mr Phua said.
“It is definitely a loss to us Singaporeans and we should continue to plough the fields to harvest what Mr Lee had done for us.”
Echoing his sentiments, internal vice-president of SOV Jerold Tan expressed admiration for how Mr Lee had put Singapore on the world map.
“It makes me proud to be a Singaporean, and I’m thankful that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had implemented such policies, that gave Singaporeans like myself the opportunity to be the envy of others, even if I am from a small island state,” he said.
Mr Tan hoped Mr Lee’s legacy would motivate current leaders to build upon the foundation he has laid.
“The younger generation should take inspiration from this and step up and become the leaders that Singapore needs and deserves, by striving towards Mr Lee’s high standards,” he added.
Sathisvaran Kanavathy, vice-president of the Singapore Medical Society of Victoria, praised Mr Lee’s determination and vision as factors for Singapore’s success.
“When we travel overseas, our Singaporean identity is met with praise and admiration for hailing from a clean, green and modern country. This pride we share as Singaporeans stems from the effort of our founding fathers,” he said.
“A loving father, husband and leader, Mr. Lee showed us how he gave his all to the country and was still be able to love as he did. As we mourn Mr Lee’s passing, let us acknowledge his contributions to the world and celebrate his long and illustrious life.”
Singapore student and part-time DJ Eugene Cheng, 22, summed it up succinctly.
“Looking back to what Singapore was 20 years ago when I was a toddler and comparing it to what it is today and what it is to become, Singapore will not have been able to achieve its current status without the help of the transformational leader that he is,” he said.
The Singapore High Commission in Canberra has opened a condolence book for the public to express their condolences. It will be open from 2 to 5pm today and 10am to 5pm from 24 to 27 March.
The public can also share the memories of the late Mr Lee at www.rememberingleekuanyew.sg.