By Catherine Lim
You transformed little, obscure, resource-poor Singapore into one of the most successful economies in the world. If today Singapore is described in breathless superlatives—‘best’, ‘richest’, ‘cleanest’, ‘brightest’—it is all because of you.
If only you had done so without so much human cost. If only the high ranking of Singapore in international surveys on economic development were matched by a similar ranking in surveys on human rights.
Your ruling style was distinguished by its efficiency, purposefulness and determination. Once you had established your principles of governance, you followed them with relentless energy.
If only this single-mindedness had not blinded you to the need for change in the evolving political landscape of Singapore. It was extremely painful for concerned Singaporeans to see how the hard reality overtook you at the General Election in 2011, and you had to step down.
You have been described as a great leader. In the many tributes to you, your qualities of greatness were singled out for special mention—your courage, your strength, your vision, your fearlessness, your passion for doing the best for your people.
If only you had shown one more attribute of great leadership—the ability to acknowledge mistakes made and the humility to say sorry for policies that had caused pain and hardship to others.
You were such a wonderful husband and father, the consummate family man. Although you kept your family life private, Singaporeans got to know about it through many engaging anecdotes and family photographs, after your death.
If only this deep sense of family closeness and love had been paralleled by a sense of compassion for the families of those political dissidents who were jailed for decades or had to flee into permanent exile.
You are much admired for your immense love of and devotion to your wife. Singaporeans must have been very moved when they read about how you cared for her in her illness, how you read her favourite novels to her. You had once been reported as saying that if there were an afterlife, you would hope to meet her there.
It must be the wish of even non-believers like myself, that you have been granted this dear wish of yours, your ultimate reward.
This post first published at catherinelim.sg