Former Singapore President Lee Kwan Yew dies @ 91

By admin on 23/03/2015

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Lee Kwan Yee, the founding father of modern Singapore who guided its development into a modern, stable nation as well as one of the world's richest, has died, the government announced.

Lee, 91, had been hospitalized since Feb. 5 for pneumonia and recently had been on life support. He "passed away peacefully'' earlyMonday, the prime minister's office said.

Lee led Singapore from 1959 to 1990 and remained a member of parliament after leaving the office of prime minister. His son, Lee Hsien Loong, is Singapore's third and current prime minster.

Singapore, with its British heritage, became a major player in global shipping with its strategic location at the Singapore Strait and Port of Singapore.

Under Lee, Singapore also became known for the government's authoritarian rule, strict law enforcement and limits on public protests. The government justified the tactics as necessary to remain stable and independent, given its location surrounded by the large Islamic nations of Malaysia and Indonesia.

That strict rule was reflected in the clean, modern and affluent city that Singapore became. With low taxes, good schools, low crime and investment-friendly laws, Singapore became a popular place for western companies, including many European businesses, to base their employees and operations focused on Southeast Asia and East Asia.

The authoritarian rule drew global criticism as well, however, as it allowed Lee to exert strong control over the country. Some political rivals were jailed, and Singapore aggressively used the courts to silence journalists and opposition leaders. The strong rule was reflected in minor ways too, such as a ban on the sale of chewing gum, a tactic eliminating the need for gum cleanup on city sidewalks, plazas and quays, picturesque areas of commercial development along the Singapore River.

Former president George H.W. Bush called Lee "my friend'' and expressed condolences.

"I respected his effective leadership of his wonderful, resilient and innovative countries in ways that lifted living standards without indulging a culture of corruption,'' Bush said in a statement. "Because of the example set by Lee Kuan Yew's singular leadership … I am confident that the future will be bright for Singapore.''

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon offered condolences, saying Lee will be remembered "as one of the most inspiring Asian leaders.''

"Lee Kuan Yew was a legendary figure in Asia, widely respected for his strong leadership and statesmanship,'' Ban said in a statement. "During his three decades in office, he helped Singapore to transition from a developing country to one of the most developed in the world, transforming it into a thriving international business hub.''

Lee was recognized as the nation's modern founder, as Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence.

He led Singapore to break with British rule by merging with Malaysia in 1963. But racial tensions between Islamic Malays and Singapore's ethnic Chinese majority burst into the open with riots, and the relationship was severed in 1965, when Singapore became an independent republic.

 

Posted on March, 23 2015

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