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Lee Kuan Yew combined the Vatican with Confucius

Monday, 23 March, 2015

“He modelled Singapore’s democracy after what he saw in the Vatican, where only cardinals nominated by a Pope could elect the next Pope… As Prime Minister he bankrupted or imprisoned individuals in the political opposition… He spoke in disparaging and politically incorrect ways of women, the disadvantaged, and both the downtrodden and the powerful — but worked harder than anyone else in Southeast Asia to build a harmonious, peaceful state, where all races felt welcomed in an incorruptible, transparent meritocracy.” Danny Quah writing about Lee Kuan Yew, who died yesterday aged 91.

In his 31 years as Prime Minister, from 1959 to 1990, Lee transformed Singapore into a globalized economy and his template has brought vast wealth to Asia. But despite what Danny Quah implies, Lee was not a democrat. Rather, he was a Confucian leader and this is what made him a role model for the rulers of modern China. They, too, have seen their nation rise from rags to riches and they, too, are frightened that open debate will undermine the fragile stability that underpins the edifice.

“Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister… She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac… Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.” — Lee Kuan Yew

The Straits Times has a tribute blog about reaction to the death of the man who created the modern miracle of Singapore. It is also printing a special 24-page tabloid edition devoted to his life and work.

Singapore mourns


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