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Bertha HarianBertha Harian


For the PM, the father’s son

Dear Prime Minister,

You look awful. I know you can’t help it; very few people who have lost a father can. Older folk will tell you that you need to rest, drink lots of water and take medicinal soups. Younger folk might well recommend cool cucumber slices to take away the puffiness that has built up around your eyes these past few days. Your own father will probably recommend meditation.

Yet I know you cannot rest. You have too many hands to shake, too many people –  including very important people from abroad – to greet and you are being snowed under by cards, flowers and well-wishes. Maybe you will retain some as keepsakes and give everything else to the National Archives? Then again, this is not the time to worry about post-funeral arrangements. You still have to get through tomorrow.

It must be tough to be the son of Lee Kuan Yew. Personally, I’ve often wondered if you’ve ever felt the need to measure up to the man. To be sure, some of us did not know what to think when you were inducted into politics; this Brigadier-General with big framed glasses. No one doubted your intellect, we just wondered what sort of a leader you would become. How much like your father would you be?

I think many Singaporeans have been/are still curious about the father-son relationship. It’s probably none of our business but I can safely say we devour every bit of news that involves the Lee family. Your sister helped with her articles, painting a more personal picture of Lee Kuan Yew and showing us glimpses of his devotion to his wife, your mother. Then there were, of course, your FaceBook posts. They made you more like us, although frankly, this citizen wishes that you would remain prime ministerial, mythical and mysterious. But that’s just me.

Over the past few days, your fellow citizens have watched you keep a leash on your emotions. ALL of us wanted to know if you are holding it together. We dissected and analysed your every look and word. People asked, example, why you didn’t mention “my father’’ when you addressed the nation on his death. Others said you were speaking as Prime Minister, not as the son of Lee Kuan Yew. It must be hard to divorce the two roles. Sir, you did it admirably.

Reams of information have now come out about your family life. I have to say that I still can’t get over the family taking their baths by using scooping out water from a jar, as your brother Mr Lee Hsien Yang disclosed. That frugality is something most of us admired of Mr Lee. It pains me every time I come across people who say that the Lee family have amassed a fortune somehow. When they say this, I think about how your father stood up in Parliament to clear the rumour that the two of you had bought some condominium units at a huge discount. Never mind that there were never any open accusations, just whispers. I think about what your father said in the past about leaders of Third World countries who fly in to rich countries in their private jets to ask for, ahem, aid. Your father even had to account for the Singapore Airlines flight that took your mother home from London when she fell ill. He paid for it, he said.

I see a lot of his frugal nature in you, and I thank God for that.

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How must you feel now that hundreds of thousands of citizens are honouring your father?  More than touched, I’m sure. They queued for hours to have just a few seconds in front of your father’s casket. Yet, in that same action, we see the Singapore that has been built over 50 years, in the efficiency of the logistics and the patience and resilience of its people. We are not a cold people; and this is not a soulless country. I hope you wave away all the insane and inane remarks by unkind people and those who are in too much of a hurry to dissect his legacy. He was after all a public figure, even if he was your parent.

I know you are not religious by nature, but it will not stop me from praying for your father’s soul, and for God to give you strength.

He was a great man.

As you said, there will never be anyone like him ever again.

Yours sincerely,

A citizen of Singapore

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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