Farewell, Mr Lee.

Dear Mr Lee Kuan Yew,

It feels so strange to be writing this letter. As a kid who grew up in Singapore in the 90s, you seemed like a national institution who would always be around, like the Merlion or the Singapore Girl. Your passing this morning still feels surreal, even if we’ve all known for a while that your health had been deteriorating and the news had been progressively gloomy each day this past week.

I never got to experience the drastic change that Singapore had undergone in its first few decades, having been born in the late 80s when the country had already reached a high level of economic and infrastructural stability. Everything I know about Singapore’s development, and what you’ve done, has been through textbooks, school lessons and the words of my parents and grandparents. Still, the results of all that development – your results – can be seen today. I mean, where else can I walk through dark streets alone at 3am, secure in the knowledge that I will not be mugged or attacked?

I know we Singaporeans complain a lot about all the ways in which our country could be improved upon and what we lack but I think in doing so, valid though our concerns might be, we neglect to see the ways in which our country has already done well at and what we already have. Having not gone through the tougher times that accompanied our country’s independence, I think my generation has come to take many of the benefits we have – benefits that were sacrificed for and hard-fought – for granted. For that, I apologise and offer my belated thanks. I can only imagine how those who have lived through those tumultuous years must feel now (not to mention your family).

It is very sad that you will not be able to join us to celebrate our fiftieth year of independence in just a few months’ time but I hope you rest assured in the knowledge that your efforts and sacrifices have not been for nothing. I might not have known you personally but every day I enjoy the fruits of your labour – in the world class healthcare I get when I’m sick, in the compulsory, highly-subsidised education I’ve enjoyed over the years, in the economic thriving that our policies have engendered, in the safety and security years of vigilance have ensured.

Singapore might not be perfect (which country is?) but thanks to your leadership and guidance, it’s a lot better than what it could have been. Thank you for living your life in service to the country and I hope you enjoy your well-deserved rest. Farewell, Mr Lee. God bless.

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