Mdm Halimah Yacob: On behalf of this house and with a heavy heart, I wish to place on record the demise of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the honourable member of the Parliament, for Tanjong Pagar GRC, and founding Prime Minister of Singapore
on 23rd March 2015. Mr Lee’s demise is a great loss to Parliament and the people of Singapore and it is with great sadness that this House pays tribute to the man we know as the Founding Father of Singapore. Mr Lee was an outstanding Parliamentarian and his speeches in this House were never dull or inconsequential. It was in this House that he fought many battles and shaped numerous policies to set Singapore on the right trajectory. Mr Lee founded the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1954 and took part in the 1955 landmark Singapore legislative assembly election. At the age of 31, Mr Lee secured the seat of Tanjong Pagar. A seat he held for 14 successive general elections, and 1 by-election. His parliamentary career spanned nearly 60 years, earning him the honour of being the longest serving Member of Parliament in Singapore and undoubtedly, the most illustrious of them all. Mr Lee became the first Prime Minister of Singapore after the People’s Action Party secured 43 of the 51 seats in the legislative assembly during the general election of 1959. He took the reins of leadership for 31 years and led the then fledging Singapore through a most uncertain time. He gave the founding generation hope and a clear sense of direction, especially when Singapore was taking its first, tentative steps as an independent nation. This was just what our forefathers needed. Mr Lee was a “conviction politician”. When asked in his memoirs, what it took to be a politician, he said “You must have convictions.” Mr Lee, himself, did not set out with the aspiration to be a politician. In his memoirs, he recounted that he returned to Singapore from his overseas studies to be a lawyer. But he was driven to assume public office by two convictions: One, he wanted a Singapore without a colonial master, and two, he wanted a system that focused on meritocracy. In Parliament, Mr Lee set very high standards for himself and expected the same from all the other Members of Parliament too. In a speech to Parliament in 1999, Mr Lee said that he wanted Members of Parliament whose “instincts are immediately for Singaporeans”. He reminded us that “Parliament as an arena for the contest of wits and wills over matters of policies will always remain important because of our system of parliamentary democracy” but that we must “make no mistake…. In this Chamber, we are playing for keeps. The future of Singapore and its people…. is not a question for light-hearted banter.” Even when he was ill and quite frail, Mr Lee would make tremendous effort to attend Parliament Sittings as he took his duties very seriously. Mr Lee never flinched from taking hard decisions, many of which were taken in this august Chamber. In 1968, when speaking on the Employment Bill, he said: “We will be judged as a government by results. These results depend, among other things, upon the morale and enthusiasm of the people, and the pace set by their leaders in Parliament and outside.” Mr Lee’s abiding concern was the interest and welfare of the people, even if there were painful adjustments to be made in the short term. People respected and followed him because of one very important element and that is trust. They trusted that he did not make decisions for his own self-aggrandisement or personal benefit but truly for the benefit of Singapore. Mr Lee’s personal leadership and his style and values helped shape the tone and the kind of parliament that we have inherited today. Deeply committed to Singapore, passionate to ensure not just Singapore’s survival but also its success, he was a leader par excellence. He had devoted his entire life to make the life of all Singaporeans better. Mr Lee has left a deep impact on this House and we will feel the vacuum. The least that we as Parliamentarians can do now is to uphold the values that he held dear
when he was alive. In 1999, when we moved to this Chamber from the old Parliament House, Mr Lee said, “The importance of this Chamber did not, and does not, depend on its size and its grandeur, but upon the quality of men and women who occupy it as representatives of the people. By the standards of other public and private buildings in Singapore, it is modest by comparison. But that is a virtue. Behind the understatement lie great strengths of character, integrity and determination. That is what will see Singapore through.” he said. “Not the grand statements and monuments in brick and mortar or steel and concrete, with which so many other new nations try to impress themselves and their followers”, he said. Mr Lee could very well have described himself and his own life when he made that statement. Mr Lee reminded us that, “Nobody believed that we could make it, but we have. But there is no reason to believe that we will continue to make it. We will continue to make it only if there are tough-minded people who know the difference between the froth and the substance.” Honourable Members, it now falls upon us as Members of this House to ensure that we continue Mr Lee’s legacy of a responsible and effective Parliament, a duty we owe to the people of Singapore. The House records with deep regret the passing of the Honourable Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC and founding Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. On behalf of all Members, I wish to express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the family of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I also wish to thank the thousands that have braved the hot sun to pay their last respects to Mr Lee for your support and sympathies. In this moment of grief, we have become even more united as Singaporeans. Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s death is indeed a grievous loss to Singapore and this House.