Lee Kuan Yew.
Singaporean public lament over the death of their founding patriarch is understandable. Lee was a leader of remarkable talent in taking Singapore from an important British colonial transport hub to a first world identity in one generation.
Given Australia’s current floundering government with no inspiring leader of any political persuasion in sight, any thoughtful person would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps authoritarian government has many advantages in advancing ordinary peoples living standards.
There will be many who throw their hands up in the air in dismay at the very suggestion that dictatorial authority is compatible with democratic rule, but in Singapore’s case the result is only too plain to see. I’m old enough to remember Singapore in the early 1950s when I first visited the island. Admittedly south-east Asia was still in recovery mode after the defeat of Japan in World War Two, but even then Singapore was nowhere as economically deprived as its closest neighbours Indonesia and Malay. It’s fortunate geographical location always ensured a certain degree of prosperity in terms of world trade, but still it was a long way from first world.
Despite the multi-ethnic composition of the population where each group to some extent was always anxious to advance their own tribal interests, Lee was able to unite them into a cohesive whole no mean feat when compared to the history of its neighbours. The Chinese cleansing in Indonesia and several years of armed conflict in Malay. This most ability to unite was probably Lee's greatest achievement, the ability to unite people in a complementary vision of their future without which progress in any field is neigh impossible. Admittedly harsh measure were from time to time employed, but there is no doubt the majority of Singaporeans enjoyed eventually a higher standard of living that made the policy worthwhile.
Strangely in the fifties Lee was considered in conservative circles to be a communist, while today the left of politics consider him to be a right wing dictator, both sides perusing their own political agendas neither seeming able to see real benefits in Lee’s rule, each focusing instead on some restrictive aspect of his government. Many western governments historically have over the years discredited their political adversaries in similar manner, while they no longer jail them as in the pas they are often fairly loose with the truth, freely discrediting their personalities.
Despite some of Lee’s questionable policies, his achievement have been remarkable taking Singapore’s GDP to levels not obtain in Australia or many other western first world countries. Turning the island state into a powerhouse of Asian affairs. Singapore will surely miss his guiding hand.