Let's write an exciting sequel to our S'pore story: ESM Goh
LEE Kuan Yew was, and always would be, his teacher, said Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong.
"He never ceased sharing and I kept on learning," he said in his eulogy for Singapore's first prime minister at the University Cultural Centre yesterday.
Mr Goh, 73, took over as prime minister from Mr Lee in 1990, and handed the reins to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2004.
Mr Goh recounted how he first met Mr Lee in 1958, when he was a Raffles Institution student and had gone to the latter's law office to invite him to speak to Mr Goh's fellow students.
He described chairing Mr Lee's talk as his "high point" in school.
As early as 1967, Mr Goh witnessed the way Mr Lee had become synonymous with Singapore.
He recounted how, on a trip to Puerto Rico in 1967, a Puerto Rican excitedly shouted "Chino, Chino" when he saw Mr Goh.
"I shouted back, 'Singapore!' He replied, 'Lee Kuan Yew!' "
Touching on the policies that Mr Lee had introduced, Mr Goh explained that the former prime minister had driven his people hard because he had to toughen a fledgling country quickly. "He was a leader, not a populist politician."
"But Mr Lee taught people how to fish and brought fish to Singapore waters. He housed and schooled millions. He gave us safe streets and parks," noted Mr Goh.
"The outpouring of grief, gratitude and love for him says it all."
Mr Goh also described Mr Lee as a "worrier" who single-mindedly planned for leadership succession.
He wanted to be judged on whether Singapore would survive after he and the old guard were gone, not by the city he had built and the lives he had improved.
In this process, Mr Goh noted, Mr Lee had cut short the political careers of his old colleagues, which had been painful for him.
"I know he felt for them," he said.
It was from Mr Lee that Mr Goh learnt about leadership renewal. Mr Goh stepped down after 14 years at the helm.
But the two men continued to have lunch regularly.
"Our conversations never drifted far from his life's work. We shared many common concerns, including the emerging trend of income stratification and social fragmentation.
"He worried about almost every aspect of Singapore."
Once in a while, Mr Goh added, Mr Lee showed his soft side, and they would talk about their families and health.
Mr Goh added: "He transformed our lives. He touched our hearts. We grieve. But I believe Mr Lee would say, 'What to do? This is life.' "
Mr Goh urged the public to honour the country's founding father, saying that Mr Lee would want the Singapore story to continue.
"He would want Singapore to succeed long after he is gone," Mr Goh stressed.
"Let us stay united, across race, language, religion, across young and old, across rich and poor, across our whole society, to write an exciting sequel to his and our Singapore story."
THE STRAITS TIMES