So much has been said about The Man – the good, the bad, the ugly – in the past week of national mourning, but nothing quite encapsulates how I feel except Augustin’s piece “I Know The Myth, But Not The Man“, written two years ago for the now-defunct Breakfast Network. I have no words for now, not anytime soon (part bereft, part conflicted, part ashamed, part excited for the future). This too shall pass, and with the end of this chapter there will be more to learn, read, and reflect, as we emerge stronger. Here’s a short extract:
“I know very little about Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. He stepped down as Prime Minister a year after I was born. I do not know the man in our history books, the one who made fiery political speeches, who cried on television when we were separated from Malaysia, who challenged the Singapore Airlines pilots when they went on strike in 1980. The Mr. Lee Kuan Yew I read in the history books was so Machiavellian, it seemed unreal. To me, he was more myth than man.
Mr Lee once famously said: “You marry a non-graduate, then you are going to worry if your son or daughter is going to make it to the university.”
I would very much like to meet Mr Lee in person.
I would tell him that my parents are both non-graduates and I am on my way to graduating with honors. I would tell him that his iron-fisted approach might have worked miracles in the early years — but not today.
Finally, I would tell him that even for his mistakes, he is still very much loved both locally and overseas. In fact, I wish I knew more about Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The man, not the myth.”