Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, key 20th century statesman, passes away at 91

Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, key 20th century statesman, passes away at 91

[Ed. – He had his faults like any political leader, but he set a most remarkable standard for peace and tolerance among religions, and built a modern, thriving Singapore under the tremendous pressures of the Cold War era.  His legacy in East Asia is on a par with those of Reagan and Thatcher, in terms of lasting import.]

Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father and first prime minister of Singapore who transformed that tiny island outpost into one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in Asia, died on Monday morning. He was 91. …

Mr. Lee was prime minister from 1959, when Singapore gained full self-government from the British, until 1990, when he stepped down. Late into his life he remained the dominant personality and driving force in what he called a First World oasis in a Third World region.

The nation, reflected the man: efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking and pragmatic. …

Lee Kuan Yew, who was sometimes known by his English name, Harry Lee, was born in Singapore on Sept. 16, 1923, to a fourth-generation, middle-class Chinese family.

He worked as a translator and engaged in black market trading during the Japanese occupation in World War II, then went to Britain, where he earned a law degree in 1949 from Cambridge University. In 1950 he married Kwa Geok Choo, a fellow law student from Singapore. She died in 2010.

After serving as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, Mr. Lee was followed by two handpicked successors, Goh Chok Tong and Mr. Lee’s eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, who, groomed for the job, has been prime minister since 2004. …

“His stature is immense,” Catherine Lim, a novelist and frequent critic of Mr. Lee, said in an interview. “This man is a statesman. He is probably too big for Singapore, on a level with Tito and de Gaulle. If they had three Lee Kuan Yews in Africa, that continent wouldn’t be in such a bad state.” …

In the 2010 interview with The Times, though, he took a reflective, valedictory tone.

“I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose,” he said.

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