Kuan Yew’s half-century

11Jul09

Move over Fidel Castro, Omar Bongo and Muammar Gaddafi: Lee Kuan Yew is now the longest-reigning (non-royal) ruler in the world.  The Star:

The Lee Kuan Yew “era” reached its 50-year mark on June 5, making Lee the longest surviving national leader in the world.

It was on this day in 1959 that the Cambridge-trained lawyer was sworn in as the first Prime Minister of a self-governing Singapore.

Lee is, of course, no longer the head of government after having given up the post in 1990. He now serves as an “advisor” in the Cabinet, with the title “Minister Mentor”.

For the last half-century, Lee has been Singapore’s undisputed force, shaping events, irrespective of who the designated leader is. …

Lee’s historic half-century, however, has not come at the best of times. Singapore is in the middle of one of its worst recessions – and Lee is getting more public brickbats by the day.

Economic hardship to the middle class, the bedrock of his support base, and huge losses of public money in several ill-timed global investments are causing discontent – and are being partly blamed on him. …

So why is the image-conscious government so reticent about Lee’s political longevity?

Party insiders say it is because he is bent on avoiding doing anything that will promote a personality cult.

“There’s been no road, statue or street named after Lee Kuan Yew,” a community leader noted.

Critics, however, give a different reason. One said the government would rather not mention the subject for fear it would renew calls for him to leave.

In a Yahoo online poll, 53% of Singaporeans said they wanted their founding father to quit politics either immediately or very soon – and that was five years ago. …

In recent years, the political icon has become noticeably slower both in speech and movement – but his global perceptions remain sharp.



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