“But we either believe in democracy or we not. If we do, then, we must say categorically, without qualification, that no restraint from the any democratic processes, other than by the ordinary law of the land, should be allowed… If you believe in democracy, you must believe in it unconditionally. If you believe that men should be free, then, they should have the right of free association, of free speech, of free publication. Then, no law should permit those democratic processes to be set at nought.”
– Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition leader, April 27, 1955

“If it is not totalitarian to arrest a man and detain him, when you cannot charge him with any offence against any written law – if that is not what we have always cried out against in Fascist states – then what is it?… If we are to survive as a free democracy, then we must be prepared, in principle, to concede to our enemies – even those who do not subscribe to our views – as much constitutional rights as you concede yourself.”
– Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Legislative Assembly Debates, Sept 21, 1955

“If we say that we believe in democracy, if we say that the fabric of a democratic society is one which allows for the free play of idea…then, in the name of all the gods, give that free play a chance to work within the constitutional framework.”
– Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Oct 4, 1956

“If I were in authority in Singapore indefinitely without having to ask those who are governed whether they like what is being done, then I would not have the slightest doubt that I could govern much more effectively in their interests.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1962

“I make no apologies that the PAP is the Government and the Government is the PAP.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Petir, 1982

“One-man-one-vote is a most difficult form of government.. Results can be erratic.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Dec 19 1984

“What are our priorities? First, the welfare, the survival of the people. Then, democratic norms and processes which from time to time we have to suspend.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1986 National Day Rally

“If you are a troublemaker…it’s our job to politically destroy you. Put it this way. As long as JB Jeyaretnam stands for what he stands for – a thoroughly destructive force – we will knock him. Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the culde-sac.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, The Man And His Ideas, 1997

“I think in Singapore, we stand a chance of making the one-man-one-vote system work. With amendments as we have done, you know, like GRCs.. We need to make it work. And I believe with pragmatic adjustments, given these favourable conditions, we can have more open debate.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1990 National Day Rally

“I feel sanguine enough to say that there has never been a better set of conditions for open democratic politics because there is no need for unified front politics.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1990 National Day Rally

“I am encouraged also because I see more and more people write letters to the press and sign their real names. That’s a good sign, a good tendency. To run a democratic system, you must have democratic impulses in the people. There must be a cultural basis for that system. It’s not just having a constitution and saying,” Well, there you are, the system is democratic.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1990 National Day Rally

“Now if democracy will not work for the Russians, a white Christian people, can we assume that it will naturally work with Asians?”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Asahai Shimbun symposium, May 9, 1991

“With few exceptions, democracy has not brought good government to new developing countries…What Asians value may not necessarily be what Americans or Europeans value. Westerners value the freedoms and liberties of the individual. As an Asian of Chinese cultural backround, my values are for a government which is honest, effective and efficient.”
– Lee Kuan Yew in speech entitled ‘Democracy, Human Rights and the Realities’, Tokyo, Nov 10, 1992

“I’m not intellectually convinced that one-man-one-vote is the best. We practise it because that’s what the British bequeathed us.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1994

“Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no way you can govern a Chinese society.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, The Man and His Ideas, 1997

“You’re talking about Rwanda or Bangladesh, or Cambodia, or the Philippines. They’ve got democracy, according to Freedom House. But have you got a civilised life to lead? People want economic development first and foremost. The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, The Man and His Ideas, 1997

“They say people can think for themselves? Do you honestly believe that the chap who can’t pass primary six knows the consequence of his choice when he answers a question viscerally, on language, culture and religion? But we knew the consequences. We would starve, we would have race riots. We would disintegrate.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997

“If we had considered them serious political figures, we would not have kept them politically alive for so long. We could have bankrupt them earlier.”
– Lee Kuan Yew on political opposition, Straits Times, Sept 14 2003

“Political reform need not go hand in hand with economic liberalisation.. I hold unconventional views about this.. I do not believe if you are a libertarian, full of diverse opinions, full of competing ideas in the market place, full of sound and fury, therefore you will succeed.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 2005

“There is nothing to prevent you from pushing your propaganda, to push your programme out to the students or with the public at large…and if you can carry the ground, if you are right, you win. That’s democracy.”
– Lee Kuan Yew telling students to form political parties, Straits Times, Feb 1, 2005

“Please do not assume that you can change governments. Young people don’t understand this”
– Lee Kuan Yew on the results of the 2006 election

“They say, oh, let’s have multiparty politics. Let’s have different parties change and be in charge of the Government. Is it that simple? You vote in a Division Three government, not a Division One government, and the whole economy will just subside within three, four years. Finished.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Today, Aug 15 2008


“Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love-it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they’re conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict.”
Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition PAP member speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956

…you attack only those whom your Special Branch can definitely say are communists.  Then you attack those whom your Special Branch says are aiding communists.  Then finally, when you have gone that far, you attack all who oppose you.”
Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition PAP member speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956

“These powers will not be allowed to be used against political opponents within the system who compete for the right to work the system. That is fundamental and basic or the powers will have destroyed the purpose for which they were forged.”
– Lee Kuan Yew speaking in Parliament on the Preservation of Public Security Act, a precursor to the ISA, Oct 14, 1959

“I can only express the hope that faith in the judicial system will never be diminished, and I am sure it will not, so long as we allow a review of the judicial processes that takes place here in some other tribunal where obviously undue influence cannot be brought to bear. As long as governments are wise enough to leave alone the rights of appeal to some superior body outside Singapore, then there must be a higher degree of confidence in the integrity of our judicial process. This is most important.”
– Lee Kuan Yew in parliament, March 15, 1967

“We have over a hundred political detainees, men against whom we are unable to prove anything in a court of law. Nearly 50 of them are men who gave us a great deal of anxiety during the years of Confrontation because they were Malay extremists. Your life and this dinner would not be what it is if my colleagues and I had decided to play it according to the rules of the game.”
– Lee Kuan Yew speaking to the Singapore Advocates and Solicitors Society, Mar 18, 1967

“I will make him crawl on his bended knees, and beg for mercy.”
Lee Kuan Yew on J. B. Jeyaretnam, as reported by Devan Nair, 1981

“We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists. If you don’t do that, the country would be in ruins.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1986

“It is not the practice, now will I allow subversives to get away by insisting that I’ve got to prove everything against them in a court of law or [produce] evidence that will stand up to the strict rules of evidence of a court of law.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1988

“The same law applies to me. Nobody has sued me for libel because I do not defame my enemies.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Success Stories, 2002

“Most libels, and I have taken about 30 actions, take place at election time. It has not stuck because I am prepared to go before a court, stand in the witness box and face the most aggressive of lawyers who can cross-examine me on my personal history.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, Sept 30 2002


“My colleagues and I are of that generation of young men who went through the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation and emerged determined that no one–neither Japanese nor British–had the right to push and kick us around.  We determined that we could govern ourselves and bring up our children in a country where we can be proud to be self-respecting people.”
Lee Kuan Yew, “The Battle for Merger” (1961)

“Let us get down to fundamentals. Is this an open, or is this a closed society? Is it a society where men can preach ideas – novel, unorthodox, heresies, to established churches and established governments – where there is a constant contest for men’s hearts and minds on the basis of what is right, of what is just, of what is in the national interests, or is it a closed society where the mass media – the newspapers, the journals, publications, TV, radio – either bound by sound or by sight, or both sound and sight, men’s minds are fed with a constant drone of sycophantic support for a particular orthodox political philosophy? I am talking of the principle of the open society, the open debate, ideas, not intimidation, persuasion not coercion…”
Lee Kuan Yew, Malaysian Parliamentary Debates, Dec 18, 1964

“Any time, every time, you can damn the Prime Minister and so long as it is not a lie and a criminal lie, nothing happens to you.  You can say a lot of things.  You can write books about him, damning him.  So long as it is not a libel, go ahead.”
Lee Kuan Yew, Parliament, February 23, 1977

“I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.”
– Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, 20 April 1987

“There is nothing to forbid anybody from nailing his colours to the mast, and indeed it is the safest way to do it. Nail your colours to the mast, defend it and say,”This is my flag, this is what I believe in. I believe in open debate, arguments, persuasion, I hope to win by votes.” But start manipulating innocent professional groups, cultural groups and make them support political causes, whether its freedom of the foreign press or whatever, then I say you are looking for unpleasant linkages with what has happened in the past.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1990 National Day Rally

“The ideas of individual supremacy and the right of free expression, when carried to excess, have not worked. They have made it difficult to keep America society cohesive. Asia can see it is not working.. In America itself, there is widespread crime and violence, old people feel forgotten, families are falling apart. And the media attacks the integrity and character of your leaders with impunity, drags down all those in authority and blames everyone but itself.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Sept 1995


“I pointed to an article with bold headlines reporting that the police had refused to allow the PAP to hold a rally at Empress Place, and then to the last paragraph where in small type it added the meeting would take place where we were now. I compared this with a prominent report about an SPA rally. This was flagrant bias.”
– Lee Kuan Yew commenting on the Straits Times, 1959.


“It is essential to rear a generation at the very top of society that has all the qualities needed to lead and give the people the inspiration and the drive to make it succeed. In short, the elite.. Every society tries to produce this type. The British have special schools for them: the gifted and talented are sent to Eton and Harrow.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, August 1966

“The human being is an unequal creature. That is a fact. And we start off with the proposition. All the great religions, all the great movements, all the great political ideology, say let us make the human being as equal as possible. In fact, he is not equal, never will be.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, from a speech during the 1960s, Success Stories

“We must encourage those who earn less than $200 per month and cannot afford to nurture and educate many children never to have more than two… We will regret the time lost if we do not now take the first tentative steps towards correcting a trend which can leave our society with a large number of the physically, intellectually and culturally anaemic.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, 1967

“If you don’t include your women graduates in your breeding pool and leave them on the shelf, you would end up a more stupid society…So what happens? There will be less bright people to support dumb people in the next generation. That’s a problem.”
-Lee Kuan Yew in 1983 National Day Rally

“The successful, whether you’re a scholar, a Mandarin or a successful businessman or successful farmer, you had more than one wife. In fact you can have as many as your economic status entitles you or can persuade people to give their daughters up to you. In other words, the unsuccessful are like the weak lions or bucks in a herd, they were neutralised. So over the generations you must have the physically and the mentally more vibrant and vital, reproduce. We are doing just the opposite. We introduced monogamy. It seems so manifestly correct. The West was successful, superior. Why? Because they are monogamous. It was wrong. It was stupid.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Population and Development Review, Vol. 13 No.1, 1987

“There are some flaws in the assumptions made for democracy. It is assumed that all men and women are equal or should be equal. Hence, one-man-one-vote. But is equality realistic? If it is not, to insist on equality must lead to regression.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Create 21 Asahi Forum Tokyo, Nov 20 1992

“The Bell curve is a fact of life. The blacks on average score 85 per cent on IQ and it is accurate, nothing to do with culture. The whites score on average 100. Asians score more … the Bell curve authors put it at least 10 points higher. These are realities that, if you do not accept, will lead to frustration because you will be spending money on wrong assumptions and the results cannot follow.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997

“I started off believing all men were equal. I now know that’s the most unlikely thing ever to have been, because millions of years have passed over evolution, people have scattered across the face of this earth, been isolated from each other, developed independently, had different intermixtures between races, peoples, climates, soils… I didn’t start off with that knowledge. But by observation, reading, watching, arguing, asking, that is the conclusion I’ve come to.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997

“If I tell Singaporeans – we are all equal regardless of race, language, religion, culture. Then they will say,”Look, I’m doing poorly. You are responsible.” But I can show that from British times, certain groups have always done poorly, in mathematics and in science. But I’m not God, I can’t change you. But I can encourage you, give you extra help to make you do, say maybe, 20% better.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Success Stories, 2002

“China can draw on a talent pool of 1.3 billion people, but the United States can draw on a talent pool of 7 billion and recombine them in a diverse culture that enhances creativity in a way that ethnic Han nationalism cannot.” – Lee Kuan Yew, as quoted by Joseph Nye


“Repression can only go up to a point. When it becomes too acute, the instruments of repression, namely the army and the police, have been proved time and time again in history to have turned their guns on their masters.”
– Opposition leader Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, May 5, 1959

“If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it.” – Lee Kuan Yew evoking the ghost of Deng Xiaoping whilst endorsing the Tiananmen Square massacre, Straits Times, Aug 17, 2004

“Without the elected president and if there is a freak result, within two or three years, the army would have to come in and stop it”
– Lee Kuan Yew on what would happen if a profligate opposition government touched Singapore’s vast monetary reserves, Straits Times, Sept 16 2006


“I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervene on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what people think.”
– Lee Kuan Yew, Straits Times, Apr 20 1987

“Every Singaporean who owns a flat can double his value in today’s terms within the next 15 to 20 years. In other words, in the next 20 years, we can make everybody worth twice as much, at least.”
– PM Lee Kuan Yew, National Day Rally, 1990


“If I have to chose communism and anti-communism I will chose [sic] communism … if you hate something because you do not like some aspects of it, you can work yourself into a state where anything said and done by communists must be wrong and evil.”
Lee Kuan Yew, quoted in “David Marshall’s Political Interlude” by Alex Josey (1982)


“Please remember we do not pretend to be virtuous.  Hypocrisy is not a feature of Singapore’s leadership.”
Lee Kuan Yew, closing speech to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Singapore, January 22, 1971

Others on LEE KUAN YEW

“Lee is like a banana –yellow of skin, white underneath.”
-Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People’s Republic of China, at the Bandung Conference (1955)

More like a Hitler or Mussolini but with less polish and skill.”
– Socialist Front on Lee Kuan Yew, Malay Mail, March 28, 1964

“A chameleon, a remarkable creature which can adjust its colour to its surroundings.”
– Tan Siew Sin, Malaysian Chinese Association, in Malay Mail, March 29, 1964

“Lee Kuan Yew’s political power has always been built over the dead bodies of his friends and allies.”
– Malaysian Chinese Association, circa 1964

“Harry, you’re the best bloody Englishman east of Suez.”
– George Brown, Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom (1966-68)

“Kuan Yew, I can never trust you as a politician.”
Tunku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaysia, in 1975

“The fact that a leader of Lee’s breadth of vision was not able to act on a broader stage represents an incalculable loss to the world.”
-Richard Nixon, President of the United States

“Who is this ridiculous man who wastes my time? Running Singapore is like running Marseilles. I am running a whole country!”
Francois Mitterrand, President of France

“[Lee] is bloody-minded  and ruthless with his adversaries.  He stomps them into the ground.”
Dennis Bloodworth, journalist, 1989

“A little Emperor … of a tiny Middle Kingdom.”

“All those who met the great man from the little country were lectured on how Malaysia should be run.”

“Singapore is a tiny country. Don’t talk big.”
– Mahathir Mohamed, Prime Minister of Malaysia

“Why is he still so afraid? I honestly think that through the years he has accumulated enough skeletons in his closet that he knows that when he is gone, his son and the generations after him will have a price to pay. If we had parliamentary debates where the opposition could pry and ask questions, I think he is actually afraid of something like that.”

“Mr Lee Kuan Yew kept on repeating how he built up this country and how much he has stored in the reserves. That is the tragedy of the man. For all his intelligence, he does not possess the wisdom of life. …

Mr Lee Kuan Yew fights all his demons within himself to try to shore up his reputation. In the process, however, he destroys the very legacy that he so desperately desires to establish.”
Chee Soon Juan, Secretary-General of the Singapore Democratic Party


No Man is an Island, James Minchin
Martyn See on the Singapore Rebel blog
Lee Kuan Yew on Wikiquote

The successful, whether you’re a scholar, a Mandarin or a successful businessman or successful farmer, you had more than one wife.

In fact you can have as many as your economic status entitles you or can persuade people to give their daughters up to you.

In other words, the unsuccessful are like the weak lions or bucks in a herd, they were neutralised.

So over the generations you must have the physically and the mentally more vibrant and vital, reproduce. We are doing just the opposite.

We introduced monogamy. It seems so manifestly correct. The West was successful, superior. Why? Because they are monogamous.

It was wrong. It was stupid.

19 Responses to “Quotes”

  1. 1 X

    Hi excellent work on the site. I was wondering you could add this quote to your quotes section:

    “Three women were brought to the Singapore General Hospital, each in the same
    condition and needing a blood transfusion. The first, a Southeast Asian was given the
    transfusion but died a few hours later. The second, a South Asian was also given a
    transfusion but died a few days later. The third, an East Asian, was given a
    transfusion and survived. That is the X factor in development.”


  2. 2 in

    I just would like to say, excellent record keeping. Keep up the good work.

  3. 3 robert vijendran henry

    I thoroughly enjoyed this man wisdom,craftness,and his his FORESIGHT.Squahing
    corruption firm grip on spending,putting people first and maintaining fair
    distribution of wealth amongst the races was his hallmark of achievement.
    Able to rationization the priorities of the people needs and wants and building
    excellence education system on par with best university in the world. How
    i honestly believe that he is the right man to lead Malaysia to greater heights and if singapore had stayed with malaysia he would have overcome malay zealots easyly
    and propel malaysia(incl Singapore) to a world class powerhouse even greater
    than Japan or any county in this region.Your departure from the power seat
    early 90″s was a extremely difficult decision to make but only you with such
    great thinking skill is able to pull it off.Dr Mahathir had to be shoved out.A poor
    excuse of a leader who didnt practise what he preached.Made corruption an
    honarable practice amongst the Malays which eventually spread rapidly thru
    out the country of malaysia.It sadden me to see such great wastage of natural resourses .Any strains or pressure placed on the so call bumiputers leaders
    causes a brain shut down and with teachers and lectures teaching our children
    are poorly educated with misguided notion that they are highly qualified with
    worthless paper certification.My very best to you Mr Lee Kuan Yew .
    General Secretary
    Genting Workers Union

  4. 4 anon

    ..before 1989 (or slightly earlier, 80s), the comments on communism and democracy are based on theory. there’s no empirical data on how it might work (or has worked for awhile) for the new countries – those which gained independent after WW2.

    I’m not surprised that LKY was ardent supporter of Democracy & Freedom (as in liberal democratic point of view) as opposition leader. he’s educated in British afterall. Even Zhou called him ‘banana’, for he was indeed filled with western ideas. But LKY has been proven to be, first & foremost, a pragmatic person.

    His assessment in 1990 that democracy – with few exception – might not work in Asia …is still correct to this day. No ‘Developing’ country gains status to be ‘Developed’ after they implement western (liberal) democratic system. I doubt we will see one soon.

  5. 5 R

    So Robert Vijendran Henry, why don’t you get a Singapore citizenship and try living here for a decade? I’m sure your Workers Union will be the first to be shut down if you dare whimper for your rights or welfare.

  6. 6 Ekompute

    QUOTE: “Singapore is a tiny country. Don’t talk big.” — Mahathir Mohamed, Prime Minister of Malaysia

    Lest Mahathir forgets, Malaysia is not big either, yet he always want to take on the United States and Australia! Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

  7. 7 Anonymous

    Continue to compound info of it so that you can waste more time rather thinking of something to improve the live of us. No wonder speculation of virus so dangerous

  8. 8 Lim Kim San

    From all that Lee Kuan Yew spoke. He swayed when its needed. Saying staits times was bias against him. But wat is he doing now? Isnt he doing the same thing to his political opponents?

    He did nothing to Singapore. The only thing great he did was to allowed ppl like Lim kim San and Goh keng Swee the power to build Singapore to where we are now. All he did was “killing” of his opponents. Including that of his friends. All the suggestion he gave to the state did not aid Singapore.

    What he is good at is talking and acting. Everything was a show. Giving a good show to ppl easily persuaded to believe him. Ask him now to talk something of substance now. In our Singapore context of educated man and woman, i do not believe he could convince any of us his ideas. He may be able to con the uneducated forefather in the past, that can never be done to brainwash brillant minds of our generations.

  9. 9 Lee Lao Mu

    A Hakka who speaks like a british snob. He perpetuates british colonization of Singapore by making it his own colony.

    You build, so you can exploit. You need to breed a group of traitors who are willing to betray the majority for personal gains.

  10. He just suck and many people will cheer if he die as he is just acting to be GREAT!

  11. 11 Anonymous

    This is meaningful

  12. 12 Anonymous

    He changed Singapore from a third World country to a first world country…

  13. Lee Kuan Yew doesn’t deserve any respect at all. He has made no contributions to Singapore at all. Singapore has what it is today not because of him. Its the hard work of all Singaporeans. My memories of him are only those incidents when he go in and out of the Supreme Court to sue Chee Soon Juan or JBJ. The PAP is full of wayang people like him. He is a disgrace to Singaporeans.

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