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Business leaders say LKY's legacy will live on
WITH Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew laid to rest on Sunday, the minds of business leaders have turned to how his far-reaching legacy can be honoured and preserved.
Through their contributions to The Business Times' "Views from the Top" column, they called on the country to hold on to the tenets the late former prime minister held dear, such as intolerance of corruption, a thirst for learning and sheer grit.
But some of these corporate captains wanted his life honoured in more tangible ways; they suggested that the airport bear his name, and that his home at 38 Oxley Road be open to the public.
Florence Ng, founder of executive search firm Straits Talent, wrote in what she called an "overdue letter to our founding father": "We have in part become victims of our own success - with rising affluence, we have mellowed and allowed ourselves and our younger generation to become soft.
"We have to 'man up' - together."
Max Loh, managing partner for Asean and Singapore at Ernst & Young, said the country must avoid complacency, and ought to address issues pragmatically.
"To best honour the spirit of our founding father will mean remembering the bittersweet lessons from our journey to Independence to the building of our nation and 'living his spirit' in our ethos, mindsets and actions."
For Knight Frank chairman Tan Tiong Cheng, Mr Lee's frugality was admirable.
He recounted that when Mr Lee gave up golf in the mid-1980s, he sent over a pair of "slightly-used golf shoes" to Knight Frank's then-chairman Cheong Thiam Siew, who was also a friend from their Raffles College days. "Mr Lee recalled Mr Cheong having the same shoe size and had hoped that the shoes could still be put to good use," said Mr Tan.
Mark Newman, chief executive of ING commercial banking in Asia, said Singapore must maintain its global competitive edge as a mark of respect for the former premier. Mr Lee's significant contribution was in creating, together with his team, an open economy that attracted multinational corporations and created jobs and a vibrant business hub.
"Singapore today is the Asian headquarters of numerous international businesses - ING Bank included," said Mr Newman. "We are here for many reasons, of course, but this country's clear rule of law, top-notch infrastructure, transparent economic policies and first-world standard of living must rank among the top."
Business leaders also named Mr Lee's untiring pursuit of knowledge as an attribute to be held up among the younger generation.
Ho Meng Kit, chief executive of the Singapore Business Federation, suggested establishing a new centre for learning bearing Mr Lee's name; Alick Chia, MD of SKF Logistics Services Asia, said Lee Kuan Yew bursaries ought to be created for every course of study in the four universities.
Knight Frank's Mr Tan, like many who made up the record number of comments to BT's column, wanted Mr Lee's home to be conserved as a national monument.
"While this is a simple house by any standard and cracks are notably visible on the wall, it is also a place of high historical significance, where some of the most important discussions on the future of Singapore were held in the 1950s," he said.
"Similar to Mr Lee's 'red box' - which symbolises his unwavering dedication to Singapore in making things better in big and small ways - the house will serve to remind Singaporeans to strive to build further on the legacy he has left us."
Ronny Tan, former vice-chairman of Deutsche Bank Singapore, joined many Singaporeans in calling for the airport to be renamed after the country's founding father. "I can't come up with a better tribute than for returning Singaporeans and overseas visitors to land at the Changi Lee Kuan Yew Airport," he said.
There was confidence among those who offered their views that, in whatever form, the legacy of Mr Lee will last.
Victor Mills, chief executive of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, said: "Mr Lee Kuan Yew's great achievement was the creation of modern Singapore. His greatest achievement is that it will survive him."