You are here

LEE KUAN YEW 1923 - 2015

'Remembering a true giant of history'

The death of Singapore's founding prime minister prompted an outpouring of tributes, condolences and expressions of grief. Here are some of them, both from political and business leaders within Singapore and from abroad.


Many aspects of our lives bear Mr Lee's imprint - be it our HDB estates, our gardens, or the SAF. Without his remarkable foresight and relentless pursuit of Singapore's development, the Singapore that we know today would not exist. Singapore was his passion and he continued serving Singapore till the last days of his life.

- Tony Tan Keng Yam, President of Singapore

The Singapore we have today is his life's work, and his gift to all Singaporeans. Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Rest in peace.

- Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister

Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore to last. He led a team, not a one-man show.

He groomed new leaders. He built clean government, and a culture of telling it straight - telling people the problems, and finding a way to fix them.

- Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister

Mr Lee Kuan Yew dedicated his life to Singapore. He lived and worked to build a nation and to advance the well-being of Singaporeans . . . He gave us a country we can be proud of, a home to bring up our family and a better life we can aspire to.

- Goh Chok Tong, Emeritus Senior Minister

I vividly recall the first time I came close to him around 1967. I was assigned to take notes for him. I approached him in awe, but he surprised me, beyond expectations. He approached me, with almost brotherly attention, and correcting my necktie, said, "Nathan, you must remember you are no longer in the labour movement". It is a moment I cherish.

- SR Nathan, former president of Singapore

Mr Lee served in public office for almost his entire adult life. His passing marks an end of an era in Singapore's history. His contributions to Singapore will be remembered for generations to come.

- Low Thia Khiang, secretary-general, Workers' Party

I personally appreciated his wisdom, including our discussions during my trip to Singapore in 2009, which were hugely important in helping me formulate our policy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific. He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one the great strategists of Asian affairs.

- Barack Obama, President of the United States

I pay tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's determination in developing Singapore from a new nation to the modern and dynamic city we see today. His achievements were great, and his legacy is assured.

- Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia

Under his leadership, Singapore successfully transformed into a major economic hub in Asia, putting it on a par with other developed nations.

- Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia

A far-sighted statesman and a lion among leaders, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's life teaches valuable lessons to everyone. News of his demise is saddening.

- Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

He was a visionary statesman whose uncompromising stand for meritocracy, efficiency and education transformed Singapore into one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

- Christine Lagarde, managing director, International Monetary Fund

He was not at all a charmer. He was not a flatterer. He had developed his point of view. He would present it with great intelligence and eloquence - not in order to get you to do something specific, but to understand the nature of the world in which you were living.

- Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state

Mr Lee's contribution to GIC had been immense. In the three decades that he was chairman, he guided GIC through many global and regional financial crises and saw to key milestones in its corporate development . . . His insights kept GIC grounded and focused on the fundamentals when it came to investing for the long term. Despite his stature and busy schedule, Mr Lee always found time beyond board meetings to engage GIC. It was a privilege to have him in our midst.

- Lim Siong Guan, group president, GIC

Mr Lee played an instrumental role in nurturing corporate Singapore. The private sector and the business community benefited tremendously from his pro-business policies and vision to establish Singapore as a major business hub for Asia . . . Today, our hearts are heavy and filled with much sorrow as we have lost our nation's beloved hero on the 50th year of our independence.

- Kwek Leng Beng, executive chairman, Hong Leong Group

His contributions to Singapore are immense, but the legal profession owes a specific debt of gratitude to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. We enjoy effective, clear and enforceable laws, and an unimpeachable and incorruptible judiciary. We owe that first to Mr Lee's clarity of vision that sustainable economic growth is underpinned by the Rule of Law, and second, his relentless opposition to corruption of any kind . . . We will not see his like again, and are proud to count him as one of us.

- Thio Shen Yi, president of the Law Society

Mr Lee was a visionary, transformational and charismatic leader. He has led Singapore from a Third World nation to a vibrant First World city-state. Under his stewardship, Singapore has earned the reputation as a key regional and global centre for businesses, supported by world-class infrastructure with a non-corrupt and highly efficient government.

- Singapore Business Federation

The eldest son of a Shell employee, Mr Lee had a long-standing relationship with Shell. He was instrumental in getting his government of the day to attract multinational companies like Shell to locate their Asian headquarters in Singapore . . . Over the decades, Shell has benefited from his stewardship. We express our deepest condolences to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his family.

- Goh Swee Chen, chairman, Shell Companies in Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew eats, sleeps and dreams Singapore . . . He pushed for consolidation of the Singapore banking sector. He believed that in order for Singapore banks to make it in the face of rising competition globally, they needed to be big and strong. Today, all three Singapore banks are among the world's strongest and safest. From the time Lee Kuan Yew became MM until now, I've always addressed him as MM, because to me, he is the greatest mentor Singapore can ever have.

- Peter Seah, chairman, DBS Group

By boldly pursuing his visionary economic policies and focusing on good governance, Mr Lee and his government turned a colonial outpost into one of the world's most open and business-friendly economies. But just as transformative was how Mr Lee rallied a diverse people to stand together - as equal citizens - through a deft mix of vision, conviction and realism. His passing is a tremendous loss, but Mr Lee's life will continue to inspire us.

- Ooi Sang Kuang, chairman, and Samuel Tsien, CEO, OCBC Bank

When he retired as prime minister of Singapore, I gave him a dinner. During the dinner, I said Singapore without Lee Kuan Yew would not be here today. This is a fact. He is all for Singapore, business or politics. We are very lucky to have Lee Kuan Yew.

- Wee Cho Yaw, chairman emeritus and adviser, UOB Group

He left a very deep impression on me. In particular, I was struck by his speech at the Business China's first anniversary dinner in 2008. What he said then has guided me since. He reminded us that we must not let down Singapore's reputation for reliability and integrity. These core values that have shaped Singapore's past have also influenced my behaviour. He was truly a visionary leader who will be missed.

- Lim Cheng Teck, CEO, Asean, Standard Chartered Bank

Mr Lee was the master builder of Singapore's economic and social landscape . . . In fact, he has shaped our DNA so well that Singapore, Singaporeans and Singapore companies have become good brand names . . . His commitment to Singapore, unyielding spirit and astuteness are indeed qualities to be admired, remembered and embodied.

- Lim Ming Yan, president and group CEO, CapitaLand

Between 2006-2008, Citi had the privilege of having Mr Lee as a special adviser to our senior management and its board of directors on strategic and international matters. His astute insights of the world and business landscape were truly unmatched. It is with a heavy heart that we mark the passing of Mr Lee.

- Michael Zink, head of Asean and Citi country officer, Singapore

In the most difficult times during the early days of Singapore, Mr Lee led the people of Singapore to forge ahead and transform the nation into the success it is today. His courage, conviction and brilliance will continue to inspire future generations.

- Chua Sock Koong, group CEO, Singtel

Our best tribute to him is to continue to build on his legacy and passion for the continued growth of Singapore. His entrepreneurial spirit, relentless drive and wisdom will live in the hearts and minds of all of us here at UBS.

- Edmund Koh, country head of UBS Singapore

Few possessed the gumption like he did and despite the naysayers, Mr Lee remained steadfast in his duty . . . It is for his life's work that SMEs in Singapore today can strive, prosper and compete successfully, whether at home or abroad.

- Association of Small and Medium Enterprises

He was an iconic hero - a character right out of The Hero with a Thousand Faces - a role model for leadership whose memory should be maintained so that one can use it to compare others to as a means of maintaining high standards.

- Ray Dalio, founder, Bridgewater Associates