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Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew
Order: 1st Prime Minister
Term of Office: August 9, 1965 - November 26, 1990
Succeeded by: Goh Chok Tong
Date of Birth September 16, 1923
Place of Birth: Singapore
Wife: Kwa Geok Choo
Occupation: lawyer
Political Party: People's Action Party
Deputy PM :

Toh Chin Chye (1959 - 1965)
Goh Keng Swee (1965 - 1985)
S Rajaratnam (2nd DPM) (1980 - 1985)
Goh Chok Tong (1985 - 1990)

Ong Teng Cheong (2nd DPM) (1985 - 1990)

Lee Kuan Yew (born September 16, 1923) (Chinese: 李光耀, Pinyin: Lǐ Guāng Yo, Korean 이광요), also known as Lee Kwan-Yew or Harry Lee, was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. He has remained the most influential politician in Singapore since his retirement as Prime Minister. Under the administration of Singapore's second prime minister, Goh Chok Tong, he served as Senior Minister. He currently serves in the newly-created post of Minister Mentor under his son Lee Hsien Loong, who became the nation's third prime minister on August 12, 2004.

Lee Kuan Yew was born in Singapore, where he was educated at Telok Kurau Primary School, Raffles Institution and Raffles College. His university education was delayed by World War II and the 19421945 Japanese occupation. Little is known about his wartime activities, some unconfirmed sources said that he acted as a double agent for both the British and the Japanese (which is quite unlikely), apart from the operation of a successful black market business: he financed the invention of a tapioca-based glue, called Stikfas, which was sold on the black market1. Having taken up Chinese and Japanese language lessons since 1942, he was able to work as a transcriber of Allied wire reports for the Japanese, as well as an English-language editor for the Japanese Hobudu (a information or propaganda department) in 1943 and 19442.

After the war, he studied law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge in Britain. He returned to Singapore in 1949 to work as a lawyer in Laycock and Ong, the legal practice of John Laycock, a pioneer of multiracialism who, together with A.P. Rajah and C.C. Tan, had founded Singapore's first multiracial club open to Asians.

In 1954, Lee and a group of fellow English-educated, middle-class men formed the socialist People's Action Party (PAP) to agitate for self-government for Singapore and an end to British colonialism. Five years later, in 1959, Lee was elected as the first Prime Minister of Singapore, replacing the former Chief Minister of Singapore, David Saul Marshall. He was regularly re-elected in Singapore's limited democracy until November 1990, when he stepped down and assumed the post of "Senior Minister" in the government cabinet in the Goh Chok Tong government. He was once credited in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest serving Prime Minister, until the record was broken by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of neighbouring Malaysia.

During the three decades in which Lee was in office, Singapore grew from a Third World country to one of the most developed nations in the world, despite its small population and lack of natural resources. He is widely respected by the people of Singapore, and has often been credited as the architect of its prosperity (although a significant role was also played by his Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Goh Keng Swee, who was in charge of the economy.)

On the other hand, he has been criticized as an elitist authoritarian, and even a dictator, for implementing many harsh policies and suppressing political opposition. For instance, he has used defamation lawsuits, claimed by critics to have little merit, to bankrupt political opponents. On one occasion, after a court ruling in favour of Lee was overturned by the Privy Council, the right of appeal to the Council was abolished. Also, during his premiership from 1965 to 1990, he incarcerated Chia Thye Poh , a former MP of an opposition party, the Barisan Socialis, for 22 years under the Internal Security Act, only to be released in 19893.

Lee was one of the leading advocates of Asian values, though his interpretation of Asian values is open to debate.

Lee has received a number of state decorations, including the Order of the Companions of Honour, Knight Grand Cross in the Order of St Michael and St George, the Freedom of the City of London, the Order of the Crown of Johore , and the Order of the Rising Sun.

Lee's wife, Kwa Geok Choo, runs a prominent legal firm, Lee & Lee, and owns the property and investment company Wing Tai. His sons and daughter have held government and government-linked posts. His son, Lee Hsien Loong, is currently the Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Singapore. His daughter, Lee Wei Ling , runs the National Neurological Institute, while his other son Lee Hsien Yang manages the telecommunications company SingTel. His daughter-in-law, Lee Hsien Loong's wife Ho Ching, runs Temasek Holdings, a prominent holding company with controlling stakes in a variety of government-linked companies. His nephew-in-law is Wong Kan Seng , the Minister for Home Affairs. Lee and his son Lee Hsien Loong also sit on the board of the Government Investment Company (GIC) of Singapore as Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively.

In an interview with the government-controlled Straits Times, Lee said that he is an agnostic.

Lee Kuan Yew has written a two-volume set of memoirs: The Singapore Story (ISBN 0130208035), which covers his view of Singapore's history until its separation from Malaysia in 1965, and (ISBN 0060197764), which gives his account of Singapore's subsequent transformation into a prosperous first-world nation.

First Prime Minister of Singapore Prime Ministers of Singapore Succeeded by:
Goh Chok Tong


  1. War of Words Alejandro Reyes,, September 25, 1998. Retrieved 2004-12-08
  2. Lee Kuan Yew: A Chronology, 1923-1965
    Largely based on Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times, 1998. Retrieved 2004-12-08
  3. Free After 32 Lost Years Chia Thye Poh interview with Newsweek magazine. Retrieved 2004-12-12

External links

  • Lee was chosen as Asia's 100 most influential persons of the century by TIMEAsia magazine.

Last updated: 02-07-2005 05:24:36
Last updated: 03-18-2005 11:16:12