An ongoing debate that my friends and I would have about queuing to pay our last respects to Mr Lee was if Mr Lee would prefer us to queue or would he prefer us to go back to work. We sort of agreed that most probably Mr Lee would prefer if all of us go back to work for pragmatic reasons. He probably hated it that we had to lower our productivity to pay respects to him.
Back in 1988, Mr Lee famously declared that, and I quote: “Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.”
Sometimes, I wonder if he is really going to rise from his coffin with a whip in his hand and send all of us back to work. There was this meme going around the Internet, with Mr Lee saying, “Stop queuing! Get back to work!” For some strange reason, the thought of it warms my heart a bit. I guess it is a little like when someone who is close to you pass away, you will miss his/hers nagging.
Singaporeans turn up in the order of hundred-thousands to pay respect to you, Mr Lee, many many times more than what the official expected. News about volunteers who brought food and drinks for fellow Singaporeans queuing. Volunteers who brought umbrellas to shield fellow Singaporeans from the sun. Officials making the Lying in State at Parliament House into a 24-hour service which in turn extended the services of thousands of National Servicemen and Home Team. Public transport services who extended their services round the clock. So much news that touched my heart I wish that I could named them all but I couldn’t.
Then there were the tributes that flowed in from overseas. I half expected that there will definitely be a lot tributes coming in for you are a brilliant and well-respected man in the world stage as well. What I didn’t expect was the number of delegates who came over personally, and the extent to which they offer their tribute. New Zealand had a parliament seating that saw their Members of Parliament from different parties paid their tributes to you. I heard that both New Zealand and India are also declaring a day of mourning in your honour. Many foreign delegates will also be coming to say goodbye to you. I’m pretty sure that the MHA and MFA will put in their utmost effort to ensure that they are being well taken care of.
Me? I admire your guts for overcoming adversity. I admire your analytical abilities. I awed at your ability to form a vision and a strategy to reach it that spans decades if not centuries even into the future beyond my imagination of what a human could usually do.
Of course, I also have my personal reservations about how you go about your life-work. I am unsure about your what many termed as an authoritarian ruling and I often wondered if some of the so called “sacrifices” could be avoided. However, I also understand that my thoughts are only hypotheses. I am also not at your position at that time to understand all the intricacies and the obstacles facing you so let’s focus on the facts, your achievements. You selected and led a brilliant team of people to help you carry out this vision. Third world to first in less than fifty years! World-class and world first in many aspects. A garden city. A healthy city. New water sources. TL;DR. No matter what other naysayers have to say, these are the results that you have led your team to achieve. These are astounding contributions that cannot be taken away from you.
As for our differences, I’ve come to the conclusion that we will need to agree to disagree. For this, it is probably one of the things I think we are going to agree with each other. There’s still much work to be done in Singapore; no point spending all the energy trying to adopt each other’s view.
You have my respect, Sir. Six hours, I’ve queued. Many others more. I think it was worth it and I’m sure the others do too. Don’t deny us this chance to pay our last respects to you. Put it in another way, this will be your last service to the country and your service will be to bond us together as one Singapore. is that OK with you, Mr Lee?
Don’t worry. We’ll do you proud. Rest in Peace.