Thursday, 2 April 2015

11 Things you didn’t know about Lee Kuan Yew

1. He always used a red box

British government ministers use red leather boxes to carry and transport official documents, and in the early days of the Singapore government, the country's ministers adopted the same habit. But Lee Kuan Yew was the only one to consistently use his red box throughout his career.

According to Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who served as Lee's Principal Private Secretary from 1997 to 2000, the red box was used for everything from communications with foreign leaders, observations that a tree in the Istana grounds was ailing, speech drafts, observations about the financial crisis, and even notes about rubbish seen in the Singapore river.
The red box would carry documents on whatever Mr Lee was working on at the time. It could have "communications with foreign leaders, observations about the financial crisis, instructions for the Istana grounds staff, or even questions about some trees he had seen on the expressway", Mr Heng had elaborated in his Facebook post.

2. He married his first and only love

He is one the few rare and perfect example of great leaders who are devoted to their wife.  His love story seems to be a fairytale for most woman, including me. Lee Kuan Yew met his wife Madam Kwa Geok Choo when she joined a special class at Raffles Institution, a prestigious boys' school in Singapore, to compete with other students for the Queen's Scholarship. At 16, she was the only girl in the whole school.
In 1940, Kwa entered Raffles College where she beat Lee in English and economics examinations, and they eventually fell in love during the Second World War. In 1946, Lee left for the UK to read law at the University of Cambridge, and Kwa joined him in 1947.

They married while in Cambridge before returning to Singapore in 1950 with first-class honours degrees in law.

After Mrs Lee passed away in October 2011, Dr Lee Wei Ling, her daughter, shared a special message her father Lee Kuan Yew had written to his children: "For reasons of sentiment, I would like part of my ashes to be mixed up with Mama's, and both her ashes and mine put side by side in the columbarium. We were joined in life and I would like our ashes to be joined after this life."

3. He was mildly dyslexic

Our first prime minister had dyslexia, a genetic condition in which a person will have a tad more difficulty in learning languages.  Nevertheless, he still succeeded in speaking four languages fluently – picking up the Chinese dialects Mandarin and Hokkien in his thirties due to the fact that his formal education when he was younger had covered only English and Malay.

4. He used to smoke and drink in his thirties

I've heard quite a number of men saying they've smoked to long to quit. Lee Kuan Yew showed his determination in every he did. He said "I was about 34, we were competing in elections, and I was really fond of drinking beer and smoking.
And after the election campaign, in Victoria Memorial Hall – we had won the election, the City Council election – I couldn’t thank the voters because I had lost my voice. I’d been smoking furiously." After which, he decided to quit smoking and has even become allergic to smoke.

5. His Father lived a long age too

His father used to work at shell as a superintendent of an oil depot. When he retired, he started becoming a salesman selling watches at BP de Silva. Mr Lee's father passed away at a ripe age of 94.

6. At age 52, he started running.

In 1976, whiles playing golf he felt difficulty breathing. His daughter, who at that time just graduating as a doctor, advised him not to play golf but run.
He wasn't keen on running so, in-between golf shots he would try and walk fast between shots.
And after a few years, he realised golfing takes so long. The running takes 15 minutes. He decided to cut out the golf and do running
"I think the most important thing in aging is you got to understand yourself."

7. He washed his own underwear

Lee Kuan Yew's only daughter Dr Lee Wei Ling, the director of Singapore's National Neuroscience Institute, wrote in an essay for the Straits Times in 2012 that Lee was a very frugal man.
He was environmental friendly. He trained his children to turn off all water taps when not in use and switch off lights and air conditioners when leaving a room. When Lee Kuan Yew travelled abroad on state visits, he would  rather wash his own underwear than pay for laundry in five-star hotels.

8. He has a wax figurine in Madame Tussauds

Mr Lee may be gone and he would forever remain in the hearts of Singaporeans. However, during his lifetime if you did not manage to have a picture with him, you may visit his Madame Tussauds to have a selfie with him.

9. He was almost killed during the WWII Japanese occupation

During the Japanese occupation, Lee Kuan Yew learnt Japanese and first worked as a clerk in his grandfather's friend's company—a textile importer called Shimoda.

After being exposed of plans to escape to Cameron Highlands, Lee Kuan Yew was asked by a Japanese guard to join a group of segregated Chinese men. Sensing that something was amiss, he asked for permission to go back home to collect his clothes first, and the Japanese guard agreed. It turned out that those who were segregated were taken to the beach to be shot as part of the Sook Ching massacre in Singapore.

10. He would accept his grandchild if he turned out to be gay

Although in Singapore there is still a law that criminalised homosexual sexual intercourse, Lee Kuan Yew said while being interviewed for his 2011 book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going that he would accept his grandchild if he turned out to be gay.
He said he asked doctors about homosexuality and had been told it was caused by a genetic random transmission of genes. However, Lee Kuan Yew does not believe gay people were suited to bringing up a child, feeling they have no maternal instinct aroused from going through the process of pregnancy.

11. The small black ribbon at Google's homepage is dedicated to him

A black ribbon is a symbol of remembrance or mourning.

In fact, it has appeared a few times before.
– On 9/11, as a sign of mourning for the victims killed in the September 11 attack.
– After the April 2007 upon the Virginia Tech massacre.
– And lastly, 23/3/2015, the day Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed away.

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