Singapore’s Inimitable Lee Kuan Yew: Quotable Quotes


imagesLee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore and the man synonymous with the Singapore model of development, was a man of many parts.  He was not only a visionary, but also an influential orator, a master at captivating audiences with his pithy quotes, free speeches and withering put-downs. Here are some of his famous sayings:

On His Eternal Life:

“Even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up. Those who believe that after I have left the government as prime minister, I will go into a permanent retirement really should have their heads examined.”

– National Day Rally of 1988, two years before he stepped down as prime minister.

On His Legacy:

“If Singapore is a nanny state, then I’m proud to have fostered one.”

– “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 1965-2000″.

images (1)On His Wife of 63 Years

“Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life … I should find solace in her 89 years of a life well lived. But at this moment of the final parting, my heart is heavy with sorrow and grief.”

– Mr Lee’s eulogy to his wife who died in 2010

On Singapore’s Famous Chewing-Gum Ban

“If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.”

– Remark to a BBC reporter in 2000

Marriage Advice

“So when the graduate man does not want to marry a graduate woman, I tell him he’s a fool, stupid. You marry a non-graduate, you’re going to have problems, some children bright, some not bright. You’ll be tearing your hair out. You can’t miss.”

– “Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going,” written by Lee and published in 2011.

His place in Madame Tussauds:

“When I visited Madame Tussauds as a student in the 1940s … there were two groups of figures: the famous and the notorious, either British kings and famous leaders, or notorious murderers. I hope Madame Tussauds will not put my likeness too close to the notorious.”

– “The Wit & Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew,” a collection of his quotes published in 2013.

PC? No way:

“I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.”

– “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story.”

On His Authoritarian Style:

“You know the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government. You get that alternative and you’ll never put Singapore together again: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again … my asset values will disappear, my apartments will be worth a fraction of what they were, my ministers’ jobs will be in peril, their security will be at risk and their women will become maids in other people’s countries, foreign workers. I cannot have that!”

– Comment to Singaporean media, 2007