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Lee Kuan Yew, modern Singapore's founding father

CCTV.com

03-23-2015 10:20 BJT

Lee Kuan Yew was much more than the first Prime Minister of Singapore. He is widely recognised across the world as the founding father of the modern city-state.

Lee Kuan Yew was born in 1923, to a Hakka Chinese family, when Singapore was part of British Malaya.

He excelled at an early age. He was the top student in the whole country, and went on to study law at Cambridge.

After seeing how Britain failed to defend Singapore from the Japanese invasion in World War Two, Lee decided that Singapore had to govern itself. After graduation, he returned home.

On November 12, 1954, Lee co-founded the People's Action Party, or PAP. The goal was self-government and an end to British colonial rule.

The party won a landslide victory in the 1959 elections. Singapore became self-governing, and Lee was its first prime minister.

In 1963, Singapore joined the new Federation of Malaysia. But the union lasted less than two years.

In August 1965, Lee formally announced the separation and the full independence of Singapore.

He then began seeking international recognition for the new city-state. One month later, Singapore joined the UN, and two years later, it co-founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Under Lee's leadership, the PAP was in power for a quarter-century.

For decades, Singapore had been plagued by high unemployment, a severe housing shortage, and widespread corruption.

Per capita GNI rose from some 400 US dollars in 1960, to more than 7 thousand by the mid-1980s. Full employment was achieved and the proportion of the population living in public housing rose from 9 percent to 81 percent. Corruption was largely eliminated through comprehensive legislation and an effective enforcement agency. Its director reported to Lee directly.

Lee stepped down as Prime Minister in November 1990, after 3 decades in power.

He had overseen Singapore's transformation from a colonial outpost with no natural resources into a "Asian Tiger".

Lee Kuan Yew is not only regarded as the founding father of modern Singapore, but also as one of the most influential political figures in Asia.

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