Lee Kuan Yew – Founder of Singapore

By Narendra V

lee kuan yew

Lee Kuan Yew lee kuan yew

Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister of Singapore; he served in that from 1959 to 1990. He was longest serving Prime Minister in the world. He is regarded as founding father of Singapore. Under his rule Singapore transformed into one of the most prosperous country in Asia-Pacific region. Lee was born in Singapore on 16th September 1923 to wealthy Chinese parents, his father Lee Chin Koon was a store keeper and depot manager at Shell Oil Company his mother Chua Jim Neo.

Early Life and Education

Lee attended Telok Kurau English School for primary education, then he joined Raffles Institution where he obtained several scholarships and participated in sports, debates. He became topper in School Certificate exams and gained scholarship to join Raffles College. But his college education postponed due to World War 2 and Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942-1945.After World War he went to London to study law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. There he graduated in law with First Class in 1949.

During Japanese occupation it was tough time in Singapore, Lee learnt Japanese language and joined as clerk in Japanese military office, there his work was to transcribe Allied radio broadcast. Under Japanese rule Singaporeans suffered a lot, by seeing all this Lee determined that Singapore must have self-governance.

Entry in to Politics

After completing law he came to Singapore to do practice. At that time Singapore was under British colonial rule having Governor and local legislative council mostly appointed by the British and not elected by people. Lee with others pressed to have constitutional reforms. He started People’s Action Party in 1954 and became general secretary of the party. In 1955 new Constitution of Singapore was introduced by the British. Where 25 seats out of 32 seats should be elected by peoples vote. In the following elections Lee’s party won only 3 seats, but they had representation in delegation which went to London for negotiations for self-rule of Singapore. But those talks not succeeded, by next year again negotiations started and Lee succeeded to bring self rule to Singapore.

In 1959 elections his party won 43 out of 51 seats and he became first Prime Minister of Singapore with self governance in all matters except defense and foreign affairs.

Merger with Malaysia

In 1963 Singapore became part of Federation of Malaysia which include Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak with central Malaysian government. In 1964 riots happened in Singapore between Chinese and Malays, several people killed. Despite several attempts by government to calm down people riots didn’t stop. Then Malaysian Prime Minister expelled Singapore from federation. In 1965 Singapore became independent.

Lee was worried because Singapore was not having any natural resources, water resources and limited self-defense capabilities.


Lee’s Policies


He introduced compulsory enrollment of males who are above 18 years into Singapore Armed Forces. He sought help of other countries especially Israel and Taiwan for training of military personnel.


At the time of independence Singapore was having severe unemployment. Lee established Economic Development Board to improve its economy, several factories were built under government. After lots of thoughts he and his cabinet decided to bring foreign investment into Singapore and making it as export and financial hub. He convinced several MNCs to set up base in Singapore and assured them of stability in policies, social order and providing them with high class infrastructure.

Anti-corruption policy

Lee was strictly against corruption and he made Singapore one of the least corrupted countries in the world. He established Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and made law to arrest, investigate into bank accounts, families of corrupt officials. To prevent corruption he proposed salaries to ministers, top officials on par with private sector.

Personal Life

Lee married Kwa Geok Choo who was his classmate, they had two sons and one daughter. His elder son Lee Hsien Loong who went on to become Prime Minister of Singapore. Younger son Lee Hsien Yang is chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and daughter Lee Wei Ling is Head of National Neuroscience Institute.

After Prime Ministerial years

In 1990 Lee resigned as Prime Minister and appointed Goh Chok Tong as his successor. He became Senior Minister and held that post until 2004, then he became Minister Mentor until 2011.

In February 2015 he was hospitalized for Pneumonia and on March 23rd 2015 he died.

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