I was touched to see Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in tears at the funeral of former president Wee Kim Wee. It was so unusual to see him hiding his face behind a handkerchief, wiping away his tears. We know he is tough, brilliant, incisive, incorruptible, but suddenly revealed was a softer side he does not care to show to the world, which he tried to hide even as he broke down in tears. Usually cool and self-composed, the tough no-nonsense patriarch of Singapore suddenly seemed so vulnerable that my heart went out to him.
I wish I could reproduce the picture which appeared in The Straits Times today.
It showed the deep emotions he usually hides but without which he could not have made Singapore what it is today. It’s amazing how he and his men transformed Singapore from another British colonial trading port — no different from Aden, perhaps — into a rich, developed nation. No wonder he was overcome with emotion at the death of Wee Kim Wee. They were friends, colleagues, contemporaries who had survived Japanese occupation and the Second World War, advanced with their young nation and left their mark on its history. What memories they must have shared. Even the famously pragmatic patriarch of Singapore, known for his foresight and eye on the future, must sometimes think of the past. Now he has lost a friend who shared those memories. He had reason to grieve.