LKY would have cringed at hero worship on death anniversary, says daughter


An event held on 20 March unveiled a portrait of Lee Kuan Yew made from thousands of flag erasers. Photo: Yahoo Singapore/Bryan Huang

The daughter of Singapore’s late founding premier Lee Kuan Yew has spoken out against the “hero worship” she has witnessed a year after his death.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Friday (25 March), Lee Wei Ling, 61, questioned the need for a commemoration so soon after her father’s passing and wrote that he would have objected to the activities being held over the week of his death anniversary. The elder Lee died on 23 March last year, at the age of 91.

The younger Lee, who is a senior advisor at the National Neuroscience Institute, said she was motivated to write her post after seeing a front-page article in The Straits Times newspaper on 21 March which “carried a photo of an outline of Papa’s face made with 4,877 erasers that form an installation… titled Our Father, Our Country, Our Flag”.

“It was a well-meaning effort but it made me wince,” she wrote.

Lee said the article brought back memories of her first visit to China with her father in 1976, during which their delegation was greeted by a “very contrived” welcoming party of children. Despite the “exuberant display of goodwill”, she and her father were not impressed, and “continued to behave as Singaporeans” - whom she described as being “not prone to excessive, unnatural displays of emotion”.

Coming back to her father’s death anniversary, she wrote: “(In) looking at acts of commemoration in general, I would ask how the time, effort and resources used to prepare these would benefit Singapore and Singaporeans.”

She also emphasised that her father was “dead set against a personality cult and any hint of cronyism” and cautioned that “(any) veneration could have the opposite effect and lead future generations of Singaporeans to think that my father’s actions were motivated by his desire for fame, or creation of a dynasty”.

Lee also wrote about two other political leaders - Mao Zedong and Winston Churchill - and compared the commemorative activities that took place following their deaths.

In closing, Lee noted: “Perhaps we should allow some space for sentiment for those who feel last year’s events that took place immediately after Papa’s death were not enough to honour Papa… But it would be even better if we honour Lee Kuan Yew by working for the well-being of Singapore and Singaporeans.”

(Read Lee Wei Ling’s full Facebook post below)