That’s What He Said: A collection of Lee Kuan Yew’s most incredible quotes

Today, Singapore lost its first premier Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. As the tributes pouring in from every corner of the island will tell you, he was a man of intelligence, courage and tenacity, amongst other brilliant things. Those who knew him in his more recent days would also describe him as composed, level-headed… But a quick trawl through the transcripts shows Mr. Lee did not lack the typical brazen quality of a political genius. Here are some quotes excerpted from his most lucid moments that still make us go, “Did he really say that?”  

“If you don’t include your women graduates in your breeding pool and leave them on the shelf, you would end up a more stupid society… So what happens? There will be less bright people to support dumb people in the next generation. That’s a problem.” ~ National Day Rally, 1983

 “We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists. If you don’t do that, the country would be in ruins.”​ ~ 1986
“I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn’t be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters – who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think.” ~ The Straits Times, 1987

“Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel something is going wrong, I will get up.” ~ National Day Rally, 1998

“If you are a troublemaker, it’s our job to politically destroy you…” “Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac.” ~ The Man and His Ideas, 1997

“Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.” ~ The Man and His Ideas, 1997

WATCH: PM Lee “grieved beyond words” during public address

“If Singapore is a nanny state, then I am proud to have fostered one.” ~ From Third World to First, The Singapore Story: 1965 – 2000, 2000

“Putting chewing gum on our subway train doors so that they don’t open, I don’t call that creativity, I call that mischief making…” “If you can’t think because you can’t chew, try a banana.” ~ BBC News, 2000

“If I tell Singaporeans – we are all equal regardless of race, language, religion, culture. Then they will say,’Look, I’m doing poorly. You are responsible.’ But I can show that from British times, certain groups have always done poorly, in mathematics and in science. But I’m not God, I can’t change you. But I can encourage you, give you extra help to make you do, say maybe, 20% better.”​ ~ Success Stories, 2002

Photos: People’s Action Party Facebook

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