WATCH: A tribute to Lee Kuan Yew’s gardener, who sheltered him during the Sook Ching massacre

Koh Teong Koo. Video screengrab.
Koh Teong Koo. Video screengrab.

Love him or hate him, we can all agree that Singapore would not have turned out to be the economic beast it is right now if it wasn’t for the keen (and sometimes ruthless) mind of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

In a darker timeline, it could have all been very different if the man hadn’t survived the Japanese Occupation. Now, a short documentary has revealed that we could have been living in an altered universe if not for Koh Teong Koo, the man who was hired as the Lee family’s rickshaw puller and gardener. And also the man who saved Lee Kuan Yew in 1942 from the Sook Ching mass killings, which claimed as much as 50,000 lives of Chinese Singaporeans.

Put together by video producer Thomas Franks for non-profit group Honour Singapore, the documentary honors the life of Koh, who’s credited as the man who saved Lee Kuan Yew and by extension, modern Singapore. Koh offered sanctuary to Lee in his quarters when the Japanese soldiers were out to look for Chinese Singaporean men to execute them at various sites around the country — a systematic purge of perceived hostile elements within the community.

“I was lucky,” noted the late leader in a Radio Television Hong Kong interview used in the documentary.

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