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It’s been 12 hours since the death of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was announced, but the head-spinning stream of accolades and tributes from across the world shows no sign of slowing down.
This is evidence of the man’s global imprint and might even be enough of a draw for the future visitors of Singapore.
Unfortunately, they’re all likely to be disappointed.
Unlike with many celebrity leaders, there is no attraction named after the man who very quickly turned small, resourceless Singapore into a force to be reckoned with. He did not feel inclined to replace the Sir Stamford Raffles busts largely frequented today by tourist groups and history students.
It was only in his later days that Lee gave in to being associated to an institution, and even then he was selective. In 2004, his alma mater the National University of Singapore named its Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy after him. Last year, the world renowned Madame Tussauds wax museum debuted in Singapore and among its first unveilings was a heart-warming tribute to Lee and his wife Kwa Geok Choo, who passed away in 2010.
Basically, if you’re hoping to someday land in the Lee Kuan Yew Changi International Airport, don’t hold your breath.
Despite having built the world’s most expensive city to live in in just under 50 years, Lee Kuan Yew didn’t want any overtly fancy tributes; not diamond skyscrapers nor golden busts.
No, the man just wanted to be appreciated each time someone stepped into the painstakingly polished ION Orchard, tapped their EZ-Link card at the MRT station and drove past that breathtaking city skyline on the East Coast Parkway.
After all, he sacrificed quite a bit for what many of us consider “mundane, everyday things”. In his words: “My life.”