Saturday, March 28, 2015

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew, the 1st former Prime Minister of Singapore passed away on 23 March 2015 at 0318hrs while most of the country was asleep .

A photo posted by Sanif Olek (@sanifee) on

I did not have the chance to know Lee Kuan Yew personally (other than reading the diverse rhetorics in the media), but everytime I see a lapel mic, it takes me back to a time in 1996 when I first started in this industry.

You see, I was an AP in a cheap production and there was no proper soundman in the room. Being the only person in the room who actually had some semblance of technical knowledge in sound (yeah Ngee Ann Polytchnic's FSV taught me well haha but I digress) I had the opportunity to fix this on Lee Kuan Yew personally. Yeah I fixed a mic onto his shirt and taped it near The Man's skin. To say I was starstruck was a huge understatement. He sensed this but what happened next carried me to this day.

He said, "JUST DO YOUR JOB...!".

Well it might not mean so much to you reading this but at that moment, I remembered he stared at me for a second, but there was also this sincerity to see me (I think he knew I was a 'newbie') to treat him like a normal person - hard to describe in words.

At the end of the interview, he called my name (he remembered my name!) and said,"I hope I wasn't being hard on you, I want to see you succeed".

I wish the iPhone was invented in 1996 so I could take a selfie with him, but it was a different time.

This is the first time I shared this experience - ever. This memory has been too intimate for me and as you can see I've kept it for so long. Perhaps his passing is the right time for me to share the Lee Kuan Yew I knew as a person, albeit fleetingly.


A photo posted by Sanif Olek (@sanifee) on


He left behind a too huge legacy that will be pointless for me to state here (Google will be more helpful). Personally, I have never favoured some of his policies nor his brand of "Hard Truths". 

Nevertheless, one can never negate this badass for taking Singapore out of its seemingly hopeless Third World status during the sixties and turning it into a squeaky clean Southeast Asian, First World nation that some of its neighbours (and many other bigger nations around the world) can only emulate.

He led by trading emotion for economics, ideals for pragmatism and compassion for politics.
"He fought for its better instincts even when the evidence was ambiguous..." Henry A. Kissinger, on Lee Kuan Yew.