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Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas – Han Fook Kwang, Warren Fernandez and Sumiko Tan

1st August 2019
Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas book cover


Lee Kuan Yew, a name that is widely recognized in the ASEAN region, is the former leader of Singapore. This is a book about his political life with the aim to describe and not to critique.


Han Fook Kwang is an Editor-At-Large of The Straits Times, a newspaper in Singapore. He was a former civil servant of the Singapore government. His area of expertise is the political segment.

Warren Fernandez is the Editor-In-Chief of The Straits Times. He works for the paper since 1990 and left to Royal Dutch Shell in 2008 before returning. He also specializes in the political segment.

Sumiko Tan is also an editor of The Straits Times. She has been with the paper since 1985, starting as a crime reporter. She pens the longest-running column in The Sunday Times.


This book has 4 main sections after the Introduction. The first section is The Making of a Politician which has 3 chapters. The second section is Ideas that Made a Nation which contains 7 chapters. The Man Behind the Ideas is the fourth part and has just a single chapter. The last section is In his Own Words: Selected Speeches and Interviews which consists of 44 excerpts. 


The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the man who transformed an abandoned nation to a developed country in a generation. He was one of the champions for the formation of Malaysia and was devastated when Singapore was forced to separate from Malaysia. Nonetheless, despite all odds, he managed to lead the country to its current state.

From his speeches, we can see that he is a great orator. Maybe his profession as a lawyer helped in his oratory skill. However, he did admit that practice makes perfect. He is a practical and determined man, and you would not want to stand in his way. He had a very sharp mind and often hit at the heart of the matter. Although he could be uncompromising in his areas of expertise, he still observed his own limits and was not shy to ask for help in other fields.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew knew that talent is very important in the development of a nation. He developed a good system to select for talent and attract these capable people into civil service. He believes that the character of a person is very important, because a smarter a man is, the more harm he will do society.

One of his interesting points of view is that pure democracy does not work, at least in Singapore. This is in contrast to the Western view. He opines that for democracy to work, certain requirements are needed and these are lacking in Asia.

He did not care about what people think of him as long as Singapore continues to thrive. Singapore is the ultimate work that he could show to his political critics. It is up to you to form your judgement of the late Mr Lee but Singapore might not achieve its current status if he was not its leader from the beginning.


  1. The three basic essentials for successful transformation of any society. First, a determined leadership, an effective, determined leadership; two, an administration which is efficient; and three, social discipline.
  2. Welfarism today means the redistribution of wealth through subsidies that makes it possible for people to get many benefits in life with little effort. Therefore, it has led to the failure of society.
  3. Life has an unfair, unpredictable quality about it and you must take it as it comes.
  4. You become a model because you went against conventional wisdom and proved that they were wrong and you were right.
  5. The weakness of democracy is that the assumption that all men are equal and capable of equal contribution to the common good is flawed.


3 out of 3 stars

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