In the end, when the great Lee Kuan Yew bid us goodbye, I’d be delighted about his departure, not because of hatred or animosity against the astute statesman, but because it was Singapore where I’ve come to learnt about living life outside of home and working in the settings of a progressive first world country.

For this I do not share the sentiments with a great majority of my fellow countrymen. To them, Singapore is public enemy no. 1, period. For whatever reasons they may have come to believe, I for one had at one time identified with their thoughts, until of course I set foot onto the tiny dot in September 1999 to begin what would remain till today among the greatest stories ever told in the life of this peranakan chinese kampung boy of Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore truly began in my mind as a country that have a few things ahead of us:

1. Currency

2. Arrogance

3. Prime Minister

I was in fact taught by a certain primary school teacher that Lee Kuan Yew confessed to being able to turn the roads in Malaysia to gold if he was the Prime Minister here. Obnoxious, arrogance or pride? Actually, it didn’t matter, it didn’t even matter if Mr Lee ever said that. Fact was, Singapore had already sped ahead of us. To claim that being small is nimble and easier to succeed is just a fallacy Malaysians like to believe unfortunately.

What Singapore taught me was simply and quite easily what the great Prime Minister had enlightened me. After all, this regimented country had its machinery well oiled from the very top to the very bottom and nothing, almost nothing would escape the authorities when they put their hearts to it. A colleague of mine even said it jokingly, “Be careful, the wall have ears.”

But truth be told, it was in this country where I witnessed first hand what globalisation was. It was in this country where I met with high-ranking executives of staffing and search firm Business Trends (now Kelly Services), Internet giant (then) Netscape, data storage king EMC2, enterprise system provider BEA Systems, human resource governing authority Ministry of Manpower Singapore, NetCel360 (part of Li Ka-Shing’s son venture at PCCW in Hong Kong) and realising that there is a greater variety of jobs and career paths in any given industry compared to the same fields back home. It was in this speck of a country where this kampung boy was able to see how big this planet truly is.

So today Mr Lee Kuan Yew, allow me to salute you for the great achievements you’ve done to your country and how you have elevated a society that was hampered by the lack of natural resources into the financial and intellectual powerhouse of the world. Your country has taught me well and rewarded me immensely. You are truly a stalwart I had wished to meet and one I can confidently say – admire and respect!

SALUT GREAT PRIME MINISTER!

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