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16 Sept, 1923: Born to middle-class, English-educated family at 92
Kampong Java Road . Lee’s father was a store keeper and depot
manager for the Shell Oil Company.
1941 to 1945: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore put Lee’s
education on hold. He escaped the Sook Ching massacre by
asking to leave Jalan Besar Stadium to collect his belongings.
Lee’s classmates in 1941
1948: Lee married his wife, Ms Kwa Geok Choo, at Stratford-
upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare while he was studying
there. They had a three children from their marriage.
1950: Lee returned to Singapore from his studies at the University of
Cambridge, England with his wife, Ms Kwa Geok Choo. Lee started work as
a lawyer at Laycock & Ong.
1954: Lee co-founded the People’s Action Party to participate in the
1955 Legislative Assembly elections. Lee was Secretary General. Toh
Chin Chye was Chairman of the Party. Goh Keng Swee , Lee and Toh met
regularly at Lee’s home on 38 Oxley Road and were soon joined by
PAP Central Executive Committee 1954
Top Row (L to R) :Tan Wee Tiong, Devan Nair, S. Sockalingam, L ee Kuan Yew, Ong Eng Guan,
Fong Swee Suan
Bottom Row (L to R): Lee Gek Seng, Mofradi bin Mohd Noor, Toh Cihn Cye, Ismail Rahim, Chan
Lee Kuan Yew (seated at desk on stage), Tunku Abdul Rahman and Datuk Tan Cheng Lock
(both seated in third row), and other leaders of the United Malay National Organisation
(UMNO) and the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA).
1955: At the Legislative Assembly elections, Lee won the Tanjong
Pagar seat with 78.3% votes. Other PAP leaders who won included
Goh Chew Hua (Punggol-Tampines) and Lim Chin Siong (Bukit Timah).
1957: Mass arrests
of leftists and pro-
Communists by the
Lim Yew Hock
This helped Lee
Kuan Yew and his
group to remain in
control of the PAP
Between 1958 to 1959, Lee met the Malayan Communist Party
representative, Fong Chong Pik or the ‘Plen’ on more than 3
“We never asked for their (MCP) support. Even during the election campaign, we made our
anti-Communist stand quite clear. The PAP stands for a democratic, non-Communist,
socialist Malaya, and the MCP for a Soviet Republic of Malaya. It is a battle of ideals and
ideas. And the side that recruits more ability and talent will be the side that wins. “” - Lee
Kuan Yew, Radio Talk, Sept 18, 1961
1959: PAP won landslide victory. Lee was elected as Singapore’s
first prime minister. He was aged 36 and one of the world’s
youngest prime ministers.
1961: Split within the PAP. The left-wing, Chinese educated
members of the PAP were opposed to merger and set up the
Barsian Socialis (Socialist Left).
Singapore’s first and only referendum was held on
the issue of merger with Malaysia in Sept 1962.
70% of the votes were cast in favor of PAP’s
proposal for merger .
Lee visited St Gabriel’s on 4 Aug, 1963
1963: Malaysia is formed. It included Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and
1965: Lee was informed by Malaysia that Singapore had to leave
the Federation of Malaysia. This was after riots between Chinese
and Malay communities broke out in 1964 over Malay rights and
1967: The Citizen’s Army: Goh Keng Swee, the first minister of
defence, introduced National Service to create a citizen’s army.
Singaporeans are enlisted at the age of 18.
Lee and Goh Keng Swee at the opening
of Jurong Camp, 18 Jun 1966
1959 - 2015: Singapore continually restructured its economy from a
labor-intensive economy to knowledge-based and skill-based one. This
won for Singapore much respect and it became a model for countries
such as China, Russia and other Third World countries.
May 1, 1965
1970: Lee Kuan Yew went to Britain and met Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher told Lee, “I like to think that once
you learnt it from Britain. And now we are re-learning it from
1972: The jointly owned Malaysia-Singapore Airlines and its
assets were split into two airlines – Malaysia Airlines and
Mr and Mrs Lee return from a tour of Western
Europe, Cario and Athens on 21 Dec 1972. It was
board an SIA flight.
1974: Lee’s government dealt tough with terrorism
1974: Four armed men hijacked the ferryboat Laju and held its crew hostage
1976: Lee led a two-week goodwill visit to the People’s Republic
of China. It led to improved ties and trade links between China
1979: Lee Kuan Yew launched the first Speak Mandarin
Campaign to encourage the use of Mandarin over the use of
Chinese dialects. This was to promote the national Bilingual
1980: Lee personally confronted the SIA Pilots Association which had
1700 member pilots who called for industrial action and a possible
strike over various issues. The Association was de-registered and 15
officials were prosecuted for illegal industrial action.
1988: Lee proposed the Singapore Swing, a street party along
Orchard Road which lasted as part of the National Day Celebrations
from 1988 to 1992. Lee and his wife were Guest of Honour in 1990
on 8 Aug.
1990: Resignation as Prime Minister on 26 Nov, 1990 to President
Wee Kim Wee at the Istana. This made Lee the longest serving Prime
Minister in history
2009: In October, US President Barack Obama welcomed Lee to the
White House, calling him a “legendary figure of Asia in the 20th and
Lee, with US President Barack Obama and
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 2009.
1963 and 2013: The Green City. Lee Kuan Yew planted a
mempat tree to start an island wide tree-planting campaign. Five
decades later, he returned to Farrer circus to plant a rain tree.
Thank you for being a Founding Father of Modern Singapore
“I have no regrets. I have spent my life, so much of it, building up
this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do. At the end of
the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I
given up? My life – Lee Kuan Yew, (1923-2015)