As the country wends its way onto its sixth day of nationwide mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his legacy, the realisation that its citizens are standing in the dregs of an era’s end, is finally setting in for many.
The country’s 50th year of independence is certainly set on moving Singapore towards a different narrative, but this vision is now sans Lee Kuan Yew’s political acumen and prowess. To the collective of Generation Y that is gearing up to helm the nation over the next few years in various capacities, the future is daunting – with all its concomitant worries of public affairs and way of life.
For the bulk of us who grew up in the prosperity following LKY’s reign, the general sentiment among the colloquially-termed ‘strawberry generation’, is immense gratitude.
“As part of the younger generation here, we are grateful for the life of LKY. We cannot help but also grieve because he provided for our parents and grandparents so well that 50 years on, we are able to live with all the luxuries he aspired for us to have,” says 22-year-old psychology undergraduate, Amanda Lim.
Sabriena Loh, 21, a theatre student currently studying in the United Kingdom, also grieves with scores of her fellow countrymen as she appreciates LKY’s pragmatism and felt that his heavy-handedness was warranted for the benefit of our country.
“Politics has become very personal in Singapore, and I am only starting to understand the various opinions at 21. I see the impact of Lee’s hard work through my father, who is now 78, and has lived in Singapore all his life and worked very hard for the family,” she said to Popspoken.
“I used to find my father’s generation rigid and stubborn in terms of “oriental values”. My father has taught me that although Lee ‘ruled’ with an iron fist, most of what he did was necessary for Singapore to develop as a nation state.”
For those already looking ahead, the prospect of his success being repeated is uncertain.
“His passing does bring to light the question if there will be changes in the political scene. There are indeed concerns if the changes will upset the firm foundations he set in place. Without him, are we competent to move on on our own?” worries third-year Life Sciences undergraduate, Laavanya Paramasilvam.
All eyes will no doubt be on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his incumbent People’s Action Party cadre, before and after the upcoming elections. The current PM has had a different battle of sorts compared to his father’s and already, the youth of the nation are sizing up his ability to live up to this father’s legacy and looking to him to take the reins.
“I’m concerned about Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s ability to take over (former Minister Mentor) Lee’s respected standing in the international political arena because he was a giant who forged significant diplomatic ties. I’m worried that Singapore might become insignificant compared to others now that our middleman is gone,” says 18-year-old JC student, Nazri Ikhsan.
PM Lee, who has seen back-to-back declines in support over the past two elections since he assumed office, can be said to be in a totally different ball game from LKY’s – in an era of unconstrained social media and a generation that is not quick to align with austere political ideologies and leaders.
“It seems like Mr. Lee Hsien Loong’s work is cut out for him,” Nazri added.
However, according to 20-year-old undergraduate Tay Jie Pin, PM Lee “has to be commended for his effort on reaching out to the technologically savvy youth” – something she believes MM Lee would not have done in his heyday.
“What worked for LKY may not work for LHL anymore. Which is why you see PM Lee changing his approach and getting on social media and showing that he is listening to us. ”
Generation Y’s sentiment will be ineluctable in the upcoming elections as most of the collective achieves voting age. Will we perhaps observe a skew in results due to the grief and sentiment in our hearts? Perhaps it is through the plebiscite that it will be clear if LKY’s legacy will continue to live on.
Featured photo: Alex Yam