Quotable quotes from Lee Kuan Yew

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 23 2015 07:07 AM | Updated as of Mar 23 2015 05:49 PM

Here are some notable quotes from Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died Monday at the age of 91.

On Japan defeating colonial power Britain to occupy Singapore in 1942:

"The dark ages had descended on us. It was brutal, cruel. In looking back, I think it was the biggest single political education of my life because, for three and a half years, I saw the meaning of power and how power and politics and government went together, and I also understood how people trapped in a power situation responded because they had to live. One day the British were there, immovable, complete masters; next day, the Japanese, whom we derided, mocked as short, stunted people with short-sighted squint eyes."

After World War II when the British were trying to reestablish control:

"... the old mechanisms had gone and the old habits of obedience and respect (for the British) had also gone because people had seen them run away (from the Japanese) ... they packed up.

"We were supposed, the local population was supposed to panic when the bombs fell, but we found they panicked more than we did. So it was no longer the old relationship."

As a law student in Britain:

"Here in Singapore, you didn't come across the white man so much. He was in a superior position. But there you are (in Britain) in a superior position meeting white men and white women in an inferior position, socially, I mean. They have to serve you and so on in the shops. And I saw no reason why they should be governing me; they're not superior. I decided when I got back, I was going to put an end to this."

On opinion polls:

"I have never been overconcerned or obsessed with opinion polls or popularity polls. I think a leader who is, is a weak leader. If you are concerned with whether your rating will go up or down, then you are not a leader. You are just catching the wind ... you will go where the wind is blowing. And that's not what I am in this for."

As a leader and admirer of the 16th century Italian political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli:

"Between being loved and being feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I'm meaningless."

On his iron-fisted governing style:

"Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle-dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no way you can govern a Chinese society."

On his political opponents:

"If you are a troublemaker... it's our job to politically destroy you... Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac."

On democracy:

"You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools."

On justice:

"We have to lock up people, without trial, whether they are communists, whether they are language chauvinists, whether they are religious extremists. If you don't do that, the country would be in ruins."

On his policy of matching male and female university graduates to produce smart babies:

"If you don't include your women graduates in your breeding pool and leave them on the shelf, you would end up a more stupid society... So what happens? There will be less bright people to support dumb people in the next generation. That's a problem."

On criticisms over the high pay of cabinet ministers and senior civil servants:

"You know, the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government. You get that alternative and you'll never put Singapore together again: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again... and your asset values will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries, foreign workers."

On religion:

"I wouldn't call myself an atheist. I neither deny nor accept that there is a God. So I do not laugh at people who believe in God. But I do not necessarily believe in God -- nor deny that there could be one."

On his wife of 63 years, Kwa Geok Choo, who died in October 2010:

"Without her, I would be a different man, with a different life... I should find solace in her 89 years of a life well lived. But at this moment of the final parting, my heart is heavy with sorrow and grief."

On death:

"There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach."

On rising up from his grave if something goes wrong in Singapore:

"Even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me to the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up."

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