Southeast Asian nation builder, Singaporean PM Lee Kuan Yew

15 08 2008 Kuan Yew towers over other Asian leaders on the international stage yet comes from one of the region’s smallest countries.

Fists flying, he immersed himself in a world of communists, labor organizers, gangsters and intelligence operatives, emerging in 1959 as Prime Minister–with his enemies all knocked out of the ring.

He was regularly re-elected from 1959 until he stepped down in 1990.

Under his guidance, Singapore became a financial and industrial powerhouse despite a lack of abundant natural resources.

Times Asia describes him as,

“a man of great intelligence, with no patience for mediocrity; a man of integrity, with an relentless urge to smite opponents; a man who devours foreign news but has little tolerance for a disrespectful press at home.”

Lee industrialized the country and made Singapore the most prosperous nation in Southeast Asia. He helped Singapore achieve self-government and, running as an anticolonialist and anticommunist, was elected prime minister in 1959. His numerous reforms included the emancipation of women.

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