Our Founding Fathers

Mr Lee Kuan Yew

16 September 1923 - 23 March 2015
As the first Prime Minister of Singapore between 1959 and 1990, Mr Lee Kuan Yew laid the foundation for Singapore’s growth and success, he instituted a system of meritocratic, corruption-free and highly efficient government and civil service.
For leading the country from the "third world to the first world in a single generation, Mr Lee is acknowledged as the founding father of independent Singapore. He favoured pragmatic long-term social and economic measures in place of populist policies. Meritocracy, multiracialism and racial harmony formed the bedrock of a modern Singapore.
Mr Lee chose English as the common language to integrate its immigrant society and to facilitate trade with the West. Mr Lee also made bilingualism - Malay, Mandarin and Tamil - compulsory in schools for students to preserve their mother-tongue and cultural identity.
Creating jobs was another key concern of Mr Lee. He and his colleagues successfully wooed many multi-national corporations to invest and set up operations in Singapore. This led to an added impetus to build up the necessary infrastructure and Jurong was transformed into a thriving industrial base.
For the new government, housing the people of Singapore was a priority. Following the Bukit Ho Swee fire, the building programme for public flats was accelerated and many townships were established. Mr Lee made Singaporeans realise that they have a stake in the country by encouraging home ownership through HDB’s extensive housing projects. And to defend their home, Mr Lee introduced National Service, where all able-bodied male Singaporean citizens age 18 and above were required to serve.
Water sustainability was another key concern of Mr Lee and he ensured that Singapore’s water needs were taken care of, not only through the supply of water from Malaysia but through technology and our own water sources.
In 1990, Mr Lee chose to step down as Prime Minister in favour of his successor, Mr Goh Chok Tong, who appointed him as Senior Minister - a post he held until 2004. Mr Lee Hsien Loong became the nation's third prime minister in 2004 and Mr Lee became Minister Mentor and left the Cabinet in 2011. He then served in an unofficial capacity as an Elder Statesman and mentor to his cabinet colleagues.
Although Mr Lee retired from the Cabinet, he continued to serve as a Member of Parliament of Tanjong Pagar constituency for a record 60 years until his death on 23 March 2015.


Dr Goh Keng Swee

6 October 1918 – 14 May 2010
Dr Goh Keng Swee’s contributions to a newly independent Singapore’s defence, education, economic and fiscal policies were his greatest legacies.
Dr Goh was a key member of the PAP's Central Executive Committee, and later became its vice-chairman. Goh successfully contested the Kreta Ayer seat in the 1959 general election, was elected to the Legislative Assembly and joined the first government of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as Minister for Finance.
He initiated the setting up of the Economic Development Board to attract foreign multinational corporations to invest in Singapore. He also started the development of the Jurong industrial estate by offering incentives to local and foreign business to locate there.
Besides the economy, Dr Goh also sought to improve Singaporeans' cultural and leisure life, such as the Jurong Bird Park, the Singapore Zoo and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
Dr Goh retired from politics in 1984 and continued his public service by serving as Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (1981–94), Economic Adviser to the State Council of the People's Republic of China among other distinguished appointments.


S Rajaratnam

25 February 1915 – 22 February 2006
Mr S Rajaratnam was another key pioneer leader of independent Singapore.
As the Party’s ideologue, he helped shape the mentality of Singaporeans on contemporary issues. A multiracial Singapore was the vision he had for Singapore and the National Pledge was one of his most significant contributions to Singapore.
But it was as in the field of diplomacy, where he left his biggest imprint.
As Singapore's first foreign minister, Mr Rajaratnam helped Singapore gain entry into the United Nations and later the Non-Aligned Movement in 1970. He built up the Singapore’s nascent Foreign Service and helped establish diplomatic links with other countries and secured international recognition for a nascent Singapore.
Mr Rajaratnam retired from politics in 1988 and was a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies from 1988 to 1997.


Dr Toh Chin Chye

10 December 1921 – 3 February 2012
Dr Toh Chin Chye, an academic and founder member of the PAP, was a core member of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s first government. Elected as the Member of Parliament for Rochor in the 1959 Singapore general election.
Dr Toh was Chairman of the PAP between 1954 and 1981, became Deputy Prime Minister in 1965. He also held several important portfolios till his retirement from politics in 1988.
Credited with designing Singapore’s National Flag, Dr Toh stepped down from the Cabinet and party chairmanship in 1981 and retired from politics in 1988.


Mr Lim Kim San

30 November 1916 - 20 July 2006
A successful businessman, Mr Lim Kim San is credited with spearheading the PAP Government’s successful public housing programme. An excellent organiser and planner, Mr Lim served as a Member of Parliament in Cairnhill from 1963 to 1980 and held several important portfolios, including National Development, Finance, Environment and Defence.
Even after retiring from politics in 1980, he continued to be active in public service. As Chairman of the Port of Singapore Authority for 15 years until 1994, he had a hand in making Singapore the world's number one container port. He served as Deputy Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 1981 to 1982 and as the Executive Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings. He was appointed Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisors and was the first Chancellor of the Singapore Management University.