Our Founding Fathers
Mr Lee Kuan Yew
16 September 1923 - 23 March 2015
Lee Kuan Yew is acknowledged as the founding father of independent Singapore and for leading the country from the "third world to the first world in a single generation."
As the first Prime Minister of Singapore between 1959 and 1990, Mr Lee laid the foundation for Singapore’s growth and success, he instituted a system of meritocratic, corruption-free and highly efficient government and civil service.
Pragmatic long-term social and economic measures were favoured in place of populist policies. With meritocracy and multiracialism as the guiding principles of a modern Singapore, Mr Lee made English the common language to integrate its immigrant society and to facilitate trade with the West.
Mr Lee also made bilingualism compulsory in schools for students to preserve their mother-tongue cultural identity.
Providing jobs was another key concern of Mr Lee and his colleagues and they successfully wooed many multi-national corporations to set up base in Singapore and to provide jobs. Special emphasis was on building the necessary infrastructure and Jurong was transformed from sleepy mudflats 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 through water supply from Malaysia and 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 served as an Elder Statesman and mentor to his cabinet colleagues until he left the Cabinet in 2011.
Mr Lee continued to serve his Tanjong Pagar constituency for a record 60 years as an elected Member of Parliament 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 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.
25 February 1915 – 22 February 2006
Mr S Rajaratnam was another key pioneer leader of independent Singapore.
As Party 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 Singapore's first foreign minister, where he left his biggest imprint.
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 secure international recognition of the new nation's sovereignty.
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, was a core member of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s first government, Elected to the Rochor ward during the 1959 Singapore general election, Dr Toh, the Chairman of the PAP, became Deputy Prime Minister.
Credited for 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 for spearheading the successful HDB public housing program in Singapore.
Mr Lim served as a Member of Parliament in Cairnhill from 1963 to 1980 and held several important portfolios while in government. 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, Singapore became 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.