By Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka
Unarguably, Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) is the most universally respected Asian statesman of our time. He is esteemed from Washington to Havana, from Moscow to Beijing; from East to West and North to South, both for the quality of his mind and his conspicuous practical success as a transformational leader.
LKY is also known as the one who encouraged and to a great extent inspired Deng Xiaoping’s economic revolution in a seminal conversation in 1978. Lee made 33 visits to China and was acquainted with five generations of Chinese leaders.
LKY’s main observations on Sri Lanka are available in four texts. His on-the-record views on our country traverse its position at independence, through the post-independence decades right up to its post-war period. He was a man who never suffered fools or foolishness gladly and refused to waste his or other people’s time, so he was crystal clear and brutally frank in whatever he said—leaving no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
It is of considerable relevance that Lee’s identification of Sri Lanka’s tragic errors remained consistent over the decades, right up to his extended conversation in ‘The Man and his Ideas’ (1998, 2015), his famous double-volume autobiography ‘From Third World to First: The Singapore Story’ published in 2000, his International Herald Tribune interview (2007), and his exposition in Prof Tom Plate’s book ‘Conversations with Lee Kuan Yew’ in the ‘Giants of Asia’ series (2011).