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Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew (lē kwän yō, yü) [key], 1923–, prime minister of Singapore (1959–90). Educated in England as a lawyer, he founded (1954) the moderately leftist People's Action party. In 1959 he became Singapore's first prime minister; in 1963 he led Singapore into the Federation of Malaysia, but political unrest caused it to withdraw in 1965. A republic was proclaimed, with Lee Kuan Yew continuing as prime minister. Lee ran a tightly controlled welfare state with an economy based in private enterprise; he encouraged foreign investment and discouraged political dissent. He also stressed discipline, correct public behavior, opposition to drugs, English education, and interracial tolerance. The longest serving prime minister in the world, Lee was lauded for overseeing Singapore's outstanding economic growth that transformed it from a poor port to a wealthy nation, but he was criticized for his repressive policies. Lee resigned as prime minister in 1990 but continued in the government in the posts of senior minister (1990–2004) and minister mentor (2004–11).

See his The Singapore Story: Memoirs (1998) and From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965–2000 (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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