Singapore's Founder Sedated, on Life Support

By Associated Press 27 February 2015

SINGAPORE — Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s 91-year-old founding father, remains on life support in intensive care while being treated for severe pneumonia, the government said on Thursday.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said Lee is sedated and on mechanical ventilation. His doctors have restarted him on antibiotics, and are continuing to monitor him closely, it said.

Lee was admitted to Singapore General Hospital on Feb. 5.

Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee ruled for 31 years until 1990, and has been credited with transforming the city-state from a sleepy tropical port to a wealthy, bustling financial hub with one of the highest incomes in the world.

In his 2013 book, “One Man’s View of the World,” Lee said he signed a legal document informing doctors not to keep him alive if his death is imminent.

“Some time back, I had an Advanced Medical Directive done which says that if I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit. I had it signed by a lawyer friend and a doctor,” he said.

He said: “There is an end to everything and I want mine to come as quickly and painlessly as possible, not with me incapacitated, half in coma in bed and with a tube going into my nostrils and down to my stomach. In such cases, one is little more than a body.”

He said “with every passing day I am physically less energetic and less active.”

A founding member of the ruling People’s Action Party, Lee became prime minister in 1959 as Britain was gradually handing over colonial power to the new local administration. Singapore joined Malaysia in a federation in 1963, but the two split two years later. Even after Lee retired, he continued to work for the government, first as “senior minister,” a non-executive advisory post created for him, and from 2004 until 2011 as “minister mentor.”

Faced with rising discontent over the high cost of living, an influx of foreign laborers and growing income inequality, the PAP suffered its worst election results in 2011.

Under Lee and his successors, including his son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore—known for its ban on chewing gum sales and canings for crimes some countries would rule as minor—has strictly controlled public speech and assembly though has become socially more liberal and allowed greater artistic freedom in recent years.

Lee commands immense respect among Singaporeans, who this year will celebrate the 50th independence anniversary.

In his latest book, he said he took his greatest satisfaction from making Singapore “meritocratic, corruption-free and equal for all races—and that it will endure beyond me, as it has.”

“Singapore, as it stands, is the one corruption-free spot in a region where corruption is endemic,” he said.