Lee Kuan Yew CH GCMG SPMJ , commonly referred to by his initials LKY, was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, governing for three decades. Lee is recognised as the nation's founding father, with the country described as transitioning from the "third world to first world in a single generation" under his leadership.
After attending the London School of Economics, Lee graduated from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, with double starred-first-class honours in law. In 1950, he became a barrister of the Middle Temple and practised law until 1959. Lee co-founded the People's Action Party in 1954 and was its first secretary-general until 1992, leading the party to eight consecutive victories. After Lee chose to step down as Prime Minister in 1990, he served as Senior Minister under his successor, Goh Chok Tong until 2004, then as Minister Mentor until 2011, under his son Lee Hsien Loong. In total, Lee held successive ministerial positions for 56 years. He continued to serve his Tanjong Pagar constituency for nearly 60 years as a Member of Parliament until his death in 2015. From 1991, he helmed the 5-member Tanjong Pagar GRC, and was returned unopposed for a record five elections.
Lee campaigned for Britain to relinquish its colonial rule, and eventually attained through a national referendum to merge with other former British territories to form Malaysia in 1963. But racial strife and ideological differences led to its separation to become a sovereign city-state two years later. With overwhelming parliamentary control at every election, Lee oversaw Singapore's transformation from a stagnant British crown colony with a natural deep harbour to an Asian Tiger economy. In the process, he forged a system of meritocratic, highly effective and incorrupt government and civil service. Many of his policies are now taught at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
Lee eschewed populist policies in favor of pragmatic long-term social and economic measures. With meritocracy and multiracialism as governing principles, Lee made English the common language to integrate its immigrant society and to facilitate trade with the West, whilst mandating bilingualism in schools to preserve students' mother tongue and ethnic identity. Lee's rule was criticised, for curtailing civil liberties and bringing libel suits against political opponents. He argued that such disciplinary measures were necessary for political stability, which together with rule of law, were essential for economic progress.
On 23 March 2015, Lee Kuan Yew died of pneumonia, at 91. In a week of national mourning, 1.7 million residents and guests paid tribute to him at his lying-in-state at Parliament House and at community tribute sites around the island.