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Lee Kuan Yew was the prime minster of Singapore from 1959 to 1990, making him the longest-serving PM in history. During his long rule, Singapore became the most prosperous nation in Southeast Asia.
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To show that the people of Singapore were supportive, Lee used the results of a referendum held in September 1962, in which 70 percent of the votes were cast in favor of the proposal.
So in 1963, Singapore joined the newly created Federation of Malaysia. In elections held shortly after, the PAP retained its control of Singapore's Parliament, and Lee held onto his post as prime minister.
Growing tension between Chinese and Malays in the Federation, however, resulted in rioting in Singapore,
notably marked by the Prophet Muhammad Birthday Riots, or Sino-Malay riots, of the summer of 1964. A year later, with racial strife continuing, Lee was told by his Malaysian colleagues that Singapore must leave the federation.
Lee was passionate about working out a compromise, but his efforts proved fruitless, and he signed a separation agreement on August 7, 1965.
The failure of the merger was a serious blow to Lee, who believed that unity was crucial for Singapore's survival. In a televised press conference, he was emotionally drained as he announced the formal separation and Singapore's full independence:
"For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life ... I believed in Malaysian merger and unity of the two territories. You know that we, as a people, are connected by geography, economics, by ties of kinship ... It literally broke everything that we stood for ... now Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of the people in a most and just equal society."
With the broken union came problems beyond Lee's personal grief: Singapore's lack of natural resources and a limited defensive capability were major challenges.
Singapore needed a strong economy to survive as an independent country, and Lee quickly spearheaded a program to transform it into a major exporter of finished goods. He also encouraged foreign investment and made moves to ensure a rising standard of living for workers.
And when Lee's main opposition party decided to boycott Parliament from 1966 onward, the PAP won every seat in Parliament in the elections of 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980.
Lee resigned as prime minister in November 1990. He remained the leader of the PAP until 1992.
In the end, Lee ran his country efficiently and brought prosperity unheard of before his tenure, at the cost of a mildly authoritarian style of government. By the 1980s, Singapore, under Lee's guidance, had a per capita income second only to Japan's in East Asia, and the country had become a chief financial center of Southeast Asia.
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