This morning, I woke up to the sad news of the passing away of Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

In November 2012, I had the privilege to be commissioned to create a digital story to pay a tribute to Minister Mentor Lee. “Promise – The Bukit Ho Swee Story” as told by fire survivor James Seah was screened at the Havelock View Community Party on 4 November 2012. The DVD was later presented to him together with a personal letter. The sentiments expressed then are even more deeply felt today as I grieve our nation’s loss.

4 November 2012

Dear Mr Lee Kuan Yew,

Creating the digital story, “Promise – The Bukit Ho Swee Story” has been a transformational experience for me. While I was aware of the fire, it was a small event in the distant past that had little to do with me, or so I thought. I was after all only one year old when the fire happened.

The process of creating the story made me look long, hard, and deep into a point in our national history. I found rude awakenings like,

…the Bukit Ho Swee fire is noted at a definite term because it set a historical precedent, comparable to other fires such as the Great Fire of London, although the Bukit Ho Swee Fire is smaller...” (Wikipedia).

Ploughing through hundreds of photos from our National Archives, I saw a Singapore I could not recognise. Whenever I can, I visit developing countries in Asia to do voluntary work. Suddenly glaring in my face were slums and kampungs and mud-flat swamps much like the developing countries I visited. How on earth Singapore got to where we are in this short 50 years is nothing short of a modern day miracle.

It isn’t every day that one is asked to create a digital story like the Bukit Ho Swee story. I am grateful to the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens’ Consultative Community for commissioning me to work on this. Kipling said, “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.

On 12 September 1965, a young leader made this Promise,

“Over 100 years ago, this was a mud-flat swamp. Today, this is a modern city. Ten years from now, this will be a metropolis. Never fear.” 
(Then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew)

I know I speak for James Seah, the storyteller and survivor of the 25 May 1961 fire and many others when I say: Today, I thank God I have a place I call Home – it is spelt S-I-N-G-A-P-O-R-E.

Today, I also honour you and the many brave and unsung heroes who sacrificed to make Singapore what we are today. I wish you and all whom you love good health and peace. God bless you Mr. Lee Kuan Yew.

Thank you for keeping your Promise Mr Lee. May we, the next generation, who have been handed the baton never forget.

Yours truly,

Angeline Koh
Digital Storyteller / Social Entrepreneur
Singaporean