Since Lee Kwan Yew passed away earlier in 2015, there has been much debate on the style of his leadership, with certain western media portraying him as a dictator, and many Singaporeans speaking up in defence of him. Regardless of whether you’re of the former or latter camp, there’s one thing that can’t be denied – the man was a badass. Here’s the story of how Lee Kwan Yew took on the CIA and made them eat their words.
In 1960, a CIA agent was caught in an attempt to purchase information from Singapore’s intelligence officials.
When he was discovered, he offered Lee Kwan Yew $3.3 million in exchange for his silence about the above. Lee Kwan Yew refused the bribe, and instead asked for $33 million in aid to Singapore. Dean Rusk, who was the Secretary of State at that time, wrote a formal letter of apology to Lee Kwan Yew regarding this.
A few years later in 1965, Lee Kwan Yew spoke about the affair, and the CIA issued an automatic denial.
Angered by this, Lee Kwan Yew ushered the reporters into his office, produced files stamped with “top secret”, and extracted the above-mentioned letter by Dean Rusk. “The Americans stupidly deny the undeniable,” he said, and also added that if the denial were to continue, he would have to disclose further details, which “may sound like James Bond and Goldfinger, only not as good but putrid and grotesque enough.”
We think that this speaks volumes about the strength of character and integrity that Lee Kwan Yew had.
Bear in mind that all this happened in the 1960s, when Singapore was a young nation with not much to its name. In the words of the man himself –
“The Americans should know the character of the men they are dealing with in Singapore, and not get themselves further dragged into calumny. They are not dealing with Ngo Dinh Diem or Syngman Rhee. You do not buy and sell this Government.”
Spoken like a true badass.