Lee Kuan Yew (lē kwän yo͞o, yü)
, 1923–2015, prime minister of Singapore
(1959–90). Educated in England, he obtained a law degree from Cambridge Univ. in 1949 and in 1954 founded the moderately leftist People's Action party. In 1959, when Singapore achieved full independence from Great Britain, Lee became its first prime minister; in 1963 he led Singapore into the Federation of Malaysia
, but political unrest caused it to withdraw in 1965. A republic was proclaimed, with Lee Kuan Yew continuing as prime minister. Pragmatic and incorruptible, Lee ran a tightly controlled welfare state with an economy based in private enterprise. Largely through Lee's efforts the island nation became a thriving center of international business and finance as he encouraged foreign investment while strongly discouraging political dissent. He also stressed discipline, correct public behavior, opposition to drugs, English education, and interracial tolerance. The longest serving prime minister in the world, Lee was lauded for overseeing the economic growth that transformed Singapore from a poor port to one of Asia's wealthiest and least corrupt nations, but he was criticized for his repressive policies. Lee resigned as prime minister in 1990 but continued in the government in the posts of senior minister (1990–2004) and minister mentor (2004–11). His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong
, has also served as prime minister of Singapore.