Parliamentarians past and present remember Lee Kuan Yew in Chamber of old Parliament House

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, with past and present members of Parliament, at the Parliamentarians’ Remembrance Ceremony for Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on March  26, 2016.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, with past and present members of Parliament, at the Parliamentarians’ Remembrance Ceremony for Founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on March 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
A stalk of orchids was placed on the seat of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
A stalk of orchids was placed on the seat of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at the launch of The Parliament in Singapore History Exhibition on March 23, 2016.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at the launch of The Parliament in Singapore History Exhibition on March 23, 2016.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at the launch of The Parliament in Singapore History Exhibition on March 23, 2016.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, at the launch of The Parliament in Singapore History Exhibition on March 23, 2016.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, walks past the seat of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew on March 23, 2016.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, walks past the seat of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew on March 23, 2016.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Past and present parliamentarians gathering at the old Parliament House to remember the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Past and present parliamentarians gathering at the old Parliament House to remember the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.ST PHOTO: REBECCA LYNNE TAN

SINGAPORE - The Chamber of the old Parliament House was where the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew delivered some of his most fiery speeches, and where some of the country's landmark acts were passed.

On the first anniversary of Mr Lee's death, past and present parliamentarians, including Mr Ong Pang Boon and Mr Jek Yuen Thong, members of the first Parliament, filled the same Chamber as they paid tribute to him.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the elder son of Mr Lee, also launched a permanent exhibition titled The Parliament In Singapore History, tracing chronologically the history and milestones of the old Parliament House, and of Singapore's Parliament.

Parliament House moved to a new building just down the street in 1999.

The old building, gazetted as a national monument in 1992, was converted into an arts centre and reopened as The Arts House in 2004. It is Singapore's oldest government and public building.

Culture, Community, and Youth Minister Grace Fu said the history of Parliament would not be complete without mention of the late Mr Lee, the Republic's prime minister from 1959 to 1990.

"His abiding vision of Singapore as a multiracial nation ensured that the protection of minority rights and representation were enshrined in our Constitution. Later, he would introduce the NCMP (Non-Constituency MP) scheme to ensure that opposition voices would never be absent from the Chamber, and the GRC system to guarantee minorities that they would always have a place in our Parliament," she said.

She added: "Mr Lee's personal leadership helped set the tone and shaped the Parliament that we know today. He was deeply committed to improving the lives of all Singaporeans, and devoted his entire life to ensuring Singapore's success."

Mr Lee was 31 when he won the seat of Tanjong Pagar in Singapore's legislative assembly elections in 1955. He served as an MP for Tanjong Pagar for 60 years, until 2015 - the longest period for any MP here.

Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, former speaker of Parliament and Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, shared his memory of Mr Lee, and of speaking in Parliament, with the audience.

He had made his parliamentary debut on March 18, 1985, when he spoke during the debate on the Budget statement.

Describing himself as a "mixed bag of emotions" - proud and nervous at the same time - Mr Abdullah said he looked everywhere except at Mr Lee when delivering his maiden speech.

He was most concerned about how Mr Lee would perceive his performance. "That much was the impact the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had on me," said Mr Abdullah.

He added that he had had lunch with Mr Lee the week before that. Mr Lee had noticed how intimidated he was.

"(He) wanted me to be myself, do the right thing, and not pander to what others thought of, or wanted me, to be," said Mr Abdullah, as he choked back tears.

When Parliament moved to its current building in 1999, Mr Lee, who was then Senior Minister, had said then that "the importance of the Chamber did not, and does not, depend upon its size and grandeur, but upon the quality of men and women who occupy it as representatives of the people".

Said Ms Fu: "As we honour Mr Lee's memory today, let us resolve to uphold the integrity and honour of our Parliament... We will emulate his spirit, and build on this inheritance to bring Singapore to greater heights."

The Parliament In Singapore History exhibition, supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the National Heritage Board, will open to the public from Thursday (March 24).

Visitors can view a documentary clip of Mr Lee's memorable parliamentary speeches from then till March 31. Guided tours will be available until May 29.