Singapore remembers Lee Kuan Yew and what he stood for

Gel candles, which were handmade by residents and grassroots volunteers, being lit at Tanjong Pagar Community Club last night, to mark the first anniversary of Mr Lee's death. Some did what Mr Lee would have done: they went on a brisk walk across tow
Gel candles, which were handmade by residents and grassroots volunteers, being lit at Tanjong Pagar Community Club last night, to mark the first anniversary of Mr Lee's death. Some did what Mr Lee would have done: they went on a brisk walk across town, or planted trees.ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Some laid down bouquets outside the Istana and Parliament House, and many, with heads bowed, observed a minute of silence at memorial events across the island yesterday.

However, gone were the red eyes, tear-streaked faces and the grief on display a year ago. Instead, there was gratitude as Singaporeans remembered Mr Lee Kuan Yew on the first anniversary of his death.

They credited the founding Prime Minister for inspiring resilience, fostering harmonious ties among people of different races and dedicating his life to building the nation.

And most of all, for ensuring, along with his pioneer team of leaders, that Singapore would survive and thrive without them.

At a special assembly in her school, which Mr Lee attended as a child, Telok Kurau Primary pupil Tharita Surendran, 11, said: "He really takes Singapore as family."

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues pledged to uphold Mr Lee's ethos and values: "These will guide us as we, in turn, follow the rainbow that Mr Lee himself chased all his life - to build an exceptional nation and to improve the lives of all Singaporeans."

In remarks to his ministers before their regular weekly meeting, PM Lee recounted how Cabinet meetings with Mr Lee were open, interactive and dynamic.

Earlier, past and present MPs attended a remembrance ceremony at the former Parliament House where Mr Lee made his mark.

Former Speaker Abdullah Tarmugi recalled how Mr Lee was always "proper", adding that he " made it a point to write a note to the Speaker every time he was unable to come to Parliament for the day".

At locations where Singaporeans came together during the week of national mourning last year - Parliament House, Istana Park and Tanjong Pagar - passers-by stopped to look at panels of photographs and write-ups that were put up by the People's Association.

Some came specially to place flowers, such as retiree Anthony Low, 63, and his wife, Ms Teng Yam Choo, 60, who live in Clementi.

Ms Teng said: "I am most grateful for the racial harmony Mr Lee promoted. A lot of the conflicts in the world now are based on racial issues."

Madam Lina Fatimah, 70, who attended a ceremony in Geylang Serai, said: "Mr Lee Kuan Yew is my role model. He had a clean and good heart."

Some did what Mr Lee would have done: 600 people went on a brisk walk across town, while another group planted 53 mempat trees in Jurong.

Mr Lee, who died at the age of 91 last year, had always made time for exercise. He was also known as "Singapore's chief gardener".

These regular activities show that life goes on, the events' organisers said, just as Mr Lee would have wanted it.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'S'pore recalls Mr Lee and what he stood for'. Print Edition | Subscribe