Mr Lee Kuan Yew 1923 - 2015 :Long queues to pay tribute

11-hour wait - yet they kept coming

Organisers warn people about long wait but they persevere anyway

Told to stay away, they came anyway.

People continued to turn up from midnight yesterday into the day to queue outside Parliament House to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

This was despite the fact that from Thursday night, the state funeral organising committee advised people not to join the queue until further updates, warning the wait could get as long as 11 hours.

However, most of those on the ground reported waiting a much shorter time - although this was before the crowds surged again last night.

Engineer Veron Koh, 37, who was there at 4am yesterday because she was "scared of the sun" and had to work, but still wanted to pay her respects, was told that she would be waiting for eight hours. But she was done in four.

She said: "I was prepared to take urgent leave if I had to but they were very organised, and I waited only a while at the Padang, then our whole group walked straight to Parliament House."

The difference between the estimated and actual times was due to the different organisation of the queue system yesterday compared with the first two days of public mourning on Wednesday and Thursday. Instead of one long queue around the Padang, people were broken up into groups, with each group assigned a holding area at the Padang.

The groups could expand or contract, depending on the number of people. When there were fewer people, each group moved quicker.

For some, the faster flow of the general queues was still not fast enough - financial analyst Dawn Huang, 32, left the Padang at around 8am, after waiting about two hours.

"I have to go to work but I plan to come back later," she said as she hurried off.

On the other hand, retiree James Chan, 64, was undaunted when he arrived at midnight yesterday and was told that it would be an eight-hour wait.

He decided to stay, saying: "That's the least I can do to repay the debt of gratitude that generations in Singapore owe to Mr Lee."

Others who had gone there at around the same time gained a small respite in the end - the waiting time was more like seven hours.

Nanyang Technological University student Lee Jing Shen, 23, was one, emerging from Parliament House at 6.45am.

Asked why he waited, he said pragmatically: "The MRT and buses had already stopped running when we got here and found out how long it would take."

However, university mate Kee Han Chong, 23, said: "Based on my calculations, the queueing times would only get longer from Friday, so I had to do it. Mr Lee is a very important part of our history."

Those who arrived not long before daybreak yesterday persevered for the same reason.

Counsellor Diane Choo, 31, who got there at 5.30am, said she got into the hall where Mr Lee's body lay in state after a wait of "only" five hours.

"It was only right that I had to put in that energy and effort to say thank you," she said.

Amid the large turnout in the wee hours yesterday, there was confusion about where to start queueing. Some joined in at Raffles City to make their way to the Padang, while others did so at Esplanade Park, unwittingly cutting the queue.

Meanwhile, those in the priority queue - for the elderly, disabled, pregnant and those with children below six years of age - had a much shorter wait, after the system was changed on Thursday night so only parents could go with their children, and just one adult could accompany an elderly person.

Childcare centre principal Angela Ang, 57, who was there at 6am with her 77-year-old mother Nancy Wu, "breezed through" in about 45 minutes. She said: "I would've come even if the queue was long because I'm a beneficiary of his legacy."

For teacher Sally Chew, 37, in the priority queue with her husband and sons aged five and 11, it was her second try.

The first time, she had to go and pick up her children from school, and was not allowed to rejoin the queue where her husband was waiting.

Just to be safe, her husband took leave yesterday and her children skipped school.

She said: "I came mainly for the education of the kids. They can read a lot about Lee Kuan Yew but it's nothing like going through (this)."

Throughout the day, people continued to stream into the area, even when it rained for a spell in the afternoon, and with the sun beating down afterwards.

Ms Joyce Khoo, 30, got there at around noon with her husband, just as it started to drizzle.

The Singaporean pilates instructor, who now lives in Jakarta, had flown back yesterday for a day, specially to pay her respects to Mr Lee.

"Living overseas makes you very conscious of how lucky we are as Singapore citizens... It's all due to the dogged determination of Mr Lee and the first generation of Singaporeans. I would have regretted it if I hadn't come back," she said.

As night fell again, the crowd grew larger, backing up to Raffles City. Public transport operators extended their hours yesterday, with buses and MRT trains to operate overnight.

Father-and-son pair Albert and Alex Lim were among those who arrived by public transport.

The older Mr Lim, 54, and his son, 24, came prepared to wait through the night. They said they "will be here as long as it takes".

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PRESSING ON

"I can't queue for eight hours but I can still handle four hours. I have to come and pay my respects or I won't feel good."

- Madam Lee Yong Jong, 81, who leans on an umbrella for support when she walks. She decided to join the queue yesterday because it was too crowded the past few days

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WELL-HANDLED

"As someone who works in logistics, I feel the queue is well-organised and moving very quickly. We're residents of Tanjong Pagar and Lee Kuan Yew has been our longest-serving MP. We had to come and do our part and decided to come today because tomorrow is the last day and might be even more crowded."

- Logistics manager Lee Yoong Yoong, 42, who went to pay his respects with his six-year-old son Masean Lee

BENEFIT OF DOUBT

"We give people the benefit of the doubt when they say they are feeling unwell. Those who come with elderly parents can also join the priority queue.

Even with the heat, most people come in with a smile on their faces."

- Volunteer queue coordinator Selvie Mabel, 46, on letting people join the priority queue

LKY AIRPORT?

ALMOST 10,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Changi International Airport to be renamed in honour of Singapore's founding Prime Minister.

While the petition acknowledged that Mr Lee did not need the recognition, it said: "Renaming the airport 'Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) International Airport' will serve to remind all Singaporeans of the foundations laid to bear the successes we see today."

The petition was started on Wednesday, two days after Mr Lee died at age 91, by an individual with a website account named "Remembering LKY".

Addressed to Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew, it was posted on petition website Change.org. It drew mixed reactions, some of which opposed the suggestion.

Netizen Boey Wai Yen pointed out that money, time and effort would be needed to carry out the renaming exercise.

She and others suggested that new landmarks be named after Mr Lee instead.