Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Bill Clinton will lead US delegation to state funeral of Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Former US leader will be joined by past and current envoys, Kissinger

Singapore's closest friends and allies are gathering to mourn the loss of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in a remarkable tribute to a man who stepped down from national leadership almost a quarter of a century ago.

United States President Barack Obama, who spoke with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, reached out to his Democratic Party's eminence grise, former president Bill Clinton, to lead the US presidential delegation for Sunday's funeral service for Mr Lee.

Mr Clinton, who continues to be enormously popular in his country, will be accompanied by Dr Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state to former president Richard Nixon and had been a longstanding friend of Mr Lee's since they first met at Harvard University in 1967.

Also in the official US delegation are former national security adviser Tom Donilon, US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar and Mr Steven Green, a former American envoy to Singapore.

Vice-President Joe Biden yesterday signed the condolence book for Mr Lee at the Singapore Embassy in Washington.

"What a wonderful legacy Mr Lee Kuan Yew left his beloved country Singapore. I met scores of world leaders in my time in office but few possessed the insight and wisdom of (Mr Lee)," he wrote.

One of his fondest and lasting memories was meeting Mr Lee in Singapore last year, he wrote. "We discussed the relative position and prospect of India, China, Russia and the United States - the breadth and depth of his understanding impressed me.

"My only regret was that I did not have a full week just to ask him questions regarding world affairs."

More global leaders confirmed their attendance for Sunday's funeral, while Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak flew down to pay his respects to Mr Lee at the wake yesterday.

Mr Najib was accompanied by his wife and four Cabinet ministers, including Foreign Minister Anifah Aman.

Reports said Malaysia will be represented at the funeral by its King, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah.

Also here for the funeral is Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who told reporters before his departure that he was travelling with "a sense of respect" for the people of Singapore.

"I am going to represent Israel and its citizens not only to express condolences at the passing of the founder of Singapore, but also to express our appreciation for his work as an important and valued leader," Mr Rivlin said, referring to the founding Prime Minister.

"Israel sees Singapore as a significant and important friend," he added.

Other global figures who have confirmed their attendance include Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, South Korean President Park Geun Hye, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Myanmar President Thein Sein, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha and Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of Laos.

Japan's Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe, is trying to juggle his legislative agenda to travel to Singapore, officials in Tokyo said.

Across the world, leaders continued to mourn Mr Lee's passing.

Germany, one of the first 13 countries to recognise Singapore's independence, yesterday described Mr Lee as a "remarkable historical figure" as President Joachim Gauck and Chancellor Angela Merkel sent their condolences.

Among those who called PM Lee over the past few days were Mr Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.

In Beijing, President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and Communist Party and government leaders sent wreaths yesterday to the Singapore Embassy.

In a rare move, four of the seven members of the Politburo Standing Committee - namely Mr Xi, Mr Li, National People's Congress chief Zhang Dejiang and Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli - sent their condolences on Monday. An official spokesman said a senior leader from China will be attending the funeral service.

velloor@sph.com.sg