leekuanyew

Constituents bid farewell to their MP

In the eyes of Madam Goh Boon Keow, 73, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was always her Member of Parliament.

The long-time resident of Tanjong Pagar moved out of the area in 1992, but, every year, she would dutifully attend the constituency's National Day dinner just to see him and hear him speak.

At these dinners, residents always started eating without waiting for Mr Lee, who would slip in during the second or third course, said Madam Goh, adding: "He had no airs about him."

But yesterday, Madam Goh and thousands of Tanjong Pagar residents who lined Cantonment Road, did the waiting.

They did not move even when the skies opened, soaking many to the skin.

The moment was historic. They were bidding farewell not just to their MP, but Singapore's first Prime Minister, a founding father who led a team that brought Singapore from Third World to First.

Mr Lee first set eyes on Tanjong Pagar in 1955 because it "represented the heart of the economic and social problems of Singapore of the time", and he wanted to turn things around.

He had represented the area since then.

Retiree Low Ming, 80, who has lived in Tanjong Pagar all his life, met Mr Lee when he was campaigning for the legislative assembly general election in 1959.

"He kept his promises to us. He said he would clean up the area, and he did. There used to be triads here who would collect protection money from us. When Mr Lee came along, he got rid of them. I have always voted for him," said the former hawker.

His wife Chim Kow Chye, 71, tears welling up, added: "He is a very, very good man."

Others, like Ms Ranjeet Kaur, 45, agreed. The former teacher, who has a flat in Cantonment, said her mother and two brothers all chose to live in Tanjong Pagar "because of Mr Lee".

Ms Kaur, who is doing a distance learning course to become a behavioural analyst, pointed to the Pinnacle@Duxton as an example of how Mr Lee had delivered on his promises.

Yesterday, many like her lined Cantonment Road, undeterred by the heavy downpour.

As the cortege drove by, they waved their flags and chanted "thank you" to their MP.

Over at the Police Cantonment Complex, a short walk from the Pinnacle, five women police bagpipers played Auld Lang Syne as the cortege neared.

Said Station Inspector Normawati Mohd Nor, before she took up her position: "I feel emotional, but we have to keep our feelings in check and produce the best quality of sound to give Mr Lee a fitting send-off."

As the strains of music filled the air, a line of Home Team officers, thoroughly drenched, snapped to attention and saluted the passing gun carriage bearing Mr Lee's flag-draped coffin.

yuenc@sph.com.sg

ziliang@sph.com.sg