Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Crowds brave heavy rain along Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral procession route

SINGAPORE – Bearing umbrellas, ponchos and Singapore flags, people braved the downpour as they lined the roads and bid a final farewell to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first Prime Minister.

Heavy rain fell across the island on Sunday morning, along areas where Mr Lee’s state funeral procession will pass through. 

The pouring rain had eased at the Padang and dwindled to a drizzle at the Tanjong Pagar area, but became torrential again close to noon. Bukit Merah, Commonwealth and Clementi also saw heavy showers.

Mr David Hong, 58, watched the 1968 National Day Parade at the Padang in the rain. Forty-seven years later, he is braving the downpour again to send off Mr Lee.

Said Mr Hong: “It’s a test of our spirit and determination. Why should we be afraid of rain when Mr Lee Kuan Yew has gone through a lot more storms?”

Senior research engineer Krishnamoorthy Baskaran, 42, had similar sentiments. He said: “It's not a big matter that it's going to rain. Mr Lee's contribution was so much more than that. I wasn’t able to go to the Parliament House so this is the least I could do for him.”

Mr Krishnamoorthy was sitting on a mat by the side of Clementi Road with his family of four. He said he met Mr Lee once, at a garden party at the Istana in 2012.

“I shook his hand. It was the first time I've seen him up so close. I was very touched and I thanked him for what he's done for our country.”

Mr Joey Ong, 38, spoke for many when he said: "We will stay here no matter what."

At Tanjong Pagar, people were asked to leave the overhead bridge for security and safety reasons. However, the older folk don't want to, as they can't stand for long and are worried they can't see the procession.

Although the people waiting are drenched, no one moved from their waiting spots. In fact, more people made their way to the side of the road at the Pinnacles@Duxton, which was rather empty before.

Police officers stood under the rain outside the Cantonment Complex, as they waited for the procession to begin. They are now soaked to the bone, with droplets of water dripping from their uniforms.

Ramky cleaners were busy trying to keep the walkways dry for people to sit and wait the storm out.

Others waiting along the route sought shelter under covered walkways, buildings and underneath the MRT tracks.

Said Mr James Wong, who is among the many lining the route: “Not even heavy rain can move us away from the road to send Mr Lee off for his last journey.”

Taxi driver Mickey Tan, 67, has lived in Bukit Merah for close to 20 years. He could not go to Parliament House to pay respects, as he just had surgery for prostate cancer. "I brought a cap along today to shield myself from the rain and I'll be here until the procession passes. It's a basic respect for what he's done for us. He's the father of Singapore," he said.

At Commonwealth, the crowd expressed concern for volunteers, who were drenched. They asked if the volunteers giving out water were ok without ponchos or umbrellas to shelter them. 

Facility officer Sim Lye Hock, 58, has been waiting along Clementi Road since 10.30am with his wife, Madam Low Lay Hoon, 53, and daugher Melody Sim, 16.

They used the floor mat they were sitting on to shelter themselves from the rain.

"It's my last chance to say goodbye. I was born in 1957, that was the time he really took care of people. I could go to school because he pushed for it. If not for him, I don't know where I'd be now," said Mr Sim.

Members of welfare group Jamiyah have been outside Singapore Conference Hall since 8am to make sure there is space for all of them.

"Even the sky is crying," said Mr Osman Sapawi, 39, a resident at one of the homes.

"It is intense with the rain and the crowd but I am content to be part of it and have a chance to say farewell to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I'm a Singaporean and I think I should say farewell to our father of Singapore."

The funeral procession will travel 15.4km, passing by major landmarks and heartland areas including Mr Lee’s Tanjong Pagar constituency. 

Mr Lee’s casket will leave Parliament House, where he has been lying in state since March 25, at 12.30pm. A gun carriage will convey it to the University Cultural Centre by 1.40pm, and the funeral service is to last from 2pm till 5.15pm. 

His body will then be taken to Mandai Crematorium for a private cremation.