Donations in memory of Mr Lee Kuan Yew exceed $1.6 million

More than $1.6 million has been contributed in memory of Mr Lee Kuan Yew to three funds that benefit education, the labour movement and greening efforts in Singapore.

After Mr Lee died on March 23, his family asked that the public make donations to the Education Fund, NTUC-U Care Fund and the Garden City Fund instead of sending in wreaths, flowers or condolence advertisements.

The Education Fund has received the most donations so far, with over $1.3 million from some 200 corporate and individual donors. Mr Lee made education a cornerstone of nation-building as he believed that it was key to ensuring a prosperous society.

A Ministry of Education spokesman said the fund is channelled to the Lee Kuan Yew Awards, which are given out annually to outstanding students in schools, the Institute of Technical Education and polytechnics to recognise achievements in academic and non-academic spheres. "These awards are made possible by donations made by Mr Lee, including honorariums from his past speaking engagements and proceeds from his book sales, as well as donations from well-wishers who have contributed specifically towards this cause," the spokesman said.

Mr Lee was also an advocate of a green living environment. He had never missed an annual Tree Planting Day since 1963, attending his constituency's event last November.

Professor Leo Tan, chairman of the Garden City Fund, which has received over $190,000 from more than 160 individuals and organisations, said: "Our verdant city in a garden is testament to the vision he crafted more than 50 years ago, and we have Mr Lee to thank for the salubrious living environment we enjoy. His legacy lives on in our tree-lined streets, heartland and vibrant parks. We shall remember him fondly as our Chief Gardener."

The beginnings of Mr Lee's political career in the 1950s came with his fight for workers' rights as legal adviser to more than 50 unions. He then championed the three-way partnership of unions, employers and the Government, known as tripartism.

A total of 33 donors had given $156,455 to the U Care Fund of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as of yesterday.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari said the labour movement was grateful that the NTUC-U Care Fund was named among those that would get donations in Mr Lee's memory. "The late Mr Lee was a labour champion and always had the interests of our workers at heart," he said.

OCBC Bank was the largest donor to the U Care Fund with $100,000. Its spokesman, Ms Koh Ching Ching, said: "The NTUC-U Care Fund seeks to improve the welfare of low-income individuals and their families, including providing assistance to defray living costs and education expenses. This is a cause that we identify with closely. Donating to the fund was therefore a natural choice for us."

ziliang@sph.com.sg