leekuanyew

Emotions run high in Clementi

On this short stretch of Clementi Road, after Commonwealth Avenue West and towards Dover Road, it was fitting that many who defied the downpour for a final goodbye to Mr Lee Kuan Yew spoke of his push to make education a cornerstone of nation-building.

A short distance away is the National University of Singapore (NUS). Even closer is Singapore Polytechnic's Dover Road campus which Mr Lee officially opened in 1979.

Mr Sim Lye Hock, a 58-year- old facility officer who waited for Mr Lee's funeral procession with his wife and daughter, said: "I could go to school because he pushed for it. If not for him, I don't know where I'd be now."

Ms Chloe Lee, third-year chemistry student at NUS, was there with four schoolmates.

"We didn't experience Singapore's transformation, but that doesn't mean that we don't appreciate it. Like the fact that we are female but can get an education, unlike in other countries," the 21-year-old said.

Crowds there started gathering at 10am yesterday.

A group of more than 30 from Pioneer Zone 6 Residents' Committee sat on mats waving mini flags.

RC chairman Salim Ali, 54, said: "I met Mr Lee 10 years ago at a conference. I waved to him, he waved back."

Many like him cherished their meetings with Singapore's first Prime Minister, no matter how brief. Said senior research engineer Krishnamoorthy Baskaran, 42: "I met him once at a garden party at the Istana in 2012. I shook his hand."

The fickle skies drizzled, then poured, and repeated the cycle. But the people stayed - in ponchos, and under umbrellas and mats which became emergency shelters.

As news filtered through that the procession was nearing, those on the other side of Clementi Road surged forward along the stretch, turning the central road divider into a makeshift barrier.

A hush fell around 1.40pm.

Then came the roar.

"Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew!" they shouted.

Taxi driver Yeow Bee Hock, 54, who was with his 19-year-old daughter, Petrina, was emotional when he spoke of his regret after the procession.

"When I was younger, I thought very differently about Mr Lee. After he died, I had the chance to watch old documentaries of him. I came to apologise to him."

Retired oil field consultant Gunasingan Thambiraja, 69, said: "I wish more had recognised Mr Lee and all that he did when he was alive, instead of having to be reminded.

"They said he was too aggressive, too hot-tempered. Whatever they said about him, he had a plan for this country."

Madam Nayagam, a 77-year- old who lives in Clementi, was asked what seeing Mr Lee for the last time meant.

"It was very sad. He was a very nice man, a very good man, he did everything for us."

Her voice breaking, she added: "I want to say so many things, but I cannot say anything now."

hafiz@sph.com.sg

mellinjm@sph.com.sg