Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

'Even the sky is crying': Sombre mood as Mr Lee Kuan Yew makes final journey across Singapore

SINGAPORE - Despite being drenched, the crowds were rooted to the spot as they waited to bid Singapore's founding father goodbye for the last time.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew embarked on his final journey through Singapore on Sunday, March 29.

At 12.40pm, his coffin left Parliament House, where he had been lying in state since March 25.

Mr Lee died on March 23 at the Singapore General Hospital where he had been warded for severe pneumonia since Feb 5. He was 91.

Eight pallbearers carried Mr Lee's casket and placed it onto a ceremonial gun carriage that consisted of a 25-pounder howitzer gun on which a tempered glass case is mounted. The carriage was driven by a ceremonial Land Rover.

Led by four guard-of-honour contingents from the Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Police Force, the cortege consisted of Mr Lee's family members, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and eight former and serving MPs, including veteran opposition politician Chiam See Tong who was in a wheelchair.

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A sombre mood descended as the ceremonial gun carriage drove out of Parliament House in the heavy rain.

"Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew!" the crowd chanted.

The weather reminded all of the memorable 1968 National Day Parade (NDP) - also held at the Padang, also in heavy downpour.

Mr David Hong, 58, had watched the 1968 NDP. Forty-seven years later, he said he was braving the downpour again to send off Mr Lee.

"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?"

Four ceremonial 25-pounders at the Padang fired the 21-gun salute when the funeral cortege passed through the Padang and Old Parliament House.

As the cortege journeyed around the Padang, the Republic of Singapore Air Force's Black Knights did an aerial salute.

Undeterred by the rain, people lining up along the route waved flags and cheered "We love you!" as the procession moved along.

Two navy patrol vessels conducted a ceremonial sailpast at sea off Marina Barrage and sounded three prolonged horn blasts as the procession passed by.

With the state flag in half-mast, they flew a black flag used for mourning with signal flags representing the letters L, K and Y.

As the procession passed the Padang, the ships sounded three prolonged horn blasts of 10 seconds each.

Early Sunday morning, members of the public began lining along the procession route which also passed through Shenton Way, Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Merah, Queenstown and Commonwealth to get a good spot to bid their final farewell to Mr Lee.

Along the route, crowds continued to chant Mr Lee's name. A group sang 1987 NDP song We Are Singapore as it passed Buona Vista.

At 1.45pm, the cortege reached the University Cultural Centre (UCC) at the National University of Singapore in Clementi where the state funeral service would be held.

More than 1.4 million people have paid their last respects to Mr Lee at Parliament House and community tribute sites islandwide in the past week.

Despite a heavy downpour across the island, people still turned up at various spots along the procession route.

"It's just rain. Getting a bit wet is nothing compared to what Mr Lee has done for us," said Tina, a 54-year-old business owner, who was at Dover with her sister Agnes Ang, 46.

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 the 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."

Real estate agent Joanne Lee, 35, had been waiting with her friend since 6.45am in front of Parliament House, where a crowd of about 30 gathered 45 minutes later.

She said: "I thought there would be a lot of people so we wanted to come early to get a good spot to give Mr Lee a send-off."

Mr Gunaseigaran Arumugam, 62, a lab officer was there with his wife and three daughters.

He said: "I went to Parliament House on Thursday and waited six hours in line. I'm here again to see Mr Lee off. This is the final send-off. I had to come."

Mr Edwin Hoo, 38, a sales executive, was there with his five-year-old daughter.

He said: "I want to teach my daughter about Lee Kuan Yew."

Grassroots networks were giving out state flags to their volunteers across the island to wave along the procession route.

One of them, Ms Archna Sharma, 37, who was at City Hall, said: "We want to be united as one people and use the flag as our identity to symbolise the Singapore spirit."

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

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