Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Hundreds flock Singapore missions across Asia to offer condolences for Lee Kuan Yew

YANGON - Across Asia especially, ordinary people, government officials and expat Singaporeans have been streaming into Singapore missions to record their condolences, in books placed before black and white portraits of Lee Kuan Yew, flanked by flowers.

A condolence book is also set to be opened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, US State Department officials said.

In Kuala Lumpur Prime Minister Najib Razak arrived in the evening to sign the book, saying the Malaysian government and people extended heartfelt condolences to the Prime Minister, his family and the nation, and adding that the truly vibrant Singapore of today would not have been possible without the late Lee Kuan Yew's leadership.

Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng arrived earlier at 10am, accompanied by six other senior party leaders - acting national chairman Tan Kok Wai, and vice-chairman Theresa Kok, national treasurer Fong Kui Lun, assistant national publicity secretary Zairil Khir Johari, political education director Liew Chin Tong and Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng.

Mr Lim, who is also Penang chief minister, said although Mr Lee had many flaws these were outweighed by his success.

"I think his sheer will power, some say through iron and blood, transformed Singapore from Third World to First World nation. Singapore had no natural resources. They didn't even have water. He showed that he could develop Singapore into a developed nation by relying on human talent."

 Singaporean Lorraine Lim, 36, holding her baby and fighting tears, said: "I am glad he is not in pain anymore. I am very grateful for what he has done for Singapore to give us a safe and beautiful home where I can raise my children."

In Bangkok, Thailand's Minister for Foreign Affairs General Thanasak Patimaprakorn arrived in the morning to sign the book at the Singapore embassy. Later, Mr Banharn Silpa-archa became the third former Thai premier to sign the book, and also recalled Mr Lee's emphasis on human resources.

"It is the top priority and the most important  resource in country development," Mr Banharn said. "Singapore came from nothing, no natural resources; but he developed it until the advanced nation it is today, a cosmopolitan society and also an investment and trading hub."

Singaporean Andy Tan, 57, country manager of a banking software firm who has been in Bangkok for a year and a half, told The Straits Times: "Without him we would never be today a First World country. Another contribution I'm grateful for is his no tolerance for corruption. I hope it can continue."

In Manila about a hundred Singaporeans, mostly businessmen and professionals who have lived in the Philippines for years, made their way to the embassy. Among them was Mr Richard Thong, born in Mr Lee's Tanjong Pagar GRC two years after independence and now working as a chef at the Shangri-La hotel in Makati.

 Mr Thong told The Straits Times he had witnessed the changes that swept Singapore thanks to Mr Lee. "He made us proud to be Singaporeans," he said.

The Philippines' Finance Minister Cesar Purisima and dozens of diplomats also turned up to pay their last respects to Singapore's founding father.

In New Delhi, India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj signed the book and bowed to the photograph of Lee Kuan Yew. Shortly after, the government announced that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be attending Sunday's funeral. 

Mr Roy Sebastian, vice-president of GMR Airport Developers Ltd, said "Mr Lee Kuan Yew has made Singapore a great place to live in and taught us all what it means to be a Singaporean".

In Vientiane, Laos, deputy prime minister and foreign minister Dr Thongloun Sisoulith wrote: "The demise of His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew constitutes a great loss of an outstanding politician leader, a hero of the people of Singapore, a founder of modern prosperous Singapore who dedicated his life to the development of the country, and significantly contributed to… friendly relations with the Lao People's Democratic Republic."

A group of 29 students and staff from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Design and Environment, in Laos for a community service project to build a sports court for a Lao secondary school, also visited - some of them visibly distraught while writing their condolence messages.  

In Yangon, eight foreign ambassadors and heads of missions and two charges d'affaires signed the condolence book.  The late General Ne Win's daughter Khin Sanda Win, and former premier Khin Nyunt, also signed.

Singapore's Ambassador to Myanmar Mr Robert Chua, who has been there nine years and is the dean of the diplomatic corps, told The Straits Times: "In my foreign service career I learned much from Mr Lee about the importance of building close relations with many countries for Singapore's future.

"Myanmar friends tell me how much they respect him for his nation-building, his transformation of Singapore into a modern city."

Singaporean Teddy Chia Chiang Hong, director of operations of a hotel in Yangon, dressed in a back suit, wrote in the condolence book: "A great, pragmatic leader, you are the father of modern Singapore, the architect in putting Singapore on the world map. I respect your great visionary leadership and foresight."

"Sir, rest in peace."

nirmal@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Tan Hui Yee in Bangkok, Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani in Kuala Lumpur, Raul Dancel in Manila and Nirmala Ganapathy in New Delhi