Lee Kuan Yew: Gone but forever in their hearts

Above: Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say (centre, in red), his fellow East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan (in white shirt) and grassroots leader Mr Lim Joo Kwan (behind Mr Lee) with Bedok residents and grassroots volunteers in front of a collage of the late
Above: Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say (centre, in red), his fellow East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan (in white shirt) and grassroots leader Mr Lim Joo Kwan (behind Mr Lee) with Bedok residents and grassroots volunteers in front of a collage of the late Mr Lee. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Above: Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say (centre, in red), his fellow East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan (in white shirt) and grassroots leader Mr Lim Joo Kwan (behind Mr Lee) with Bedok residents and grassroots volunteers in front of a collage of the late
Above: (From left) Young Singaporeans Shanice Vanessa Hedger, R. Daminisree, Siti Afiyah Mustapha and Cheong Xuan Yong, representing the different communities in Singapore, each paid tribute to Mr Lee at a remembrance event at Stamford Green. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Above: Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say (centre, in red), his fellow East Coast GRC MP Lee Yi Shyan (in white shirt) and grassroots leader Mr Lim Joo Kwan (behind Mr Lee) with Bedok residents and grassroots volunteers in front of a collage of the late
Above: Guests looking at a painting by top Singapore artist Ong Kim Seng of the late Mr Lee's residence at 38, Oxley Road at the artcommune gallery in Bras Basah Complex.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Bedok residents and grassroots volunteers piece together a collage of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was assembled with 25 pieces of canvas.
Bedok residents and grassroots volunteers piece together a collage of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew which was assembled with 25 pieces of canvas. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Youth volunteers placing erasers bearing the flag of Singapore to form a mural of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Youth volunteers placing erasers bearing the flag of Singapore to form a mural of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.PHOTO: EPA
Two young children pose for a photograph against a mural made out of nearly 5,000 Singapore country erasers forming the likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Two young children pose for a photograph against a mural made out of nearly 5,000 Singapore country erasers forming the likeness of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. PHOTO: EPA
A lady places an eraser bearing the flag of Singapore to form a mural of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
A lady places an eraser bearing the flag of Singapore to form a mural of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. PHOTO: EPA

People across Singapore pay tribute to the late Mr Lee with artworks and events a year after his death

In a speech 20 years ago, then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew urged Singaporeans to seize the opportunities out there and not navel gaze.

"There is a glorious rainbow that beckons those with a spirit of adventure," he said. "To the young and not-too-old, I say, look at the horizon, find that rainbow, go ride it."

As the first anniversary of Mr Lee's death on March 23 last year approaches, a group of Bedok residents of all ages and races gathered yesterday morning to paint several pieces of art - using each of the seven colours of the rainbow.

They then put the pieces together to form a big painting of Mr Lee - to commemorate his urging of citizens to "follow that rainbow" and chart their own future.

Theirs was among the many remembrance events across the island yesterday where hundreds of residents got together to mark his contributions to the country.

Manpower Minister and East Coast GRC MP Lim Swee Say joined the Bedok residents and said in a Facebook post: "We all miss you, Mr Lee. The more we miss you, the more we will stay united, ride the rainbow to create a SG100 that you and all of us will be proud of."

In the afternoon, Mr Lee's younger brother, Dr Lee Suan Yew, 82, put the finishing touches to a unique art installation that formed the silhouette of Mr Lee's face with 4,877 rectangular erasers bearing the Singapore flag, a popular childhood stationery in the 1980s and 1990s.

The work was unveiled at the former National Youth Council building in Somerset Road.

The building was renamed The Red Box about a week ago, after the wine-coloured briefcase Mr Lee used throughout his working life.

The concept for the artwork was mooted by Mr Raghrib Ken Hamid, 34, who owns a business selling old-school local snacks and toys.

He said: "The inspiration to use the Singapore flag erasers to create an art installation of Mr Lee Kuan Yew came from the fond childhood memories of the eraser wrestling game we used to play."

More than 100 volunteers with the Youth Corps Singapore helped put the erasers together to form the image, which took six weeks from start to finish. The public will be able to view the art piece outside the building till Sunday.

Dr Lee, who was at The Red Box with son Shaun and daughter Shermay, said he found it "very touching to know that the youth in Singapore are admiring Lee Kuan Yew for what he has done", even though they did not live through times like the fight for independence and merger with Malaysia.

Republic Polytechnic student Sheila Manokaran, 21, who was among those who helped put up the erasers, said the piece was a fitting way to remember Mr Lee, a year on.

"It is also my way of honouring and remembering him," she said.

Top Singapore artist Ong Kim Seng opened a two-week-long exhibition at artcommune gallery in Bras Basah Complex that has three watercolour paintings of Mr Lee's old house at 38, Oxley Road.

Mr Lee's younger son Hsien Yang had earlier commissioned Mr Ong to make a painting of the pre-war bungalow in its original condition.

Mr Ong then did another similar painting of the house at the time, but from another angle, for his private collection, as well as a third painting of the house as it is now.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Lee Hsien Yang said he had asked Mr Ong to make a painting of the house in its original form as he wanted to preserve his memories of his childhood home.

He said that the past year had been emotionally very difficult, but added: "We are touched that so many people feel strongly about remembering my father, and I think it is a reflection of the respect and affection they held for him."

Yesterday morning, 1,500 people from nine community groups gathered at Stamford Green for a remembrance event.

Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam and several Cabinet ministers and MPs joined them.

Four young Singaporeans from the Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Chinese communities each paid tribute to Mr Lee and reflected on his policies.

Nanyang Technological University undergraduate R. Daminisree said Mr Lee's firm belief in equal opportunities for all meant her generation had access to education.

"I am not denied opportunities because of the colour of my skin, the faith I choose or the language that I proudly call my own," she said.

"Mr Lee's foresight in institutionalising multiculturalism has led to a diverse and cohesive social fabric that is uniquely Singapore."

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing also spoke, and urged Singaporeans to keep Mr Lee's legacy of a multicultural, multiracial and multi-ethnic society intact, and not take it for granted.

"If we take a step back and reflect on the current state of affairs in Singapore, I would argue that it is most unnatural," he said.

"It goes against what many people believe to be the human instinct to group together with people of the same skin colour, same religion, and who speak the same tongue."

He noted that Mr Lee set himself the goal of building a diverse society as he wanted a Singapore that gave opportunities to all - and this is a "constant work in progress".

"Today, we are closer than we were yesterday. With your commitment and conviction, tomorrow, we will be even closer," he said.

For more stories, go to the "In memory of Lee Kuan Yew" microsite at http://str.sg/lky

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 21, 2016, with the headline 'Gone, but forever in their hearts'. Print Edition | Subscribe