Thousands of Singaporeans took time out from their weekend plans yesterday to drop off cards and gifts for ailing former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, as word came that his health had weakened further.
A one-line statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) yesterday afternoon said Mr Lee's condition had deteriorated again. An announcement last Tuesday said he had taken a turn for the worse and daily updates since Wednesday said he remained critically ill.
About 1,000 people were at the art gallery of the Tanjong Pagar Community Club (CC) to leave cards and gifts and write messages on a giant banner that said: "Get well soon, Mr Lee Kuan Yew."
Mr Lee, 91, is an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, having represented the area since he won the 1955 legislative assembly election.
His son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, arrived at the CC in the afternoon with his wife, Ms Ho Ching, to thank those present and add their signatures to the hundreds covering the banner. It was PM Lee's first visit to the CC since he accompanied his father there as a child.
He took photos of the cards, soft toys and flowers people had left. He also penned a short message on the banner: "Dear Papa, Hope you get better!"
Well-wishers lined up to take photos with him and to say that they were concerned for his father.
Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah, an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, also signed the banner yesterday. She said Singaporeans are worried about the health of the elder Mr Lee as they feel a bond with him "that goes beyond policies". Older citizens see him as a pioneer and comrade-in-arms, while younger ones grew up reading about him in the news every day. "He gave this nation pride," she said.
Travel agent James Wong, 55, and his wife wrote good wishes for Mr Lee on the banner before heading to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where another area has been set up for people to leave flowers and messages. "We want to wish Mr Lee well as much as we can - going to both places is like double insurance," said Mr Wong, who lives in the Pinnacle@Duxton development in Mr Lee's ward of Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru.
At SGH, where Mr Lee has been warded with severe pneumonia since Feb 5, hundreds of visitors added to a growing array of bouquets, balloons, handmade cards, children's drawings and boxes of paper cranes at a designated area outside Block 7. The hospital erected tentage with lights over the outdoor area just before it started to rain in the evening, giving the space a warm glow.
A few visitors were teary-eyed, such as sales manager Cindy Ang, 34, who brought her sons Lennon, seven, and Lewis, four, to tell them about Mr Lee's life and work. "It's the last thing we can do for him, to come here, to pray for him," she said.
Another four-year-old, Lim Kai Jun, skipped his English tuition class to visit SGH with his family and leave a daisy for Mr Lee. His father, Mr Adrian Lim, said: "I want my son to understand that we have to be grateful for what Mr Lee, our founding father, has done."
Grassroots leaders in Tanjong Pagar GRC and neighbouring Radin Mas ward told The Sunday Times they are making preparations for various activities. Said Mr Tan Bok Seng, a Radin Mas grassroots leader: "I go regularly to the temple and I pray for Mr Lee's recovery."
Ministers also said Mr Lee was in their thoughts. "We wish him well. We are all rooting for him," said Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang at the Chingay Heartlands celebration in West Coast GRC, where he is an MP.
At another event at Rivervale Mall, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told reporters he had met PM Lee on Friday. "He really appreciates the outpouring of good wishes for Mr Lee and also for himself and his family. He thanks everyone for the good wishes," he said.
Additional reporting by Tham Yuen-C, Walter Sim, Rachel Au-Yong and Charissa Yong
FEB 5: Mr Lee Kuan Yew is hospitalised at the Singapore General Hospital for severe pneumonia.
Feb 21: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) issues a statement to announce Mr Lee’s hospitalisation. It says his condition has stabilised and he is on mechanical ventilation.
Feb 26: Mr Lee’s doctors restart him on antibiotics.
Feb 28: Mr Lee’s condition improves slightly. He remains sedated and on mechanical ventilation, and is continuing with his antibiotics, PMO says in an update.
March 6: PMO says Mr Lee’s condition remains largely unchanged from the last update.
March 13: Mr Lee’s condition remains largely unchanged, PMO says.
March 17: Mr Lee’s condition worsens due to an infection.
March 18: Mr Lee remains critically ill in the intensive care unit and his condition has deteriorated further, PMO says.
March 19: Mr Lee remains critically ill in the intensive care unit.
March 20: Mr Lee remains critically ill. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong would like to thank the public for their support and good wishes, PMO says.
March 21: Mr Lee's condition has worsened, PMO says in a one-line statement.
March 22: Mr Lee's condition has weakened further, says PMO.