Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew a fatherly character, says Sidek Saniff in eulogy

SINGAPORE - Former Senior Minister of State Sidek Saniff shared stories of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's frugal habits in his eulogy to Singapore's first Prime Minister on Sunday.

A Member of Parliament since 1976, Mr Sidek was Senior Minister of State for Education when he stepped down in 2001.

He was surprised when Mr Lee asked him to stand as a candidate in the 1976 General Election, he revealed, as he had expressed differing views from the Government on education just a few years earlier.

"He was a tough taskmaster but always full of advice," he said.

In 1979, when Mr Sidek accompanied Mr Hon Sui Sen, then Minister of Finance, to China, Mr Lee asked him if he could take the cold Chinese winter, he said.

When he replied that he would buy an overcoat and boots, Mr Lee asked him to borrow them from his colleagues.

"So off I went to China with a borrowed overcoat and a borrowed pair of boots," Mr Sidek said in an emotional speech at the University Cultural Centre, which was delivered in Malay.

"Mr Lee believed in frugality, both in his personal life as well as nationally," he added.

"And he walked the talk. This episode is an example, and also showed his fatherly character and sharp eye for detail."

Mr Lee was "the embodiment of the term statesman - someone who comes along once every few decades to make an indelible mark on society and the world at large," he said.

Using a Malay pantun, or short poem, he spoke about Singaporeans' debt to Singapore's founding father.

"Monetary debts can be paid off, but debts of good deeds cannot be repaid. A person brings such debts to his grave," Mr Sidek said.

"Farewell my friend, farewell."

Mr Lee died aged 91 on March 23, and Sunday marks the end of a seven-day mourning period.

The funeral service at the cultural centre is attended by top leaders from more than 20 countries, family members and over 2,000 invited guests.