Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew 'gave me courage to go on', Tampines resident says

SINGAPORE - Madam Koh Choo Neo bowed her head in prayer. Holding back tears, the 77-year-old then laid a bouquet of lilies on the table in front of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's portrait.

Madam Koh was was one of the thousands of Tampines residents who had waited in line on Tuesday at the Tampines Community Plaza - some from as early as 6am - to leave messages and flowers for Singapore's first prime minister, who died on Monday at the age of 91.

She recalled going to a Meet-the-People session to seek help from Mr Lee, when she was a 20-year-old mother of three, struggling to make ends meet.

The former resident of Tanjong Pagar said: "I had no education and no job prospects. He could not give me financial help, but he told me to endure, work hard and look forward. His words gave me the courage to go on and that reminder to work hard guided me through ups and downs in life."

Although she moved to Tampines 15 years ago, Mr Lee remained a revered figure to her.

"With his effort, all Singaporeans have a home and clean water to drink. I pray that his spirit and soul will rest in heaven," she added.

By 3pm, more than 2,500 residents had visited the tribute centre in front of Tampines MRT.

A 4m-by-2m board with Mr Lee's portrait in the centre was fully filled by 4pm with more than 800 handwritten notes.

Housewife Wendy Ng penned one of these notes, with her three-month-old daughter strapped to her chest.

The 30-year-old fought tears as she recounted hearing of Mr Lee's death at 5am on Monday, when she was up to feed her baby.

"I broke down in tears when I saw the news on social media because we lost our founding father," she said.

Madam Ng had met Mr Lee in her schooling days when he paid a visit to Nanyang Junior College. She was inspired by his down-to-earth demeanour.

"When my daughter is old enough, I want to instill in her the values that Mr Lee gave our nation - honesty, determination and working hard for what we want," she said.

Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, Mr Baey Yam Keng, who will be at the centre every day until it closes on Sunday, said that it will be open for 24 hours.

"The people grieve his death and need a receptacle for their emotions, whether it is writing in a condolence book or taking a bow in front of his portrait," he said.

"It is natural that we are saddened by his passing but we can take comfort that he is now with his wife."