Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew 'gave our families the life we have today'

S'poreans and immigrants alike pay tribute to his vision and conviction

She is wearing a home-made black ribbon on her chest. She has been standing in the rain for three hours, waiting for the man who was Singapore's Prime Minister for much of her youth.

Ms Mary Koh, 42, is comfortably middle class now, but from where we stand on Jalan Bukit Merah, through the rain, we can see the Redhill Estate block where she spent all her early years, in a three-room flat shared with five siblings and her parents. Her father was a driver; her mother, a housewife.

The former financial analyst and now full-time housewife is here to thank Mr Lee for her education in schools such as Nanyang Technological University.

"Without him, I don't think I would have what I have today," she says, dabbing her eyes.

"My husband's parents were hawkers. They had no education. But two of their children went to university. They didn't need special connections - just hard work," she says, surrounded by her three boys, Henry, nine, Walter, 10, and Bryan, 14, and husband Simon Ong, 42, an auditor.

They have had a rough week.

Henry is in a wheelchair because he broke his ankle after a fall. The cast is wrapped in plastic to protect it against the rain.

Pushing him through the crowd has been awkward, but Ms Koh wants her sons to know how important this moment is.

"They grew up without Lee Kuan Yew. I don't know if they appreciate everything we have. I hope they do," she says, before emotion overcomes her again.

Around the time she was growing up in Redhill, not far away, Mr Ijas Ali, 57, was moving in.

The immigrant from South India became a citizen 18 years ago.

The businessman is here with his family to see the procession and, like Ms Koh, finds it hard to talk about the former Prime Minister without tearing up.

"This country provided me with everything. The sky is the limit here," he says.

He exports tyres from China to Africa and, to him, Mr Lee was the "prophet" who foresaw that China would become the world's factory.

"Where did he get his ideas? Where did he get his intelligence? He surprised people again and again. He was one in a million," says Mr Ijas. "I don't just admire his intelligence - I worship it."

His son came at 9am to stake out a spot along Jalan Bukit Merah. He has been here since 10.30am, waiting for the procession, expected to pass at 1pm.

He is here today because he never met Mr Lee in the flesh. His daughter Nabeelah Sahen, 19, a retail assistant, is by his side.

"Person to person, man to man, I want to give him a salute. Just a salute," he says.

johnlui@sph.com.sg


A ROOF OVER OUR HEADS

"I was born in a kampung in Tanjong Pagar and we moved to a flat in Telok Blangah - our first flat. Mr Lee has a special significance for me because he always advocated for all Singaporeans to have a roof over our heads. I witnessed how he transformed Singapore into this modern city. I remember how we used to stand by the road when he came to the estate to visit residents. Today I am here as it's my final chance to say goodbye. I am proud to be able to lead my residents here."

- Nee Soon Central RC chairman Andrew Lim, 54, who spent his childhood in Tanjong Pagar

FOR MY FATHER

"I just want to pay my respects on behalf of my father who passed away at age 49. I know he would want to be here."

- Hougang resident and factory worker Heng Liang Yeow, 59, went to Bukit Merah at 9am to say his final farewell to Mr Lee on behalf of his father, Mr Heng Kim Wah, who was a PAP activist.

IN ALL OUR HEARTS

"He may be leaving, but his spirit lives on in every Singaporean. Mr Lee Hsien Loong said that there won't be a second Lee Kuan Yew, but I disagree because we all hold Lee Kuan Yew in our hearts and remember his selfless contributions to Singapore. If we carry his spirit with us and all give a little bit to Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew lives on."

- Laundry shop owner Lee Cheng Kang, 58

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HE KEPT HIS WORD

"Mr Lee Kuan Yew always delivered on his promises. He promised to give us safety and he did after he came into office."

- Retiree Ang Sai Kee, 80, who remembers living in constant fear of the gangs that terrorised her kampung near Redhill in the past

SON INSISTED WE COME

"We tried to get to the Padang at 1am last Friday, as we thought it would be less crowded after midnight. But the queue was closed and my son was quite disappointed, so he said that we must come to send off Mr Lee Kuan Yew, no matter what."

- Secretary Vivien Tong, 45, who came from Teban Gardens with her two children, Jefferson, 12, and Vernice Foo, 12

HE HELPED CLEAN UP AREA

"My dad would tell me that this used to be a gangster area, but Mr Lee has helped to clean up this whole place. Even in the small things, he's made the area more comfortable, with the lift upgrading and the covered walkways."

- Ms Natalia Tan, 37, who works in marketing, waited with her father Lambert Tan, 86, near the Spring Singapore building in

Jalan Bukit Merah, from 10.30am

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FAR-REACHING POLICIES

"He made it possible for us to have clean water, efficient transport and access to a good education. This is on top of his multiracial policies. Without a common language (English) to bring different races together, we would have difficulties understanding and communicating with each other. The fact that we can talk to each other is a direct impact of how his policies have affected us."

- Teacher Ramish Goby, 29

HELPING MY FAMILY IN INDIA

"Mr Lee built this country... for us to come here and work. The money I earn here and send home helps my family in India to be better."

- Mr Alagesan Rajkumar, 27, a construction worker, who has been in Singapore for the past eight years