leekuanyew

Mr Lee leaves Istana for the last time

People line streets to watch as gun carriage takes casket to Parliament

Outside, thronging the roads, the public were waiting. But inside Sri Temasek on the grounds of the Istana, the family of Mr Lee Kuan Yew gathered after sunrise as the private wake for their pa-triarch drew to a close.

Just an hour later, the casket containing Mr Lee would leave the two-storey house for the journey to Parliament House and four days of lying in state.

But for now, in quiet moments away from the public eye, the extended families of Mr Lee and his late wife, Madam Kwa Geok Choo, paid their respects.

After them, Mr Lee's immediate family members stepped forward to say individual goodbyes, all dressed in white shirts and black trousers or long skirts.

The first was younger son Lee Hsien Yang, followed by his wife Lee Suet Fern, and their sons Shengwu, Huanwu and Shaowu.

Mr Lee's daughter Wei Ling, who had lived with her late parents in the family home in Oxley Road, went next.

Last of all came Mr Lee's elder son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his wife Ho Ching, and children Xiuqi, Yipeng, Hongyi and Haoyi.

Over Monday and Tuesday, they had received and hosted more than 5,200 visitors at the private wake held at the official residence of the Prime Minister in the Istana grounds. Mr Lee died early on Monday at the age of 91.

Too soon, 9am came - the hour when the gun carriage waiting in the driveway outside would carry Mr Lee away.

Inside, the Lee family watched solemnly as a team of white-jacketed pallbearers from the defence services and police draped the Singapore flag over the casket. As the officers - their headgear removed as a mark of respect - carried the casket onto the gun carriage, and the strains of Beethoven's Funeral March No. 1 filled the air, the family filed out of the hall and into the public eye.

Among the group of at least 20 people were grandsons Yipeng and Huanwu bearing a portrait of their grandfather, with Yipeng's left arm resting at times on his cousin's shoulder in solidarity.

The ceremonial procession on foot behind the carriage was led by PM Lee, the chief mourner.

Slowly, slowly, the family trailed the carriage to the beat of a military drum, as it descended the hill, for about 70m.

Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his wife Suet Fern walked hand-in-hand, their heads frequently bowed. Behind them, Mr Lee's grandchildren walked together, hands at their sides. Daughter Wei Ling was not in the procession as she was unwell.

Along the way, through the grounds of the Istana, they passed a military line of honour and representatives from Tanjong Pagar GRC, the constituency where the late Mr Lee was an MP, and the Teck Ghee ward in Ang Mo Kio GRC, where PM Lee is an MP.

The gun carriage then went past the main Istana building, where President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and staff paid their respects, while a bagpiper from the Singapore Gurkha Contingent played Auld Lang Syne.

As the first part of the ceremonial procession ended, still within the grounds of the Istana, the Lee family proceeded separately by vehicle to Parliament House, where Mr Lee's casket will lie in state until 8pm on Saturday.

They were there to receive the casket when it arrived just before 10am, bearing silent witness as it was transferred from the gun carriage to its bier. As the pallbearers removed the national flag from Mr Lee's casket and marched off, the family was ushered forward.

PM Lee stood front and centre, his wife beside him. The grandsons placed Mr Lee's portrait on a pedestal before the casket.

Then, as one, the Lee family bowed once in front of the head of their family before departing.

charyong@sph.com.sg