Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Opposition politician Chiam See Tong pays last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s contributions to Singapore outweigh the criticisms made by opposition, said Singapore People’s Party secretary-general Chiam See Tong on Friday afternoon.

“I think Singapore is very lucky to have Mr Lee as her first prime minister,” he told reporters later.

Recounting the first time he met Mr Lee, Mr Chiam said he was “very stern”.

“I don’t think he knew me at that time. He said, ‘Who is this oppositionist?’ Mr Chiam, I’ll see you in Parliament.’ But the way he said it, it was as if he said, ‘I’ll see you in the boxing ring.’”

An emotional Mr Chiam also said Mr Lee was a “great debater” but never humiliated him.

“In Parliament, he clobbered me. But... I never lost my dignity or decorum.”

The veteran opposition politician, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday and is the country’s longest-serving opposition MP until 2011, had earlier got off his wheelchair and slowly made his way to Mr Lee’s casket.

Supported by his wife, Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam, and Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, he climbed a few steps to bid Mr Lee one last farewell. Mr Chiam’s daughter, Camilla, also accompanied him to Parliament House.

He was later received by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife Ho Ching.

Mr Chiam, who is leader of the Singapore People's Party, had earlier this week penned a heartfelt condolence letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on his father's death.

In the letter, Mr Chiam said the late Mr Lee was to Singapore what former British prime minister Winston Churchill was for his country. Mr Lee died on March 23 at the age of 91.

Mr Chiam wrote: "He was there at the time when Singapore was swarmed with numerous problems, ranging from domestic to international issues. He was there, just as Britain needed Winston Churchill during World War II - always taking a strategic and long-term view of Singapore."

Mr Chiam is the longest-serving opposition MP until 2011.

"He was a great statesman, parliamentarian and a master of public policy. No one else had shaped modern Singapore more than Lee Kuan Yew, since he became Prime Minister in 1959. He was a man for all seasons. He will live on in history, remaining for future generations the symbol of Singapore's success," Mr Chiam also added of his fiercest rival.

"His absence from our 50th National Day Parade later this year will be particularly poignant to us."