leekuanyew

Overseas S'poreans to mark funeral

Thousands of overseas Singaporeans are preparing to mentally walk the last journey with Mr Lee Kuan Yew tomorrow at community gatherings where they can watch the telecast live.

In overseas communities big and small, Singaporeans were still coming to grips with Mr Lee's passing, even though he had been severely ailing for nearly two months.

In the United Kingdom, which hosts one of the largest expatriate Singapore communities, today was long ago dedicated to the launch of the SG50 celebrations in Britain, with the staging of a charity marathon run through London's Hyde Park.

The run, which has raised $25,000 of sponsorship for the Community Chest, is going ahead, but will be preceded by a commemoration ceremony for Mr Lee at the High Commission.

Waiting times earlier this week for signing the condolence book were up to an hour, said Singapore High Commissioner Foo Chi Hsia.

In cities with smaller Singaporean populations, people looked to one another's company for comfort. "Talking about it makes us cry. We are all quite surprised by how much it has affected us," said Ms Chua Pei Chi, president of the informal Singapore Club Seoul, which is supported by the Singapore Embassy there.

About 60 to 70 Singaporeans will gather tomorrow from 1pm at Somerset Place Seoul serviced apartments to watch the telecast.

In Australia, which like the UK also hosts a substantial Singaporean community, Singaporeans have been flocking to the High Commission and government offices to sign condolence books and have organised weekend memorial services across the country.

"We thank the many Singaporeans and friends of Singapore who came to sign the Condolence Book in Canberra," the High Commission in Canberra said yesterday. "Some were as young as seven years old. Some had driven more than three hours to get to Canberra. Others flew in from Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth."

In Melbourne, four Singapore associations are coming together tomorrow, led by Melbourne SG Kampong. Organisers expect 500 people to attend.

Likewise, 550 Singaporeans visiting and living in Thailand showed up at the embassy this week to pen their condolences, including members of the Singapore-Thai Chamber of Commerce and students from the Singapore International School of Bangkok and Anglo Singapore International School. Many Singaporeans could not hold back their tears.

Some had travelled from provinces such as Chiang Mai, in some cases taking a nine-hour coach ride each way, to sign the condolence book.

Others said they intended to return to Singapore to pay their last respects to Mr Lee.

In China, at least two associations are making plans to mark the funeral day. The Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China will hold its event at the Shangri-La China World Summit Wing in Beijing while the Shanghai-Singapore Business Association's event will be at the Pudong Shangri-La Hotel. Both are expected to draw hundreds of people each, including Singapore diplomats.

In Kuala Lumpur, there will be a live screening of the funeral procession at the Singapore High Commission. The screening will begin at noon and is open to the public. Those who want to sign the condolence book can do so today and tomorrow from 9am to 6pm.

RAVI VELLOOR

Additional reporting by Jonathan Eyal, Chang May Choon, Jonathan Pearlman, Tan Hui Yee, Kor Kian Beng and Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani