Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Stories from March 26 edition of ST

Huge crowds to bid Mr Lee farewell

Thousands braved the sun and waited patiently in line for over eight hours in queues that snaked 3km along various streets around Parliament in order to file past the nation's founding Prime Minister as he lies in state.

It was a scene never before seen in Singapore, and the overwhelming response prompted government officials to extend visiting times not once, but twice, just hours after the casket bearing Mr Lee Kuan Yew's body arrived at Parliament House.

Instead of getting to pay their respects for 10 hours a day, till Saturday evening, visitors will now be allowed to do so round the clock till Saturday evening.

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They came simply to say 'Thank you, Mr Lee'

This street has never known such silence. This city of perpetual motion, but for a solemn breeze brushing the leaves, is strangely still. This area in Orchard Road, outside the Istana, usually filled with the sound of hissing buses and a thousand conversations is now a mute gathering. Even the phone, that Singapore accessory, does not dare to ring. Remembrance has its own appropriate hush.

Long before the gun carriage emerges from the Istana grounds at 9.37am, people are in anxious attendance. Businesswoman Angela Tan, 54, arrives in the darkness at 5.30am. "I didn't get to see him come to the Istana," she says. "So I must see him leave it for the last time or I will regret this all my life." Mr Fikri Omar, 63, has shrugged off tiredness after a night shift as a security guard to be here by 7.20am.

Under a blue sky speckled with clouds, mourning is in the air. Beneath a kind canopy of trees near the gate, where police officers gently marshal foot traffic, a solitary flag flutters behind a barricade. It is a small flag on a stick, the type you might wave at a sporting event or at a parade. Yet, in keeping with the moment, even this one held up by a man in the crowd deliberately flies at half-mast.

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Long, slow queue to history

WE QUEUED - the old, the infirm, the famous, the nameless.

We lined up - the native, the foreigner, the glorious rich, the huddled poor.

The admirer, the critic, the silver-haired who remember when Singapore was just an idea, the later-born who know nothing but - we came.

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Silent farewell, broken by sobs

People queued for as long as five hours yesterday morning to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House.

But inside the hall where his casket lay, they had just minutes to say their goodbyes.

An unexpected surge close to lunchtime meant that organisers had to keep a tighter rein on time.

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Steady stream of mourners long into the night

The long queues that snaked along the Singapore River yesterday afternoon continued through the evening, with the after-work crowd adding to the lines waiting to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

At 10pm yesterday, the waiting time was estimated to be four hours, down from about eight hours at its peak. Lines had also formed along the Supreme Court, The Adelphi shopping mall and stretched all the way to the Padang. With bus and train services extended throughout the night, more people were expected to stream into Parliament overnight.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong thanked those who came, in a Facebook post that drew 40,000 likes in three hours: "(I) was moved by the huge crowds who came. Thank you for queuing so many hours in the hot sun to say goodbye to Mr Lee."

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Mr Lee leaves Istana for the last time

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.

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Thousands continue to stream into tribute centres

When Madam Ramairthan Muthukrishnan's house and provision shop in Kampong Eunos had to make way for new Housing Board flats some 40 years ago, she and her husband were caught in the lurch.

They had married in a traditional Indian wedding ceremony and did not get an official marriage certificate. This meant that they could not apply for a new flat.

Desperate, they sought help from former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew during a Meet-the-People Session.

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Commemorative album of public, private photos

Straits Times Press has published a commemorative album of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

LKY: A Pictorial Memoir features private and public pictures of Mr Lee, and is an abridged version of Lee Kuan Yew: A Life In Pictures, which was published two years ago.

The 192-page book also includes some new photos.

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Queue starts at Padang today

Starting at 7am today, the queue for members of the public who want to pay their respects to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew will start at the Padang.

There will also be a special lane at the Padang for the elderly, pregnant women, schoolchildren, families with children under six years old and those with special needs.

The organisers of the State Funeral for Mr Lee, 91, announced this in a statement last night and advised those who want to go for the lying in state at Parliament House to use public transport. "In view of the large crowd, a long waiting time can be expected. We seek the understanding of members of the public to remain orderly and be patient, and to follow the directions of the marshals on the ground," the statement added.

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Ex-national hurdler motivated by letter

Former national hurdler Osman Merican won three medals at the South-east Asian Peninsular (Seap) Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1965 but his most treasured memento is not the silverware but a piece of paper.

It is a typewritten, single-page letter signed by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, given to Singapore's medallists, praising their effort in lifting the country, particularly as it came just months after Singapore had separated from Malaysia.

He wrote: "I would like you to know that your performance brought into focus the qualities of discipline, stamina and talent which will enable the people of Singapore to overcome so many of their present difficulties and secure our future as a nation."

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Different ways to remember Mr Lee

Motorists have a new way to remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew by.

Car workshop co-owner Eric Chew - long an admirer of Mr Lee - is giving out free car decals of the former Prime Minister to Singaporeans.

He saw the graphic of Mr Lee's silhouette within a black ribbon that went viral online and is being used by many as their Facebook profile picture. Inspired, he got his staff to print 800 stickers and give them away for people to put on their vehicle's window.

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Special Parliament sitting

Today, Parliament will sit at 4pm for a special session at which MPs will pay tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The session, to last around two hours, will hear 11 MPs speak on the contributions made by Singapore's founding Prime Minister and their impact on the country.

Defence Minister and Leader of the House Ng Eng Hen and Workers' Party chief Low Thia Khiang are on the list.

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Foreign heads of state to attend funeral

A phalanx of foreign leaders will descend on Singapore over the weekend for the funeral of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a challenge in protocol and logistics as the island hosts some of the world's most protected leaders.

As flags of diplomatic missions in Singapore fluttered at half-mast in respect for Mr Lee, the foreign ministry in Beijing said a Chinese leader would attend Sunday's funeral service in Singapore for Mr Lee, without giving names.

Whoever attends from China will join leaders including Australia's Tony Abbott, India's Narendra Modi, Indonesia's Joko Widodo, South Korea's Park Geun Hye, Cambodia's Hun Sen, Myanmar's Thein Sein, Thailand's Prayut Chan-ocha and a host of others, including possibly Japan's Shinzo Abe.

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Ancestral home to be turned into tourist spot

DABU (Guangdong) - The authorities in a county in southern China are spending 40 million yuan (S$8.8 million) to turn Mr Lee Kuan Yew's ancestral home into a tourist attraction, reported Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po daily.

The plan is to transform the site in Dabu county, Guangdong province, into an international rural tourist destination infused with Chinese Hakka cultural characteristics, the report said.

Work on the project officially began last year, it said, and the first phase, which comprises a Lee Kuan Yew Memorial Hall, will be completed by the end of this year.

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New Zealand MP recalls the haircut S'pore gave him

As New Zealand ministers, led by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English, paid tributes to Mr Lee Kuan Yew in Parliament, one legislator's eulogy stood out.

Former Labour leader Phil Goff said Singapore's founding Prime Minister had not only inspired him, but his tough policies had also inflicted a free haircut on him in his salad days.

Mr Lee's 1965 speech on Singapore's separation from Malaysia was "the first political speech that ever impacted on me", Mr Goff said in the session on Tuesday.

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'White trash' warning spurred Australia to be better: Abbott

In Australia, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is widely remembered for a rebuke he famously delivered more than 30 years ago.

During a visit in 1980, Mr Lee warned that Australia needed to open its economy and try to reduce inflation and unemployment, or risk becoming the "poor white trash of Asia".

Today, Mr Lee's warning is widely regarded as typically stern, but both prescient and fair.  

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He had Malaysia's interest at heart too

It was August 2000 and Mr Lee Kuan Yew's first visit to Malaysia in 10 years. A series of small meetings had been arranged for him. I was chosen to meet the legendary founding father of Singapore with five other young newspaper editors.

We were well aware of his reputation for being intimidating and intellectually arrogant. We had all heard enough stories of him expecting members of the media to be well prepared for any interview he granted.

But he was pleasantly relaxed. It was his three aides who looked tense as they took notes.

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Continue to work hard for a better tomorrow: PM Lee

Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had taken Singapore from Third World to First, but the work is not done yet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night at a ceremony to pay tribute to the late leader.

While Singapore has surmounted many challenges and should rightly celebrate its golden jubilee this year, Singaporeans need to keep on working hard to honour the memory of Mr Lee, said the Prime Minister.

"We are sad, we are sorrowful, our founding father has left us.

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Forgiving bitter past for interests of the present

"One lesson that Lee Kuan Yew left us has been widely overlooked, and it has particular relevance for the rise of China. When it came to the sins of the past, he put reason ahead of emotion. A consummate pragmatist, Lee did not allow the many wrongs of history to rankle and fester, which allowed his country to benefit immensely...

"Just as Lee forgave British colonial arrogance, so did he forgive Japanese World War II military brutality. Unlike China and Korea, Singapore nurtures no sense of grievance towards its former occupiers, despite the hardship and exceptional cruelty of the wartime Japanese presence.

"Arbitrary face-slapping and public urination were the least of it. The Japanese chose Chinese Singaporeans, three-quarters of the population, for the worst treatment due to their suspected loyalties to China. The occupiers singled out those who had soft hands and wore glasses - marks of the leadership class - for execution. Many thousands died.

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His influence extended far beyond Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew was one of the great statesmen of the post-WWII era. He made Singapore an economic powerhouse, creating an environment in which human ingenuity can thrive. He didn't tolerate corruption. He kept a tight grip on spending and pushed down taxes. He knew the folly of weak money; the Singapore dollar looks like the Rock of Gibraltar compared with most currencies - including the US dollar, most of the time.

Lee simultaneously demonstrated that sound finance can coexist with soundly thought-out social programmes. He pursued a vigorous housing programme that enabled people who didn't earn high incomes to buy their homes; his was a model for how subsidies need not lead to the housing-related disasters that have plagued the United States. Singapore's healthcare system has provided comprehensive coverage to its people without the rationing, high costs and dicey care that characterise so many others. Singapore's pension system avoided the pay-as-you- go trap that's hurtling those in other countries towards insolvency.

Under Lee's guidance, Singapore developed a real-life playbook for how an impoverished country can flourish. When Lee became Prime Minister in 1959, Singapore's per capita income was little more than US$400. Today it is over US$56,000.

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Mr Lee through the years

Singaporeans knew Mr Lee as the tough, plain-speaking Prime Minister. But he also had a private side. These pictures from the family album show him as a child, a young man, with his life partner Kwa Geok Choo and the family they raised.

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