Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Stories from March 27 edition of ST

MPs hail Mr Lee Kuan Yew's 60 years in House

An empty chair with a small spray of white flowers was a poignant reminder of a vast gap in Parliament House yesterday.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's seat in the front row, fourth from the corner, opposite the Front Bench, was empty.

He will never sit there again.

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Turnout exceeded our expectations: Khaw Boon Wan

The crowds that turned up in the tens of thousands to bid Mr Lee Kuan Yew a final goodbye were far bigger than expected, said National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.

About 147,800 people have paid their last respects to Mr Lee at Parliament House in the last two days, with people waiting in long queues round the clock.

"When we planned this one week of national mourning, we of course expected a tremendous outpouring of emotions. But the reality exceeded our expectations," Mr Khaw said at a tribute to Mr Lee held by People's Action Party activists last night.

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Crowds queue overnight to pay their last respects

On any other week, the streets of the Central Business District would have been empty after midnight.

But in the early hours yesterday morning, it was abuzz with thousands of people making the most of the extended 24-hour entry into Parliament House to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Already, from morning until midnight on Wednesday, a total of 59,420 visitors had passed through.

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Bill Clinton will lead US delegation to state funeral of Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore's closest friends and allies are gathering to mourn the loss of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, in a remarkable tribute to a man who stepped down from national leadership almost a quarter of a century ago.

United States President Barack Obama, who spoke with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, reached out to his Democratic Party's eminence grise, former president Bill Clinton, to lead the US presidential delegation for Sunday's funeral service for Mr Lee.

Mr Clinton, who continues to be enormously popular in his country, will be accompanied by Dr Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state to former president Richard Nixon and had been a longstanding friend of Mr Lee's since they first met at Harvard University in 1967.

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Mr Lee Kuan Yew one of the great men in history: Malaysian PM Najib

Calling him a "great man", Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday thanked Mr Lee Kuan Yew for strengthening ties between Malaysia and Singapore.

He also credited him with helping to "shape South-east Asia as a region of peace and prosperity".

Datuk Seri Najib arrived at Parliament House around noon yesterday to pay his final respects to Singapore's first Prime Minister, and to express his "heartfelt condolences", and those of the Malaysian government and people, on his passing.

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State funeral procession to pass landmarks, heartland

As a week of public mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew comes to an end, his funeral procession on Sunday will pass the heartland and landmarks in the heart of the city, such as the Old Parliament House.

Members of the public can line the 15.4km route that the procession will take from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre (UCC) at the National University of Singapore, where the funeral service will be held.

Along the way, the procession will also pass City Hall, the Padang, NTUC Centre and Singapore Conference Hall.

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Some shops to close on Sunday in mark of respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Several businesses will close on Sunday as a mark of respect for former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, whose funeral will be held that afternoon.

Others will drop their sales events and freeze operations from 2pm - the time the service begins.

Department stores Tangs, which has outlets in Vivocity and Orchard, and Metro, with five branches here, will close for all of Sunday - their second-busiest day of the week.

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Emotional session as MPs laud the man who cared

Keeping promises is a strong Lee Kuan Yew trait that forged the bond he had with Singaporeans, who trusted him through painful and disruptive policies.

In chaotic times and through tough measures that would pay off only later, his steel, clarity and confidence became theirs, said Leader of the House Ng Eng Hen in a stirring address yesterday at a special Parliament sitting to pay tribute to Mr Lee.

He died on Monday, aged 91.

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Low Thia Khiang: Singapore's progress has come at a price

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was an extraordinary leader who guided Singapore's progress from its tumultuous beginnings, said opposition leader Low Thia Khiang (Aljunied GRC).

He praised Mr Lee's contributions to Singapore's economic progress and his success in uniting and building a multicultural Singapore.

"This is an achievement that is not possible without Mr Lee. My deepest respect goes to founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew," said Mr Low, who went on to add that, in the process of nation-building, "many Singaporeans were sacrificed".

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Bilingual policy 'our cultural ballast'

As children, Senior Minister of State Masagos Zulkifli and his siblings were described as "Lee Kuan Yew's children" by an uncle in Malaysia. The uncle felt his younger relatives, who had remained in Singapore after separation from Malaysia in 1965, may be unfairly treated in a country with a Chinese majority, and had coined the phrase to tease them.

Recalling this in Parliament yesterday, Mr Masagos said in Malay: "Before he passed away...my uncle still teased us as Lee Kuan Yew's children. However, this time he added that he was proud and full of admiration because we were able to become professionals and could compete in the Lion City with the other races."

His story was among several recounted by Members of Parliament representing different ethnic groups, as they lauded Mr Lee Kuan Yew for delivering on his vision of a united society regardless of race, language or religion.

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In his own words: Vow to cleanse the system of the evils of the past

JULY 21, 1959

SURVIVAL

The People's Action Party had just swept the 1959 Legislative Assembly General Election, winning 43 out of 51 seats. It was the first time the PAP, which up till then was an opposition party, had come to power. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was 35 years old when he delivered his first speech in the Legislative Assembly as Prime Minister, attacking those who stood against the PAP and even the civil servants opposed to its policy changes. He also assured voters that the PAP stood with the masses and that party leaders remained dedicated to the service of Singapore.

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In his own words: Quest for a just and enduring future for everyone

DEC 14, 1965

RACIAL POLITICS

In the first Parliament sitting after Singapore became an independent country, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew spoke to the House, denouncing the opposition Barisan Sosialis and exposing their communist links. He discussed racial politics in Malaysia and how it would impact Singapore. This speech set the tone for the country's multiracial policies in the decades ahead.

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In his own words: Maintaining confidence in Singapore's continued stability

SEPT 8, 1967

WITHDRAWAL OF BRITISH TROOPS

In 1967, the British announced that they would be withdrawing their military presence from bases all over Asia, including Singapore. The British bases in Singapore, built from the 1930s, contributed as much as 20 per cent of Singapore's economy at the time. In his speech to the House, Mr Lee Kuan Yew laid out the difficult options on the table.

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In his own words: Make the right decisions, even if they are unpopular

FEB 23, 1977

MPs & POPULARITY

In one of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's longest speeches ever, he held forth for nearly four hours in a wide-ranging parliamentary address. Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong recently singled out this speech as memorable, recalling how, as a young MP listening to it, "my bladder was about to burst". Mr Lee spoke on leadership, succession, fighting the communists and winning elections in his address to 11 young MPs - Mr Goh included - who had just entered the House.

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In his own words: Absurd to suggest judges fall in line with Govt's wishes

JULY 30, 1986

JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE

As Prime Minister in the 1980s, two of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's fiercest opponents were veteran opposition politicians Chiam See Tong and the late J. B. Jeyaretnam, the MPs for Potong Pasir and Anson respectively. In this speech, Mr Lee rebuts allegations of government interference in the Subordinate Courts by Mr Jeyaretnam - the subject of a Commission of Inquiry which found no evidence of it - as well as Mr Chiam's remarks that the PM "dominates the universities, the civil service, statutory boards, I think, even Members of Parliament"

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Teh Cheang Wan case: No way a minister can avoid investigations

JAN 26, 1987

CORRUPTION 

"It is with sadness that I make this statement on the suicide of Mr Teh Cheang Wan." 

This jaw-dropping speech revealed then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's zero tolerance of corruption. He kicks off the parliamentary session by reading out a suicide note addressed to him, written by the Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan, who had died suddenly a month before. Mr Lee goes on to reveal for the first time that Teh was being investigated for accepting bribes.

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In his own words: Higher pay will attract most talented team, so country can prosper

NOV 1, 1994

MINISTERIAL SALARY

"Sir, my generation of political leaders have become dinosaurs, an extinct breed of men who went into politics because of the passion of their convictions." 

In debating the motion to change the formula to calculate ministerial pay, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then Senior Minister, put up a robust argument for paying ministers good salaries. He said that the private sector had taken away many good men and women from the Government, and without good people, the country would suffer.

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In his own words: English for trade; mother tongue to preserve identity

NOV 24, 2004

BILINGUALISM 

"Start off from where we were, let us say after the war, 1945, or even 1965. We were in different communal groups - Malay kampungs, Chinese villages. You would see Hainanese at Lorong Tai Seng, Malays in Kampong Ubi, and so on." 

This speech in its entirety, made in support of a revised, more flexible Chinese-language curriculum while he was Minister Mentor, is one of the most complete statements of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's views on bilingualism and language policy.

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In his own words: IRs needed for S'pore to keep abreast of the top cities

APRIL 19, 2005

CASINOS

"Mr Speaker, Sir, I am anti-gambling. As a child in primary school, I saw my father become a problem gambler for several years. I watched many quarrels between my father and mother." 

In the debate over whether to bring in the integrated resorts and casinos to Singapore, Mr Lee stood up to state that he was against gambling. He had initially resisted the move to bring casinos into Singapore but he eventually changed his mind because he saw the benefits that it could bring to the country.

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In his own words: 'Equality is an aspiration, it is not reality, it is not practical'

AUG 19, 2009

MINORITIES 

"Sir, I had not intended to intervene in any debate. But I was doing physiotherapy just now and reading the newspapers and I thought I should bring the House back to earth." 

In a motion to continue to affirm the tenets in the National Pledge when debating government policies, Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan questioned if it was time for Singapore to move beyond race and treat everyone as an equal. The next day, Mr Lee Kuan Yew delivered one of his last major speeches in Parliament and took it upon himself to "bring the House back to earth". He argued that equality of men is an aspiration rather than the reality.

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Singaporeans 'know importance of what Mr Lee Kuan Yew stood for'

The crowds that have formed over the last two days to pay their final respects to former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew are a reflection of the regard people have for the man and what he stood for, People's Action Party (PAP) chairman Khaw Boon Wan said last night.

He told more than 300 party activists at an event to pay tribute to Mr Lee that the outpouring of emotions exceeded the authorities' expectations.

This led to an extension of visiting times at Parliament House to 24 hours.

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Over 500 turn up at memorial service by Buddhist group

Buddhists from all over Singapore met to remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew yesterday at a memorial service organised by the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF).

The service at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery drew more than 500 members of the public as well as monks. It was also the first in a series of religious events to mark Mr Lee's passing.

The congregation at the temple in Sin Ming Avenue observed a minute of silence, before bowing three times in respect for Mr Lee.

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Tribute centres continue to be packed

After two difficult days of mourning, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said he felt better yesterday.

Mr Goh said his "heart began to feel a bit lighter".

"The reason is quite simple. There is this inspiration in watching the way the country has come together. Knowing that Singaporeans felt so much for Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I felt a little easier in my heart. The heaviness became a little lighter," he said.

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Strangers give out umbrellas, food, drinks to those standing in line

Seventy-one-year-old Mr Foh Keng Yin was moved to action when he saw scenes on television of people queueing for hours in the sun to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The director of metal fixtures supplier Yew Lee Metal Works bought 1,000 umbrellas from an industry partner for $3,000.

Yesterday, Mr Foh and three of his employees gave the umbrellas for free to people waiting in line near Cavenagh Bridge.

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Fly flag on Sunday in show of unity, say young grassroots leaders

Display the national flag as a symbol of unity this Sunday when the state funeral of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew takes place, a group of young grassroots leaders has suggested.

The group from East Coast GRC hopes that rules will be relaxed to allow Singaporeans to hang the national flag outside their homes on Sunday. Outside the National Day celebrations period from July 1 to Sept 30, restrictions on flying the flag apply.

Displaying the national flag en masse is a symbol of unity, a cause that Mr Lee dedicated his life to, said Mr Lim Swee Say, an MP for East Coast GRC.

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Mr Lee Kuan Yew's purpose? To secure the future of Singapore

It is somewhat ironic that when I was serving the Government as a civil servant, I hardly saw him but, outside of it, as a journalist, I had the privilege to do so on many occasions.

In fact I met him in my first year in The Straits Times in 1989. This was at a lunch at the Istana Annexe in a small dining room... There would usually be two or three journalists invited for these lunches.

I have often wondered why he took the trouble to meet young journalists. Obviously he wanted to influence us, to make us understand his point of view, and he was willing to invest the time to do this. But I also think he wanted to understand our business, the media business, and he did so through these interactions.

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SPH holds service to honour nation's 'architect and founding father'

More than 700 employees of media group Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) observed a minute of silence yesterday at its memorial service for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The one-hour service at the SPH News Centre auditorium started with the showing of a video by SPH Razor on the life of Mr Lee and ended with staff singing the National Anthem.

SPH chief executive officer Alan Chan and staff from four SPH daily newspapers who had interacted with Mr Lee in the course of their work also paid tribute to Singapore's first Prime Minister.

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Mr Lee Kuan Yew was 'a complex man who evoked many emotions'

Those of us who were privileged to work with Mr Lee Kuan Yew in whatever capacity, cannot but feel a profound personal sense of grief. Mr Lee was not only a great leader - that is obvious - he was a man, human, and thus inevitably complex. He evoked the entire range of human emotions, and evoked them strongly. His legacy will be many-faceted and debated for many years.

As a young MFA officer, I was fortunate to have attended many meetings with Mr Lee and to have travelled with him. Later in my career, I sat in on policy discussions, several at times of crisis. I never intended to be a civil servant. I had prepared myself for an academic career. But I soon realised that most of what I thought I knew was at least superficial, if not downright irrelevant. My real education in international relations began only when my life intersected, however tangentially, with Mr Lee.

First of all, I learnt not to be ashamed to be a patriot. To the young, as I then was, the term carries a vague, undefinable whiff of unfashionable mustiness. But to serve the Republic of Singapore in any capacity is no mean profession because if Singapore does not survive, no other value can be realised in this vale of tears we call the world.

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Commentary: Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death a shared Singapore moment

I hadn't thought I would be moved as much, but I am.

As a student of history, I have always viewed great men with a certain wariness, conscious that how history would come to judge such men could be very different from the time when they were alive, or at their passing. History can be fickle - as fickle as the shifting mood of each generation. But I would dare venture that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's greatness in history is assured - if not to the world at large, then certainly to Singapore and Singaporeans.

I belong to what I call the "straddle" generation. I grew up in the years Mr Lee was Prime Minister; in my young adulthood, I witnessed the transition of leadership to the second generation.

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Visionary behind Garden City even decided what trees to plant

Mr Lee Kuan Yew did not just have a broad vision of transforming Singapore into a Garden City, but played a key role when it came to the detailed planning.

It was he, for instance, who ensured that flyovers had gaps to let light and rain through, allowing plants to grow underneath.

Singapore's first Prime Minister also gave the instruction to plant raintrees and Angsana trees as their huge crowns provide plenty of shade. READ MORE HERE

Mr Lee Kuan Yew first foreign leader to see terracotta warriors in China

On his first trip to China in May 1976, former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew learnt about the discovery of terracotta warriors two years earlier in northern Shaanxi province.

Keen to see them, he made a last-minute request to then Vice-Premier Li Xiannian, who facilitated a detour to Shaanxi's provincial capital Xi'an, making Mr Lee the first foreign leader to view one of the world's major wonders.

Former Chinese journalists who reported on his Xi'an visit described the Singapore leader as an affable person who did not mind trodding on the muddy paths at the discovery site, then still not open to the public.

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Mr Lee Kuan Yew: A forceful role model, even for dissenters in India

At a South Asian diaspora convention in Singapore in 2011, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew was asked if he could replicate Singapore's success in India, he laughed out loud, but his answer was clear: No.

"No single person can change India," he responded. "If you compare with China, 90 per cent speak one language. It is a much easier country to lead than India. India consists of many different nation groups and dialects."

He had many observations about India, some flattering and several not so flattering.

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Amid the tributes, some brickbats and questions

While many political leaders and commentators around the world have lavished praise on Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his record, there have also been voices of criticism and some have raised questions whether the island he built up has outgrown its founder's methods of running the country.

There are also questions on how Singapore's politics will play out in the years ahead, and how orderly its political succession will be.

While hailing the economic transformation that Mr Lee and his team had wrought, several commentators also labelled Singapore an autocratic state, charging that the people's freedoms had had been curbed in the name of progress.

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Commentary: Singapore's success and the myth of trade-offs

The Western press has been relentless in trotting out the opinion that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had built Singapore's undeniable economic success while trading off fundamental civil liberties.

Much as I understand that it is in the West's fundamental DNA to assert certain inalienable freedoms, as a Singaporean, I strenuously object that there has been any such trade-off.

Some of my Western friends who have never lived here for any period of time have sometimes self-righteously proclaimed, no doubt after reading the cliches in the media, that they could never live under the "stifling and draconian" laws that we have.

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Autocracy in Singapore? Hardly, says writer

Between my early life in India and my current life in the United States, I spent 14 years in paradise: Singapore.

From clean water and crime-free streets to reliable public transportation and easy access to libraries, the Government anticipates all the basic needs to provide its residents a good quality of life and eliminate the stresses that can impede personal progress.

But in the coverage that followed the death of Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on Monday, Western media has painted a very different picture.

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Lee Kuan Yew, world traveller

As Prime Minister, Senior Minister and Minister Mentor, Mr Lee travelled far, wide and frequently to increase Singapore's space, and to establish ties with the rest of the world. Between 1959 and 2012, he made at least 304 official trips to 83 countries. He visited Malaysia most frequently, followed by Japan, Britain, China and the United States.

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