Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Singaporeans turn up past midnight to queue and pay their respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew

SINGAPORE - It was way past midnight but Singaporeans were still streaming in to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House, with a steady number of people joining the queue early on Thursday morning where the line began at Hong Lim Park.

The crowd there shortly before 1am on Thursday was predominantly younger people who said they were there after work - although senior citizens also gamely waited in line to see the country's founding prime minister, who died on Monday aged 91, lying in state at the Parliament.

The snarls from earlier on Wednesday seemed to have been ironed out, as traffic marshals purposefully waved people forward at traffic junctions and the line moved along quickly.

At its peak on Wednesday, the waiting time for those in the queue was at least eight hours. The long wait and size of the crowd prompted the authorities to announce that the public will be able to pay their respects to Mr Lee around the clock till Saturday at 8pm.

Volunteers from Yuhua constituency were present at Hong Lim Park distributing free buns to the crowd. They were joined by the constituency's MP Grace Fu.

Mr Veerakan Aran, 45, who works in estate management, chose to forgo sleep and pay his respects at night as he was unable to get time off from work in the day.

"For Mr Lee, going a day without sleep should be fine. He was a great leader and I'm not going to be able to see him again if I miss this opportunity," he said.

The estimated waiting time as at 12.30am was about three hours.

Mr Lee will lie in state at Parliament House, where the public can view his casket, until 8pm on Saturday. His funeral will be on Sunday.

On Wednesday night, the organisers of the State Funeral said that starting at 7am on Thursday, the queue for members of the public who want to pay their respects to the late Mr Lee 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.

Still, they expect that there will be a wait for those in the queue.

"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 organisers said in a statement.

At its peak yesterday, the waiting time for those in the queue was at least eight hours.

The statement said that water will be distributed to those waiting in line and updates on the queue waiting time will also continue to be provided hourly.

charyong@sph.com.sg