leekuanyew

Thank you, Mr Lee, on behalf of all young Singaporeans, says ex-journalist Cassandra Chew in eulogy

SINGAPORE - Former journalist Cassandra Chew thanked the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew on behalf of young Singaporeans in her eulogy on Sunday.

Ms Chew, 31, was part of a team that put together the book Lee Kuan Yew - A Life in Pictures, which was published in 2013.

The youngest speaker at the State Funeral service, she was a political journalist with The Straits Times from 2009 to 2011. She left to join the Prime Minister's Office last year.

"We don't have everything, but we have more than most, because of your lifelong labour. On behalf of young Singaporeans everywhere, I'd like to say: thank you," she said in her speech at the University Cultural Centre.

He was an intimidating figure for a young Singaporean, she said, and the first time she spoke to Mr Lee her heart pounded.

"I braced myself to be peppered with questions on whether I was married, when I planned to have children or whether I spoke Mandarin often enough - questions Mr Lee was known to ask young Singaporeans he met."

But Mr Lee focused on the interview about his early political career, and she was not grilled as expected.

"He came in, sat down, and asked, 'Who's going to start?' And with that, the interview began. As always, Mr Lee was focused on the task at hand."

Over time, she gained more glimpses of what he was like as a person, she told the audience.

"It was clear that even at home, his focus was on his work. It didn't matter to him that his furniture was more than 60 years old and outdated... That was how he lived his life: very simply and frugally, and always putting the country first and his own creature comforts second," she said.

She also saw how devoted he was to his wife.

"Her photographs were displayed in two rows above her urn in his living room, and I was told Mr Lee would gaze at them daily as he had his meals."

From her six meetings with him, she gained "a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation" for a person she had known only from textbooks, she said.

"So much of Singapore began to make sense to me now that I had seen the world through his eyes."

Mr Lee, Singapore's first Prime Minister, died at age 91 on March 23, and Sunday marks the end of a seven-day mourning period.

The funeral service was attended by top leaders from more than 20 countries, family members and more than 2,000 invited guests.

chuimin@sph.com.sg