SINGAPORE - When founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew died last March, there was sadness across the country. But people did not despair or feel helpless, and investors did not lose confidence in Singapore, said People's Action Party (PAP) chairman Khaw Boon Wan.
He credited the calm response to Mr Lee's "meticulous planning and effective execution".
Indeed, it was due to his leadership that "Singapore crossed a major milestone without any mishap", Mr Khaw said on Thursday (March 17) to mark the first anniversary of Mr Lee's death on March 23, at age 91.
The commemorative event, held at the party's headquarters in New Upper Changi Road, was attended by about 250 PAP MPs and party members.
Said Mr Khaw, who is also the Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister: "(Mr Lee) did his utmost to build enduring institutions and imbue in the people running them the values of integrity, meritocracy, sound governance and timely succession planning."
Mr Lee was a founding member of the party and its first secretary-general.
Mr Khaw also unveiled an artillery shell casing, which was from a 21-gun salute fired at the Padang during Mr Lee's State funeral on March 29.
The shell casings were given to 21 individuals and organisations closely linked with the late Mr Lee. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is the PAP's secretary-general, had presented one to the party.
Mr Khaw said the gift "is a permanent reminder to all party members of the ideals which Comrade Lee Kuan Yew brought to the party, and his selfless dedication to improving the lives of Singaporeans".
He added: "He showed us the way forward, how to ensure Singapore's relevance to a world (that is) full of surprises and risks. We cannot predict the future, but we can prepare our people so that come what may, we can always prevail."
Like Mr Khaw, Mr Ng Kah Ting, who was Punggol MP from 1963 to 1991, said Mr Lee searched hard for new blood to take over the running of the party and Singapore.
"From the 70s onwards, he began to look for younger and newer talents to take over from him and his team," said Mr Ng, 76.
Mr Lee handed the reins to Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in 1990, after 31 years as the Prime Minister.
Mr Ng added: "(Mr Lee) was relentless and uncompromising in his persistent casting of his net for such people... That's the pragmatism and unselfishness of Comrade Lee Kuan Yew. He believed it was his duty to do the correct thing."
Young PAP member Nicole Leong, 32, who described herself as a member of the generation that received the fruits of the pioneer generation's labour, said: "Mr Lee and his team strove to overcome many hardships and setbacks so that we could thump our chest and announce to the world that we have arrived."
The event closed with the crowd reciting the national pledge and singing the national anthem.
They also sang the emblematic National Day Parade song Home, which radio personality Jamie Yeo, who hosted the event, described as a favourite of Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Today's event is among a long list of event that individuals and groups will hold in the coming days to remember Mr Lee.