Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

A nation mourns for Mr Lee Kuan Yew: A look back at 7 days of Straits Times covers

SINGAPORE - Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding Prime Minister, died at 3.18am on March 23, 2015, aged 91.

A period of national mourning over seven days culminated on Sunday, March 29, when Mr Lee took his final journey through Singapore as the skies wept.

Through it all, The Straits Times captured the mood of a nation, and the life of a great man, through stories, tributes and pictures.

Here's a look back at the front pages that documented this historic moment:

March 23, Monday

A special supplement on Mr Lee's life and legacy hit the news stands just before noon that day.

Photo spreads in the 24-page tabloid recounted milestones in Mr Lee's political career which intertwined with the history of Singapore: from his early days as a lawyer for the unions, Singapore's historic moment of separation from Malaysia 50 years ago, to the early years of nation building. Stories and pictures also offered glimpses of Mr Lee's softer side as a family man.

There were long queues for the special edition, and more than 150,000 copies were sold.

March 24, Tuesday

The frontpage headline "Singapore Mourns" captures the mood of a nation in grief.

When the inevitable finally happened, there was a palpable sense of loss, said Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez in the lead article, summing up the collective sorrow of a nation.

The Straits Times covered the private wake at Sri Temasek at the Istana, and featured tributes from the people. The day's paper also reproduced interviews with Mr Lee's sons, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Lee Hsien Yang.

There were also analyses of the different times during his tenure, his policies, and the way forward for Singapore.

March 25, Wednesday

Wednesday was the beginning of four days of public mourning. "Mr Lee's last trip to the Parliament today", said the headline, referring to his lying-in-state at Parliament House.

Those who knew Mr Lee came forward with their memories in the pages of The Straits Times. From former Cabinet ministers, foreign dignitaries such as former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Mr Lee's shoemaker, they all had stories to tell.

March 26, Thursday

The extent of public grieving became clear, and the marathon queues for Mr Lee's lying-in-state made the front page on Thursday.

Lines of mourners queued for up to eight hours in the sun to see Mr Lee for one last time, while volunteers and businesses gave out water and snacks, or provided resting spots for them in a show of national unity.

Thursday's paper also featured photos from Mr Lee's family album, showing him as a baby, toddler, teenager and family man.

March 27, Friday

The focus of Friday's paper was Mr Lee's role as a parliamentarian with the headline "MPs hail Mr Lee's 60 years in House".

A sprig of white flowers took Mr Lee's place at a special Parliamentary sitting held on Thursday.

Besides the speeches of MPs made in tribute to Mr Lee at the sitting, The Straits Times took a look back at 10 significant speeches Mr Lee made in the House.

Meanwhile, the crowds continued to swell, and the funeral organising committee had quickly re-organised the queueing system for the public at the Parliament House.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan acknowledged that the response had far exceeded what was anticipated.

March 28, Saturday

The lines at Parliament House made the front page again, as the crush of people became overwhelming and the queue was halted overnight on Friday evening. It resumed around 6am on Saturday.

The day's paper also ran a double-page spread of the route and arrangements for the State funeral procession on Sunday.

An article about Mr Lee's exacting exercise regime and diet came with rarely-seen photos of him running, cycling and playing table tennis.

March 29, Sunday

And still the crowds came, until the queue closed at 8pm on Saturday. Madam Eliza Wong, the last person who made it to the line to pay her last respects was on the front page of The Sunday Times.

The masthead of the paper was changed from blue to black, as a sign of respect for Mr Lee.

In that issue of the paper, the people of Singapore spoke about how Mr Lee's policies, from setting up hawker centres, to bilingualism and National Service, shaped their lives.

March 30, Monday

Monday's copy of The Straits Times came with a special edition with a black masthead. The headline spoke for many: "Thank you Mr Lee" on the front page, and "Goodbye Mr Lee" on the back cover.

The 28-page special edition documented Mr Lee's last journey through Singapore as the nation and the skies sent him off in tears.

The centre spread featured a panoramic photograph of the Padang as the 21-gun salute went off. "The guns boom, the skies weep", the caption read.

A team of Straits Times reporters and photojournalists fanned out across the island to speak to people who were determined to send Mr Lee off, undeterred by the pouring rain.

The special edition also ran excerpts of some of the 10 eulogies delivered at the State funeral service, and the parting words from family members to Mr Lee at a private ceremony at the Mandai Crematorium.

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