Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Crowds line streets to witness start of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's final journey

Young, old, locals and expats brave downpour outside Parliament House

The scene of unprecedented crowds for the lying in state, Parliament House still saw scores turn up yesterday to witness the start of the end of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's final journey.

By about 10am, more than 200 people - young, old, Singaporeans, expatriates, tourists - were lining the streets outside Parliament House. Some had turned up as early as five hours before the funeral procession was due to start, to pay their final respects.

A light drizzle, followed by heavy rain and strong winds, did little to dampen their spirits.

At about 11.45am - 45 minutes before the cortege was scheduled to set off - the road in front of Parliament House was closed.

This prompted mourners to surge forward to take up vacant space and police officers had to step in to maintain order.

When the combined military and police band started playing, leading a marchpast comprising military personnel and students to the front of Parliament House, some in the crowd shouted "Umbrellas down", so that the view of those behind would not be blocked.

A young man's comment - "Rain, never mind, tomorrow take MC (sick leave)" - raised cheers from those around him.

Soon after, the ceremonial gun carriage carrying Mr Lee's casket emerged from the front gates of Parliament House.

The crowd, drenched from head to toe, broke out into chants of "We love you, Mr Lee", "Thank you, sir" and "You made us, Mr Lee" as the casket made its way down North Bridge Road before turning into Parliament Place.

Walking behind before they got into their vehicles after a short distance were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and other family members. They were joined by current and former Members of Parliament, including Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen and Health Minister Gan Kim Yong. The group also included former MPs Mahmud Awang, Chan Chee Seng and Chiam See Tong, with the latter two in wheelchairs but determined to be present.

The gun carriage was escorted by 48 personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force in ceremonial uniforms.

Some in the crowd wept but private tutor Ong Than Eng, 64, proudly chanted "Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Kuan Yew, God bless Lee Kuan Yew". He said: "We've shed enough tears. I cried when Mr Lee was in the Singapore General Hospital and when I paid my respects to him at Parliament House, but he's in a better place now."

Others like Madam Ang Quee Whuay, 83, could not hold back their tears. She said that, if not for Mr Lee and the Government's education subsidies, she would not have been able to put her five children through school after her husband died.

She queued for five hours last Thursday to pay her final respects at Parliament House and turned up again yesterday morning. "I'm just too thankful," she said as she wiped away her tears.

There were tourists present, too, such as Australians Brian Edgley, 67, who is retired, and his wife Susan Gilmore, 63, an administration officer. The couple had not planned to witness the funeral procession but ended up staying instead of going to Gardens by the Bay. Mr Edgley recalled: "In our 20s, anything to do with Asia, Lee was it."

About an hour after the cortege had passed, the streets had emptied and the crowd had moved to City Hall MRT Station, where train officers had to stop people at the entrances to avoid congestion inside.


"I really admire Mr Lee. When I was a young man and working in Malaysia on odd jobs, I was envious of the way he took care of the country. He made sure everyone in Singapore is equal, unlike in Malaysia. I wanted to send him off. It was difficult moving around Singapore as it's my first time here. I keep having to ask for directions. It's my wish to send him off, Mr Lee is a good leader."

- Retiree Cheng Kam Yeong, 67, a Malaysian from Kuala Lumpur and a member of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), who turned up in a DAP T-shirt


"He made Singapore good."

- Foreign workers and Indian nationals (from left) Pandi, B.S. Chari and Rajess at the construction site of the National Gallery were given a break to catch the procession. They were holding small Singapore flags

"It touched me to see so many Singaporeans with their flags, under the rain, waiting to say their last goodbye. Mr Lee's dedication is an example for Brazil and other countries to follow."

- Brazilian tourist Renato Barandier, 35, an urban planner, was "checking out the city" after arriving on a business trip. He saw the growing crowds of people at the Supreme Court and stood there watching, when someone handed him a Singapore flag


"The kids - aged 11, 10 and five - don't know who Mr Lee is, what he did and why he did what he did. We want them to learn from him to have no fear of failure, to continue aspiring for their dreams and to not take things for granted."

- Mr Chua Joo Meng, 42, a transport assistant, and his wife, Madam Loh Oi Yoong, a secretary, turned up with their three children, (clockwise from bottom) Cavan, Cheryl and Tarey, at High Street Centre 3 1/2 hours before the funeral procession was due to start


"On Saturday when we went to pay our respects at Parliament House, people kept giving us biscuits and drinks along the queue, so we are giving back. I wanted to prepare 200 boxes but I couldn't hit the mark in the end. The late Mr Lee did so much for Singapore and for Singaporeans. This is my small way of saying 'thank you'. It is really no big deal."

- Madam Geeta Nanikram, 57, a housewife, who was up at 5am yesterday and spent four hours preparing 103 packets of fried beehoon to distribute free to mourners waiting by the Supreme Court to bid a final farewell to Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Her daughter Pooja Nanikram, 25, a visual merchandiser, even managed to rope in several little helpers to distribute the food


"Our friends and family back home in NZ have told us that all the flags are at half-mast today. That just shows you what sort of impact and influence Mr Lee had, not just here in Singapore, but even thousands of miles away. He was a great man and we are privileged to be here to honour him and be part of a piece of Singapore's history."

- New Zealander Warren Streeter, 44, a business development director who has been living in Singapore for four years. He was with his wife Irene, 43, and children - Katelyn, 11, and Jack, nine - as well as his parents-in-law


"She is probably too young to understand what an important day today is, but we wanted to bring her (here) for this and, hopefully when she is older, she will remember this moment and feel a strong sense of Singapore's history."

- Mr Chng Boon Chong, 36, an engineer who was at the Padang with his wife Elmillian, 36, and their five-year-old daughter Eva, who was perched on her father's shoulders


"We can't and shouldn't complain so much. It is just rain and it will pass... even if we have to squeeze with many people just to glimpse the cortege for a few seconds, it is good enough."

- Mr Alan Woo, 39, a sales manager who took his wife and three children to One Fullerton to catch the funeral procession


"I have always felt bad and sorry for giving up my citizenship... Mr Lee has done so much for this country and my family benefited. I am glad I extended my stay here to see him off."

- Mr William Tan Keng Seng, 67, who was supposed to head home to Melbourne but extended his stay for the funeral. He gave up his citizenship in 1990

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