Ethnic community groups pay tribute to Mr Lee at memorial

SINGAPORE - Representatives from the various ethnic groups here paid tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at a memorial held at the Kallang Theatre today.

Both his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and PM Lee's wife, Madam Ho Ching, attended the event, along with more than 2,000 guests.

The representatives of the ethnic community associations took to the stage to talk about the contributions and policies of Singapore's first Prime Minister, 91, who died on Monday, and how these helped strengthen Singapore's multi-cultural fabric.

The organisations in attendance were the Yayasan Mendaki, Association of Muslim Professionals, Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda), Eurasian Association, together with the Chinese Development Assistance Council (CDAC), Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA), Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI) and Business China.

Former Mufti of Singapore, Mr Shaikh Syed Isa Semait, said that the Malay and Muslim community has been able to reap many benefits.

Speaking in Malay, he said the community has benefited from the establishment of institutions such as the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis), the Syariah Court and the Registry of Muslim Marriages.

Sinda's Dr N Varaprasad also spoke about Mr Lee's decision to establish English as the "language of business", while Chinese, Malay and Tamil remained as official languages of Singapore.

He said English gave Singapore "an edge in the international arena".

"Mr Lee also firmly believed that knowing one's mother tongue instils a sense of belonging to one's roots... So he championed bilingualism," said Dr Varaprasad.

The Eurasian Association's president Benett Theseira said Mr Lee worked alongside many of the Eurasian community's forefathers. Together, they helped to build the foundations of Singapore's "world class" civil service today.

Mr Chua Thian Poh - the president of SFCCA, honorary president of SCCCI and the chairman of the CDAC board of trustees and Business China - said Mr Lee encouraged clans here to keep pace with the times and that he had also encouraged Chinese businesses to expand overseas.

Speaking in Mandarin, he recalled Mr Lee's interest in setting up a fund to improve bilingual education. The Lee Kuan Yew Bilingual Fund was established in 2011, and Mr Lee made a personal donation of $12 million to it, said Mr Chua.

Tearing, Mr Chua said that Mr Lee was already in his 80s when he approached Mr Chua with the idea to set up the fund.

"He remained deeply concerned about Singapore's long-term development, a reflection of his abiding passion for Singapore and its people," he said.

The ceremony ended with representatives from each ethnic group presenting condolence letters to PM Lee and his wife.

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