Lee Khoon Choy's death a loss to nation: President

His diplomacy 'laid foundation for S'pore, Indonesia friendship'; PM also pays respects

President Tony Tan and Mrs Tan, accompanied by the sons of the late Mr Lee Khoon Choy - Chuen Neng (right) and Chuen Fei (second from right, partially hidden) - at the wake.
President Tony Tan and Mrs Tan, accompanied by the sons of the late Mr Lee Khoon Choy - Chuen Neng (right) and Chuen Fei (second from right, partially hidden) - at the wake.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Tributes continued to pour in yesterday for the late Mr Lee Khoon Choy, a former politician, diplomat and artist, who died last Saturday, aged 92.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had sent a condolence letter to Mr Lee's widow on Sunday, were among top government and bushiness leaders who attended Mr Lee's wake yesterday.

Dr Tan, who went to the Mount Vernon Sanctuary last night with his wife Mary, said the death of Mr Lee was "a great loss to Singapore".

As the country's ambassador to Indonesia in the 1970s, after the end of a period of hostility during Konfrontasi, Mr Lee helped to diffuse the tension between the two countries.

His diplomacy "laid the foundation for friendship between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and (former Indonesian president) Suharto, and that relationship continues till today", Dr Tan said.

"It is a bit difficult to make up (for losing him), but he had made his contributions to Singapore as a prominent member of the pioneer generation," he added.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who arrived at the wake shortly after Parliament adjourned in the evening, said she took comfort in the fact that Mr Lee had written several books, and the younger generation would be able to read about his experiences.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and People's Association (PA) chief executive director Ang Hak Seng led a team of 11 PA staff members to pay their respects.

Mr Lee - known as KC to friends - was deputy chairman of the PA from 1977 to 1984.

Mr Chan, deputy chairman of the statutory board, told The Straits Times that Mr Lee was instrumental in developing PA's community-building role. The initiatives he started included setting up daycare centres in community centres to help working parents.

He had also pushed for leisure activities to be offered at community centres, for people to mingle regardless of race or social class, said the PA in a statement.

Mr Lee, a member of the People's Action Party old guard, died of pneumonia at the National University of Hospital on Saturday.

In a political career spanning 25 years, he held such roles as Minister of State for Culture, and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. He had been Singapore's ambassador to eight countries.

Mr Lee leaves behind his wife, seven children and 11 grandchildren. He will be cremated at Mandai Crematorium Hall 4 at 5pm tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2016, with the headline 'Lee Khoon Choy's death a loss to nation: President'. Subscribe