Lee Kuan Yew: The last rally

The outpouring of grief and depth of emotion shown by Singaporeans following the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in the early hours of March 23 was unprecedented. Insight looks back on the week in which Singaporeans mourned their founding prime minister.

Lee Kuan Yew: Grief, gratitude and how a nation grew closer together

It was a scene replicated across many parts of Singapore the morning after news broke that the country's first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had died at 3.18am on Monday, March 23, at the age of 91.

In homes, offices, MRT platforms and bus terminals - almost any place where a television set, radio, smartphone or computer terminal was turned on to a news channel or website - people were gripped by what they heard.

Some bowed their heads in sorrow. Others buried their face in their hands in anguish or disbelief, or offered a silent prayer.


'An honour to stand vigil for Mr Lee Kuan Yew'

For five days, they stood vigil by Mr Lee Kuan Yew's casket, keeping a solemn watch as Singapore mourned.

"It was the one duty we wished we didn't have to do," said Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (NS) Lionel Chai, 48, one of the 80 guards who kept vigil at Parliament House last week.

The vigil guards, made up of uniformed officers from the Police, Army, Navy and Air Force, stood in formation - one at each corner of the casket, and a more senior officer at the head of the group, facing inwards.


Lee Kuan Yew: One queue, 82 hours, almost half a million undaunted mourners

It was a queue never seen before in Singapore and likely never to be seen again.

Starting on the morning of March 25, when Mr Lee Kuan Yew's casket was moved from the Istana to Parliament House, Singaporeans lined up to pay their last respects to the nation's founding prime minister.

Being told that the wait would stretch up to 10 or 11 hours did nothing to deter the masses. Instead, it seemed only to increase their determination to file past Mr Lee's casket in a final farewell.


Lee Kuan Yew: Stormy grey skies echo a nation's grief

The heavens opened on the day of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's funeral, almost as if in response to the outpouring of emotions since his death on March 23.

In torrential rain - the complete opposite of the hot, humid week - Mr Lee's cortege travelled 15.4km from Parliament House to the University Cultural Centre, where his state funeral was held.

As the cortege made its final journey, cannon on the Padang fired a 21-gun salute in honour of Mr Lee. It took a winding route, passing by milestones of Singapore's history that spoke of Mr Lee's enormous contribution to the nation.


Lee Kuan Yew: How Singapore forged its own unique way forward

Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, died last week at age 91. Almost every obituary has remarked on the radical transition his leadership heralded. As John Fund wrote at National Review: "By embracing free trade, capital formation, vigorous meritocratic education, low taxes and a reliable judicial system, Mr Lee raised the per capita income of his country from US$500 a year to some US$52,000 (S$70,500) a year today. That's 50 per cent higher than that of Britain, the colonial power that ruled Singapore for 150 years. Its annual growth rate has averaged 7 per cent since the 1970s."

Part of the reason for Singapore's remarkable climb up the international income ladder is bread-and-butter capitalism. The Fraser Institute's Freedom of the World report lists Singapore as the second-freest economy in the world - right behind Hong Kong. As Fraser scholars have demonstrated year after year, economic growth and free markets go hand in hand.

But Singapore has done something even more remarkable than its economic accomplishments. It has built an alternative to the European-style welfare state. Think of all the reasons why people turn to government in other developed countries: retirement income, housing, education, medical care, etc. In Singapore, people are required to save to take care of these needs themselves.


Lee Kuan Yew: My founding father's love

Modern Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew died on March 23. He was 91.

Like many Asian fathers, Mr Lee's was a stern love.

He valued high performers.


Lee Kuan Yew: The man and his dream

In many ways, the passing of Lee Kuan Yew brings to a close the formative history of Singapore. Lee, who passed away at age 91, was the island-state's founding prime minister and the last surviving member of a team of indomitable spirits that included Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam and Toh Chin Chye.

Together, these men, and the people who worked for them, steered newly-independent Singapore through the stormy years of separation from Malaysia in 1965 and the height of the Cold War in South-east Asia, and in the process created the vibrant, First World metropolis the world has come to know.

Much has been written about Lee Kuan Yew; the material available on the man and his ideas would easily fill a library. Whether authored by admirers or detractors, the vast majority of what is written about Lee shares one common thematic thread - an emphasis of his hardnosed pragmatism and instinct for survival. Indeed, Lee's stubbornness and strategic foresight were legendary.


Lee Kuan Yew: Where will history place modern Singapore's founder?

My differences of opinion with Mr Lee Kuan Yew (which included views about the future role of China's Communist Party and other matters, but no matter here) included one about the character of his political genius. For that, as any fair-minded observer of the founding father of bustling modern Singapore knew, was what he was.

But what was its nature?

Mr Lee and his followers, which much of the time included most of the people of Singapore, showed the world that economic self-improvement had to have public policies grounded in best-practice pragmatism rather than in ideological schematics. It also required hard-working citizens sharing the vision to get off the ground. Whether your political system was argumentative-parliamentarian, messy-democracy or shut-up authoritarian, the people had to be brought along and had to believe in the leader's way of moving forward if they were to give it their best.


Lee Kuan Yew: Going quietly

On his death, Mr Lee Kuan Yew was widely (and misleadingly) described as almost the sole architect of Singapore's success. Yet he had ensured that his own going caused no disruption. Nor did his long withdrawal from political leadership. And that, for his generation, was one of his most remarkable contributions: quitting office voluntarily in the first place.

In Timor Leste, Mr Xanana Gusmao has just copied him, standing down as prime minister while staying in the Cabinet.

But it was not common among 1960s independence leaders or Asian autocrats. In China, it took death to end Mao's long and often-violent reign in 1976. Of the five leaders of the founding members of Asean in 1967, all but Mr Lee departed amid chaos on the streets.


Lee Kuan Yew: The man from Singapore, a man of his time

Lee's life traced a long arc of modern East Asian history: the last vestiges of colonialism, the advent of affluence, the introduction of democracy, albeit flawed and limited, the spread of globalisation, the decline of Japan and the rise of China and, now, the retreat to nationalism. He was not so much an architect of change - his stage, Singapore, was... too small to be a global player - as an observer of the way of the world, on anything from nation-building to geopolitics to terrorism, and everything in between. Over six decades of public life, Lee preached, berated, pontificated and counselled not only his own people but also those of other countries, whether the advice was solicited or not...

At home, Lee was above all the man in charge. His ethos was both broad and narrow, often controversial, and always trenchant. Government required a long reach to be effective. Economic development needed to precede democracy and, even then, civil liberties should be restricted and dissent monitored and, when he deemed so, curtailed...


What's next for Singapore after Lee Kuan Yew?

It has been almost a fortnight since Lee Kuan Yew passed away.

Two unique weeks in the country's independent history in which it has not been under the watchful eye of its founding prime minister.

But the sun still rose in the east and the island hasn't sunk.


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