Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's passing: Stories that recap the week of national mourning in Singapore

SINGAPORE - It has been a long, emotional week for Singaporeans as the nation mourns the loss of its founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23, at the age of 91.

The outpouring of emotions was unprecedented. Thousands lined the streets on Wednesday, shedding tears and chanting Mr Lee's name, as his casket left the Istana for Parliament House. Over the last few days, tens of thousands, young and old, spent hours standing patiently in line, waiting to pay their last respects to Singapore's first prime minister.

As the country bids its final goodbye to Mr Lee at the State funeral on Sunday, May 29, we look back at his life and legacy, through a collection of essays, tributes and stories.


1. PM Lee Hsien Loong on Mr Lee Kuan Yew: 'When you needed him, he was there'


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in an interview in June 2013, reflected on the impact his father had on his life, the personal and the political.

"He was a very strict, good father. He left a lot of the looking after of the family to my mother because he was always busy with politics and with his responsibilities," said PM Lee. "But you knew he was there, you knew what he thought, you knew what he expected."

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2. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Daughter Lee Wei Ling on Mr Lee as a father


Dr Lee Wei Ling, 60, the only daughter of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, pays tribute to her father in a piece published in The Straits Times on March 24, 2015.

In it, she notes how he wasn't one to panic because "doing so would never positively affect the outcome of any situation".

In previous essays for The Sunday Times, Dr Lee, who is the director of the National Neuroscience Institute, also offered glimpses into the private life of her parents.

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3. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Father gave advice but let us decide for ourselves


Mr Lee Hsien Yang was the son who chose not to follow his father's footsteps into politics.

"My father suggested it but I didn't think it was something I wanted to do. Politics should be a calling," he said.

He described his father as someone who followed what the three children did and gave advice on academic choices, for example, but left them to decide for themselves.

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4. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Devoted husband and caring father


Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a man with few close friends.

Those who knew him best and saw his tender, caring side came mainly from his tight family circle. But others who interacted with him caught glimpses of the private man away from his public persona as Singapore's hard-driving, straight-talking first prime minister.

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5. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: 'The greatest Chinese outside mainland China'


On his regular visits to Hong Kong, Mr Lee Kuan Yew observed that when people there failed in business, they blamed themselves or bad luck, picked themselves up and tried again.

He wondered how to encourage that entrepreneurial spirit among Singaporeans, and would put the question to powerful businessmen he met there.

South-east Asia's richest man, Mr Robert Kuok, remembers how he responded to Mr Lee: "I told him, you have governed Singapore too strictly, you have put a straitjacket on Singapore. Now, you need to take a pair of scissors and cut it."

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6. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: New Year card every year for shoemaker


Lee Kean Siong, 62, of Lee Hoi Wah Shoes and his sister Christine Lee, 64, had been Mr Lee Kuan Yew's personal shoemakers since 1991.

Mr Lee would make a pair once every two years. They were always a simple pair of formal shoes made of soft black leather.

"As long as you made good shoes for him, he'd be happy and smile ," said the shoemaker.

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7. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Tender side that not many see


Mr Ng Kok Song, 67, the former chief investment officer of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, recalled how Mr Lee Kuan Yew wrote to his cancer-stricken wife Patricia to encourage her.

After Mrs Lee became bedridden after a stroke, he told Mr Ng: "Now we are in the same boat. You are looking after your wife and I am looking after my wife."

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8. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Brother used his wits to help family


Ms Monica Lee, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's only sister, said he missed their mother's famous Nonya cooking.

"So when he started losing weight after Mrs Lee died in 2010, he called me, saying: 'I have lost 21/2 pounds. What can you teach the maid so I can gain the weight back?," she said.

"His maid came to my Morley Road home and I taught her a few of my mother's recipes. His favourites were rojak, mee siam, satay and gado gado."

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9. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: My wonderful Big Brother


General practitioner Lee Suan Yew said his brother, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had a strong influence over his life.

"Looking back, it was Big Brother who planted the seeds of the things I enjoy: chess when I was young and golf when I was older," he said.

"He also guided me along with good advice."

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1. Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Red Box: Heng Swee Keat


Throughout his life, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had kept a red box close by.

About 14cm wide, it contained all of the things he was working on at any one time.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat revealed this and provided a glimpse into what was in the box, in a touching essay about his former boss.

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2. S'pore lucky to have Mr Lee, says Chiam


Mr Lee Kuan Yew's contributions to Singapore outweighed the criticisms made by the opposition, said old adversary Chiam See Tong in a touching tribute.

"Singapore is very lucky to have Mr Lee as her first Prime Minister," the leader of the Singapore People's Party told reporters, after paying his last respects to Mr Lee, who is lying in state at Parliament House.

Recounting the first time he met Mr Lee, Mr Chiam said he was struck by how stern he was. "He said, 'Who is this oppositionist?' I don't think he knew me at that time. And he said, 'Mr Chiam, I'll see you in Parliament.'

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3. Mr Lee Kuan Yew was 'a complex man who evoked many emotions'


Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Bilahari Kausikan said working with Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the start of his real education in international relations.

"His laser-like focus - his 'universe' if you like - was always Singapore. He operated on a global stage, but only for Singapore. He won many friends and was personally greatly admired around the world. But this was always deployed for Singapore," he wrote.

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4. 10 quotes from Mr Lee Kuan Yew's 'awesome' 1977 speech in Parliament


Mr Lee Kuan Yew had made countless speeches in Parliament during his decades in politics.

One of his speeches was described as "awesome" by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. It was a three-and-a-half hour address in February 1977 to a House that welcomed 11 new Members of Parliament, including Mr Goh, then 36, and it made a deep impression on the young Marine Parade MP who was to succeed Mr Lee as Prime Minister later in 1990.

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5. Mr Lee Kuan Yew's 10 most significant speeches in Parliament


Perhaps the Parliament's most electrifying presence ever, Mr Lee Kuan Yew pulled no punches and spoke with clarity and conviction on the challenges facing Singapore at various stages of its evolution.
Here are edited excerpts from 10 significant speeches he delivered in the House over his 60 years as MP for Tanjong Pagar.

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News reports:

1. Singapore mourns: Thousands pay tribute to founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew


Singapore entered the post-Lee Kuan Yew era, with the passing of founding father Lee Kuan Yew, 91.

It was a day that had been widely anticipated, not least since Mr Lee himself had often spoken of the need for leadership succession and had pushed it relentlessly, giving up his own job as Prime Minister in 1990 after 31 years and while still robust at 67.

Yet, when the time finally came - he died at 3.18am on March 23 at the Singapore General Hospital where he had been hospitalised since Feb 5 with severe pneumonia - there was a palpable sense of loss in the country, from the halls of the Istana to the streets of Tanjong Pagar.

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2. They came simply to say 'Thank you, Mr Lee'


A nation reserved in speech and reticent in expressing itself has made an exception these past few days for an exceptional man.

Emotion has been expressed widely, but more through quiet gratitude than gushy sentimentality.

On the numerous handwritten notes left here - for a man their writers may have never met but whose death they take personally - two words repeatedly stand out: "Thank you."

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3. Passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew: Long, slow queue to history


We queued - the old, the infirm, the famous, the nameless. We lined up - the native, the foreigner, the glorious rich, the huddled poor.

The admirer, the critic, the silver-haired who remember when Singapore was just an idea, the later-born who know nothing but - we came.

On the first day that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's body lay in state at Parliament House, tens of thousands of people queued for up to eight hours under a blazing sky to see him.

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4. MPs hail Mr Lee Kuan Yew's 60 years in House


An empty chair with a small spray of white flowers was a poignant reminder of a vast gap in Parliament House yesterday.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's seat in the front row, fourth from the corner, opposite the Front Bench, was empty. He will never sit there again.

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5. PM Lee presented orchid named after Mr Lee Kuan Yew at private wake


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was presented a specimen of the Aranda Lee Kuan Yew, an orchid named after Singapore's founding prime minister, who died on Monday at the age of 91.

The hybrid is the result of a cross between a native orchid, the arachnis hookeriana, and another orchid from Hawaii - from the same line which yielded the Vanda Kwa Geok Choo, the hybrid named after Mr Lee's late wife who died in 2010.

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6. Interactive map/video: Sunday's procession route for the State funeral of Mr Lee Kuan Yew


The funeral procession for Mr Lee Kuan Yew on Sunday will pass significant landmarks like the Old Parliament House, as well as heartland areas.

Here's an interactive map and a video of the 15.4km route

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1. Han Fook Kwang, Editor At Large: Mr Lee Kuan Yew's purpose? To secure the future of Singapore


My interaction with Mr Lee Kuan Yew was mainly over several books we did together. It started with Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas in 1995 - the first book in which he was involved.

Looking back, it is not his combativeness or the actual arguments I remember. It is the intensity of the man, the complete focus on wanting to secure Singapore's future as much as he could possibly do.

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2. Joyce Hooi: By gum, the West is wrong about Singapore


It must be nice to be Western and superior. It must be nice to judge from afar a grieving and poorly understood nation that is often confused with China.

As Singapore came to terms this week with the loss of a titan, the country also came under scrutiny, a great deal of which was admiring in a back-handed way.

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3. Calvin Cheng rebuts critics on Singapore trading freedom for economic success


Some of my Western friends who have never lived here for any period of time have sometimes self-righteously proclaimed, no doubt after reading the cliches in the media, that they could never live under the "stifling and draconian" laws that we have.

My answer to them is simple: Are you the sort to urinate in public when a toilet isn't available, the sort to vandalise public property, the sort that would leave a mess in a public toilet that you share with others?

In short, are you a civilised person who wants to live in a civilised society? Because the things you cannot do in Singapore are precisely the sort that civilised people should not do anyway. If you are, you have nothing to fear.

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