SINGAPORE - More than 1.2 million people have paid their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House and community tribute sites islandwide, as the public mourning period comes to an end on Saturday evening.
About 415,000 people have done so at Parliament House where the queue for mourners officially closed at 8pm, Saturday, as scheduled. Some 850,000 people have also paid tribute to Singapore's founding father at the various community sites, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
"It has been a tremendous experience this week since Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away. I think the response from all segments of our society, everybody, has been overwhelming," PM Lee told reporters on Saturday evening at the Padang, the starting point of the queue.
"We need to have some time to clear the queue because the queue is still eight, nine hours long and then prepare the Padang for tomorrow's state funeral," he said.
The funeral procession, which commences at 12.30pm on Sunday, will pass significant landmarks like the Old Parliament House, as well as heartland areas.
After the procession, the funeral service will be held at the University Cultural Centre at the National University of Singapore from 2pm to 5.15pm.
"I hope that we will focus ourselves on that ceremony, which is a very important one, and I hope that we will share the moment together, particularly when we have the minute of silence at the end of the speeches and eulogies, when we're going to sound the civil defence sirens, then we'll have the minute of silence, then the sirens sound again."
"We'll say the pledge and sing the national anthem together... so I think we work towards that and make sure that tomorrow, we have a ceremony which will be a fitting tribute and a fitting mourning and celebration of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's life."
In a Facebook post on Saturday evening, PM Lee thanked those who came to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House, Sri Temasek, and the 18 islandwide community tribute sites. He also thanked Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, uniformed officers, government agencies, The People's Association, community groups, private companies, volunteers and donors for their "hard work, help and compassion".
As part of the State funeral, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will be sounding the “All-Clear” signal twice, through its network of Public Warning System sirens, as a rallying call for the nation to observe a minute of silence. This will be a first by the SCDF and signifies the nation’s deepest respect for Singapore's founding father. Upon the first sounding of the signal, members of the public are encouraged to begin observing the one minute of silence. The second sounding will signify the end of the minute of silence.
At the two land checkpoints, all individuals and vehicle checks will come to a halt to observe the minute of silence. Prior to the moment, all MRT trains will pull to a stop at stations and open their doors. Similarly, buses scheduled to depart from bus interchanges or terminals will be held back during the minute of silence.
At the Padang on Saturday, some people were seen dashing towards the starting point of the queue minutes before 8pm.
Madam Eliza Wong was the last person to make it to the line. Madam Wong, who is self-employed and in her 50s, said she had paid her last respects to Mr Lee on Thursday night but decided to make another trip. She said: "Mr Lee means so much to all of us, he is the father of Singapore."
Others, like housewife Charmaine Tan, 54, did not make it in time. "I'm very disappointed that I missed the opportunity. But I am trying to stay positive. I can still wait along the funeral procession route tomorrow."
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who also visited mourners at the Padang on Saturday evening, thanked everyone who paid tribute to the late Mr Lee.
“This is a number which we never really expected to be so large, just the huge outpouring of emotion from Singapore people for Mr Lee,” Mr Teo told reporters. “We want to thank everyone who came for their patience and understanding, and their spirit was really a Singapore spirit.”
Mr Teo said Singaporeans who wish to pay their last respects to Mr Lee can still do so at community tribute sites which will stay open round the clock until after the funeral on Sunday.
“In fact I've been there myself to several of the sites, it's a very moving experience as well because three-generation families are there, grandparents, parents and children, and they spend time talking to each other, sharing their experiences and some of them personal anecdotes about Mr Lee himself, how Mr Lee helped them,” he said. “Sometimes the children themselves didn't even know that from the grandparents, so it's a very moving experience.”
The queue at Parliament House earlier in the day appeared to be shorter. As at 5pm, the waiting time was up to five hours. Some people, who took the priority queue meant for the elderly, the disabled and the very young, said the wait was about an hour on Saturday afternoon.
On Friday evening and the early hours of Saturday, the wait was as long as 10 hours at one point. Due to the overwhelming crowd, the authorities had to turn people away from joining the line for safety reasons during the early hours of Saturday. The queue was reopened at 6.15am, after it was closed for eight hours.
Ms Zhou Xin Jie, 32, a marketing executive, joined the line at 2am at the Singapore Recreation Club with boyfriend Yap Wei Jie, 32. Four hours later, she was relieved when the line started moving.
"We want to do it regardless how long it'll take," she said.
Added Mr Yap: "We decided to stay since we're already here. We came to pay our last respects. It's the least we can do, for so much he's done."
The public can also catch a live streaming of Mr Lee lying in state at Parliament House: http://str.sg/JAZ
They can also visit the People's Association 18 community sites around the island that will stay open round the clock.
1. Tanjong Pagar Community Club, 101 Cantonment Road.
2. Hong Lim Park, next to Telok Ayer Hong Lim Green Community Centre, 20 Upper Pickering Street.
3. Open space @ Bedok Town Centre, in front of 209 New Upper Changi Road, Singapore 460209. The space is outside the Sheng Siong supermarket.
4. Tampines Community Plaza, 10 Tampines Central 1. This is in front of Tampines One Mall.
5. Kovan Hub, 206 Hougang Street 21. This is near the Heartland Mall.
6. Ang Mo Kio Central Stage @ Ang Mo Kio Town Centre. The stage is between Block 712 and Block 709, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8.
7. Hardcourt at Block 749, Yishun Street 72.
8. Woodlands Civic Centre open space, 900 South Woodlands Drive.
9. Hardcourt opposite Choa Chu Kang MRT station, Choa Chu Kang Loop.
10. Canopy (the Pavilion between JCube shopping centre and Jurong Regional Library), Jurong East Central 1.
11. People’s Association Headquarters, 9 King George’s Avenue
12. Botany Centre, Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road
13. Marina Barrage, 8 Marina Gardens Drive
14. Toa Payoh Central CC Multipurpose Hall, 93 Toa Payoh Central
15. Open area at Blk 442 and Blk 449 Clementi Avenue 3
16. Senja-Cashew Community Club, 101 Bukit Panjang Road
17. Kampong Kembangan Community Club, 5 Lengkong Tiga
18. Sengkang Community Club, 2 Sengkang Square
Also, those working or residing in town or the central business district, may visit the NTUC Tribute Centre to pen condolence messages. It has been set up at NTUC Centre, One Marina Boulevard, Level One, Outside Foyer. Opening times: 8am to 8pm daily, till Sunday.
Click here for overnight MRT and LRT train services and bus services on Friday (March 27): http://str.sg/JPj