Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Stories from March 25 edition of ST

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's last trip to Parliament today

The casket of Singapore's founding father, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, will be moved from the Istana to Parliament House this morning for the start of four days of lying in state, with thousands expected to pay their respects to the former prime minister.

In the highest honour accorded to a leader, the State flag will be draped over the casket, with the crescent and stars lying over the head and close to the heart of Mr Lee, who died on Monday, aged 91. Eight officers will then transfer the casket onto a gun carriage.

A ceremonial foot procession will be led by Mr Lee's elder son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and his wife, Ms Ho Ching; daughter Lee Wei Ling; younger son Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Ms Lim Suet Fern; and seven grandchildren, for about 70m.


Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan visit tribute site at Istana gates

Separately, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Tony Tan Keng Yam visited the tribute site near the Istana's main gates yesterday afternoon, to peruse the condolence messages left by Singaporeans.

They also spoke to the people queueing to pay tribute to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

By 9pm yesterday, 21,000 messages had been placed there during the day, and there were 3,200 more outside the gates of Parliament.


Family, friends and old colleagues gather at the Istana to share memories of Mr Lee Kuan Yew

As they gathered to pay their respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, retired politicians reminisced about what it had been like to work with Singapore's founding father.

Several who were MPs when Mr Lee was Prime Minister said that though he looked stern, he was a good listener and unafraid to change his mind after hearing a convincing, rational argument.

They were among the 4,000 visitors who paid their respects yesterday at a private family wake for Mr Lee, who died on Monday at the age of 91. Yesterday was the last day of the private wake at the Istana's Sri Temasek, official residence of the Prime Minister.


New orchid Aranda Lee Kuan Yew named in honour of Singapore's 'Chief Gardener'

A new specimen of orchid has been christened the Aranda Lee Kuan Yew in honour of the late former Prime Minister.

The bright golden yellow flower, with a green tinge, is from the same line that yielded one named for his beloved wife, the Vanda Kwa Geok Choo.

The new orchid was presented to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday in honour of Mr Lee by NParks chief executive Kenneth Er and National Orchid Gardens nursery manager David Lim.


People finding their own way to remember Mr Lee Kuan Yew

It is not easy to sum up a life. Madam Imro'ah Dasuki tries. She wants to leave, embarrassed by the tears that come so easily to her. She somehow thinks it is not proper to show emotion.

But she also wants to tell me something, about how one life changed hers.

Born 58 years ago, she grew up poor, in Kampong Darat Nanas, close to Changi Prison. Her father died young.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: 'He cared for the people and gave us a better life'

Madam Koh Choo Neo had three children, was 20 years old and struggling to make ends meet when she decided to see her MP for help.

She lived in Tanjong Pagar, so she went to see Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

"I had no education and no job prospects. He could not give me financial help but he told me to endure, work hard and look forward," said Madam Koh, now 77.


Mr Lee Kuan Yew's body to lie in state after solemn journey

As Singaporeans bid farewell to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, another leg of his final journey starts today.

On the one hand there will be ceremony and gestures that represent the highest state honour accorded a leader. On the other, doors will open for ordinary people to pay their respects.

The journey starts this morning with a ceremonial gun carriage conveying Mr Lee's body from the Istana to Parliament House, where it will lie in state until Saturday.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: 'The day Mr Lee freed me from jail'

It was six decades ago, but Mr Wan Daud Embong remembers clearly the day Mr Lee Kuan Yew won him his freedom from jail.

Then a member of the Singapore Factory and Shop Workers' Union, Mr Wan Daud had been detained by the Lim Yew Hock government many months earlier in 1956, accused of being a communist.

Mr Lee, who was the union's legal adviser, represented him in court and argued for him to be freed.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: A poignant absence on Aug 9, says Chiam See Tong

Veteran opposition politician Chiam See Tong yesterday said Mr Lee Kuan Yew had been for Singapore what British prime minister Winston Churchill was for his country.

In a heartfelt condolence letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on his father's death, the leader of the Singapore People's Party said: "He was there at the time when Singapore was swarmed with numerous problems, ranging from domestic to international issues. He was there, just as Britain needed Winston Churchill during World War II - always taking a strategic and long-term view of Singapore."


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Without tripartism, we won't be here, says labour chief

The labour movement, in a symbolic move, will hold a memorial service on Friday for Mr Lee Kuan Yew at its first permanent home, the Singapore Conference Hall.

The building, long associated with trade unionism in Singapore, was officially opened in 1965 by Mr Lee, who had played a major role in nurturing tripartism to avoid the confrontation style of labour relations in other countries.

This role was underlined yesterday when the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) held a ceremony at its current home in One Marina Boulevard, with about 500 union members and workers observing a one-minute silence for Singapore's first Prime Minister.


Englishman Roy Barker shows he is a big admirer of Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Mr Lee Kuan Yew certainly made his mark on Englishman Roy Barker - the permanent resident has a tattoo of the former Prime Minister on his left forearm.

The black-and-white portrait of Mr Lee is carved on the inside of Mr Barker's forearm. The tattoo spans the area from where his watchstrap starts to his inner elbow, complete with the initials L.K.Y.

The 73-year-old retiree told The Straits Times: "A lot of people never liked Mr Lee because of his harsh policies and asked, 'What do you want to get a tattoo for?' I would say, 'He's a great man, he deserves it, and I want to give him recognition.'"


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Not one, but 10 bronze busts for 'Mr Toilet'

The founder of the World Toilet Organisation, Mr Jack Sim, is internationally renowned for crusading for better sanitation. So when he wanted to mark Singapore's golden jubilee, the go-getter really bust out.

He is getting 10, half-a-metre tall bronze busts - head-and-shoulder sculptures - made of his hero, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, costing a total of $10,000.

One is already complete and sits in the garden at his home, a bungalow in Katong.


Memorial exhibition on the life of Mr Lee Kuan Yew opens today at National Museum

A new memorial exhibition on the life of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew has been put together by a team from the National Museum of Singapore.

Called In Memoriam: Lee Kuan Yew, the showcase chronicles his life and political career, and highlights the ideals and convictions that shaped him.

It opens today and will run daily from 10am to 8pm till April 26. The memorial showcase will be held at the Stamford Road museum's glass atrium on level 2. Admission is free.


At the NUS site of his old college, Mr Lee Kuan Yew still touches lives

Medical student Koh Shi Min, 23, has never met Mr Lee Kuan Yew personally, but it is one of his charitable initiatives that has allowed her to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

The daughter of a taxi-driver father and a supermarket sales-promoter mother had applied for medical school at the National University of Singapore (NUS) after completing her diploma at Singapore Polytechnic in 2012.

"I was accepted into medical school, but the course fees were much higher than other courses and I was worried about it," she said.


Events axed or postponed islandwide during week of national mourning

Activities and events have been cancelled or postponed islandwide, in a mark of respect for Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, 91, who died on Monday morning.

This includes a visit by a foreign leader, sporting events and a travel fair, as the country observes seven days of national mourning, which ends on Sunday.

The People's Association has cancelled its Chingay parade at Nee Soon GRC this Saturday. It was the last of five satellite parades meant to take the annual Chinese New Year street procession to the heartland.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Telok Kurau Primary pupils learn about founding father's legacy

A man who kept his promises, played a key role in making Singapore clean and green and was a loving husband.

Some 1,300 pupils from Telok Kurau Primary, aged seven to 12, were taught about Mr Lee Kuan Yew's legacy during an hour-long slide show yesterday.

Teachers from the school - Mr Lee's alma mater - impressed upon pupils the influence of the former Prime Minister.


World leaders continue to hail Mr Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

The tributes continued to flow yesterday for Mr Lee Kuan Yew as the world pondered his contribution to regional peace and his models of governance and development that were often held as a beacon to leaders in many parts of the globe.

United States President Barack Obama phoned Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to express condolences and convey "his appreciation for founding Prime Minister Lee's wise counsel and strong support for US-Singapore relations".


Regional newspapers pay homage to 'the sage and giant of South-east Asia'

Regional media continued to cover the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew extensively, with newspapers devoting front-page headlines and entire sections to the life and achievements of Singapore's founding father.

Malaysia's top English-language paper, The Star, ran eight pages across various sections yesterday. One headline was "Malaysians share the grief".

Calling Mr Lee "a steely man", the newspaper said: "He found himself as Prime Minister of a tiny nation with little resources but dragged it, whether its citizens liked it or not, through the decades and moulded it into the modern-day metropolis it now is.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Our chief diplomat to the world

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the most famous Singaporean in the world. For nearly half a century, he personified Singapore to the world. During his long tenure as Prime Minister (of independent Singapore), from 1965 to 1990, he was the principal architect of Singapore's foreign policy.

Later, as senior minister and minister mentor, he continued to give his successors valuable advice on our external relations. It would not be wrong to say that he served as our chief diplomat to the world.


The world will miss Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew was a great man. And he was a close personal friend, a fact that I consider one of the great blessings of my life. A world needing to distil order from incipient chaos will miss his leadership.

Lee emerged onto the international stage as the founding father of the state of Singapore, then a city of about one million. He developed into a world statesman who acted as a kind of conscience to leaders around the globe.

Fate initially seemed not to have provided him a canvas on which to achieve more than modest local success.


Mr Lee Kuan Yew's red box and his unwavering dedication to Singapore

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had a red box. When I worked as Mr Lee's principal private secretary, or PPS, a good part of my daily life revolved around the red box. Before Mr Lee came in to work each day, the locked red box would arrive first, at about 9am.

As far as the various officers who have worked with Mr Lee can remember, he had it for many, many years. It is a large, boxy briefcase, about 14cm wide. Red boxes came from the British government, whose ministers used them for transporting documents between government offices.

Our early ministers had red boxes, but Mr Lee is the only one I know who used his consistently through the years.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Every photographer's dream and nightmare

I began photographing Mr Lee Kuan Yew soon after I joined The Straits Times in 1995, and over the next 20 years, I photographed him extensively for news assignments and the 2011 book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going. I also accompanied him on official trips overseas. Mr Lee was every photographer's dream and nightmare.

He was ever intimidating, impatient with the time-sapping craft of photography. His aversion to flash photography, especially in his later years, meant that photographers had less than a minute to shoot, before being asked to turn off their flashes.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: A man of exceptional intellect and perception

In the lead-up to the 1984 General Election, after I finally agreed to enter politics, Kuan Yew invited me to his office at the Istana.

It was a spartan room, which reflected the character of the man. He did not believe in spending money unless it was absolutely necessary. The room was just plain, except for some books.

In the Cabinet room, one floor below his office, the table has been there for as long as I remember. The cloth covers of the armchairs were finally changed three or four years before he retired. He had previously refused to.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: To his Chinese tutor, he was a 'gentle lion'

I still remember clearly the first Chinese lesson I conducted for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

It was a rainy day in 2006. Even though I was well-prepared, I was slightly nervous as I stepped into the Istana to make my way to his office, where the lesson was to be held.

Mr Lee, after all, was Singapore's founding father. Many viewed him as a stern man, not to be crossed, a "shi zi" (lion), as some would say in Chinese.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Journey with a master teacher

In 1994, I was called up for an interview with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was looking for a new principal private secretary.

He looked at my CV and said: "Chan Heng Loon, you don't qualify. That's the end of the interview."

I was shocked and said: "Mr Lee, may I know why I am not qualified?"


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."

The Malaysian tycoon would sometimes invite other Hong Kong businessmen to meet Mr Lee, who was always ready to talk politics.


Press freedom was a fine balancing act with Mr Lee Kuan Yew

One November evening in 1999, Mr Lee Kuan Yew telephoned: He was troubled by a new information phenomenon, which was threatening to overwhelm the traditional media industry.

In America, the markets were rapidly coming to the conclusion that there was no future in print newspapers, whose eyeballs were migrating to cyberspace.

How would this information revolution impact the Singapore media? He was anxious to find a response that would enable the mainstream media to keep its eyeballs. He wanted us at Singapore Press Holdings to think about the way forward.


Exceptional speakers of different styles

Before I knew either Mr Lee Kuan Yew or David Marshall, I remember being at a political meeting at the university in 1957 or 1958. I can't remember the circumstances, but both David and Mr Lee spoke on the future of Singapore.

After my years at the London School of Economics, I was not unfamiliar with political speeches. But it struck me that here were two exceptional speakers of great difference in their styles.

Mr Lee was a master of silence and the pause. He could pause and everody would be absolutely on edge as to what he was going to say next. David had a different, sometimes more oratorical, style. He could inspire people and take them out of themselves to be something bigger than themselves.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Preoccupied with our survival

After I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1965, one of my roles as a junior civil servant was to take notes at meetings.

It was a great privilege to observe at close quarters the way in which Mr Lee Kuan Yew, together with other pioneer leaders including Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr S. Rajaratnam, set about the task of establishing the newly independent city state of Singapore on a firm footing. Mr Lee displayed extraordinary energy, resilience and an unfailing commitment, despite the odds stacked against him.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: He was a master teacher

"My most direct contact with Mr Lee Kuan Yew was as his first-ever principal private secretary.

He was a master teacher to me. He had me sit in on all his meetings other than the political ones, just to listen and learn from the exposure, even though the conversations often had nothing to do with any particular topic he wanted me to work on.

From Mr Lee, I learnt the principles of governance which undergirded the transformation of Singapore, from the early days of self-government in 1959 and subsequent independence in 1965 to a modern metropolis.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: A man of simple tastes, says tailor

"Mr Lee ordered shirts from us, and we also had pyjamas made for him. His name was usually embroidered on them in full.

In the past, he was served by my father who was in charge of sales at the time in the 1960s.

I remember my dad was very impressed with him, saying that Lee Kuan Yew was his hero.


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

"He was our customer for more than 20 years, since 1990. We made shoes for Mrs Lee too, so when her husband needed shoes, she recommended us to him.

It was our father who first made shoes for Mr Lee. The first mould he made of Mr Lee's feet is still in the store. After our father died in 1991, my sister and I continued to make shoes for him.

Mr Lee would make a pair once every two years. They were always a simple pair of formal shoes made of soft black leather. It was very important that they were comfortable.


Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: An open man who embodied the word 'statesman'

"There is another side to Lee Kuan Yew. I had the opportunity of having lunch with him several times, sometimes one on one. You had to be on your toes constantly.

We would not only discuss my portfolio at the time, whether it was the Ministry of Social Affairs, Communication, Trade and Industry. We would also talk about important things, sensitive matters about the Malays, the Chinese, the Indians.

He was an open man and the embodiment of the word "statesman". I appreciated it very much because the discussions were no-holds-barred and you were free to raise sensitive matters like the Singapore Armed Forces, mosques and the azan (the Islamic call to prayer five times a day). I was told that we had to lower the volume of the azan.


The three Lee Kuan Yews that I know: Tough prime minister; Perfectionist writer; Elder statesman

Over the years, I came to know three Lee Kuan Yews: the tough prime minister, the perfectionist writer, and the elder statesman.

The first time I met Mr Lee was in May 1969. I was a young assistant lecturer newly returned from Cornell. The Prime Minister had come to speak to the staff of the University of Singapore.

A week earlier he had been deeply disturbed by the reactions of students who did not seem to understand the gravity and implications of the May 13 racial riots in Malaysia, judging by their questions and mood at his public lecture.


Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.