Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Stories from March 28 edition of ST

Massive crowds at Padang, so queue temporarily halted

As people continued to arrive at the Padang through the day to endure waits of up to 10 hours for their turn to pay their last respects to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in person, the crowds swelled beyond control last night.

At about 10pm, the organisers announced that they were "temporarily suspending" the queue to clear the backlog of people who were even spilling over into the MRT station at City Hall.


Day of mourning in India

India is honouring Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew by designating tomorrow as a day of national mourning.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is travelling to Singapore where he will join other foreign leaders for the state funeral.

In an unprecedented gesture, New Delhi announced yesterday that the Indian flag will be lowered to half-mast across the country tomorrow and there will be no official entertainment on the day.


11-hour wait - yet they kept coming

Told to stay away, they came anyway.

People continued to turn up from midnight yesterday into the day to queue outside Parliament House to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

This was despite the fact that from Thursday night, the state funeral organising committee advised people not to join the queue until further updates, warning the wait could get as long as 11 hours.


Numbers behind massive effort

Handling the unprecedented crowds that have formed since Wednesday to pay their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who is lying in state at Parliament House, has been a massive task for organisers of the former Prime Minister's state funeral.

The decision to extend visiting hours at Parliament House from 10 hours to 24 hours meant that organisers, comprising government agencies and the Singapore Armed Forces, had to beef up their operations to deal with bigger crowds. These are the numbers behind the huge operation mounted over the past few days.

276,000 people turned up to pay their last respects, as at 7pm yesterday


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 yesterday afternoon.

"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.


Indonesian dignitaries pay respects

Two former presidents of Indonesia were among several Indonesian dignitaries who paid their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew yesterday.

They were Ms Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country's first president Sukarno, and Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who was succeeded by current President Joko Widodo.

Ms Megawati told reporters that Mr Lee was her mentor.


Banker remembers 'helpful, open-minded' man

In the early 2000s, a push by then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew to consolidate Singapore's banking sector put the former Overseas Union Bank (OUB) in a tough position, said Mr Peter Seah, who was the bank's president at the time.

Mr Lee had wanted the banks to merge and grow larger so they could compete better globally.

Although it had been the fastest-growing local bank in the 1990s, OUB was still the smallest and thus a "potential victim" to be acquired by its larger competitors, recalled Mr Seah yesterday.


Not close friends, but I still feel sad at his passing, says Mahathir

Malaysia's combative former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad expressed sadness over the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew even as he admitted that they were not close friends.

"No matter how friendly or unfriendly we are, the passing away of a man you know well saddens you. I cannot say I was a close friend of Kuan Yew. But still I feel sad at his demise," Dr Mahathir wrote on his personal blog.

Dr Mahathir became his country's fourth prime minister in 1981. He and Mr Lee were counterparts until Mr Lee stepped down in 1990, while Dr Mahathir continued in office until 2003.


'Singaporean Singapore' right from the start

Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his colleagues refused to appeal to exclusive racial and religious identities in Singapore's early days, choosing instead the more difficult path of creating a "Singaporean Singapore", said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Today, Singapore is a harmonious, multiracial country in large part because of Mr Lee's determination to weave multiracialism into its very foundation, said Mr Teo yesterday.

Singapore's first Prime Minister understood the need to inculcate a sense "that we are all Singaporeans, first and foremost, regardless of race", he told 2,000 people at a memorial organised by community groups.


'Time to move on from Marxist conspiracy'

The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew was a man of conviction who did what he thought was best for the country, said the Catholic Church's Archbishop William Goh yesterday.

He was a dedicated father who cared for the country as if the people were part of his own family, said Archbishop Goh at a mass for Singapore's first Prime Minister.

Still, while he was a leader who helped to give Singaporeans education, medical care and jobs, the archbishop said there are many people who do not agree with certain policies that Mr Lee introduced.


Reflect on Mr Lee's legacy and do good, Muslims urged

Muslims in Singapore were reminded of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's contributions to the community and nation in a Friday sermon prepared by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) for the 68 mosques.

The sermon was on the theme of how Muslims should use their limited time on earth to do good deeds.

It called on worshippers to reflect on Mr Lee's legacy and contributions, and think about what they could do that will leave an impact on others, as Mr Lee had.


The final journey


The procession starts at 12.30pm and will arrive at the UCC before 2pm. Lines are expected to be longer nearer Parliament and in town.


What Mahathir wrote on his blog

No matter how friendly or unfriendly we are, the passing away of a man you know well saddens you.

I cannot say I was a close friend of Kuan Yew. But still, I feel sad at his demise.

Kuan Yew became well known at a young age. I was a student in Singapore when I read about his defence of labour unions.


'Mr Lee thought about others, even when he was sick'

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was very sick the night before he was hospitalised on Feb 5.

But he did not want to go to hospital immediately as it would mean waking up the senior doctors. He told his security officer to wait until after 6am the following day, when he knew most senior doctors would be awake.

"I was glad the security staff did not follow that particular instruction but brought him in straightaway," Professor Fong Kok Yong, chairman of Singapore General Hospital's (SGH) Medical Board, said yesterday.


Football fraternity pays tribute

As Singapore basked in the glory of the 1977 Malaysia Cup win after beating Penang 3-2, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew met and congratulated the victorious national football team at the Istana.

The reception is etched vividly in the mind of striker Ho Kwang Hock. The 58-year-old recalled yesterday: "He came in, clad in golf attire, shorts and all, and went around shaking our hands.

"The Prime Minister was coming to each and every one of us to shake our hands, not us to him."


Sirens will sound for nation to observe a minute's silence

Singaporeans are expected to line the streets in large numbers tomorrow afternoon as the country bids a solemn final farewell to its founding Prime Minister after a week of mourning.

Sirens will also sound nationwide at about 4pm to signal the start and end of a minute of silence for Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Monday at age 91.

The 15.4km-long state funeral procession route will pass by several historic, as well as more recent, defining landmarks of the country Mr Lee had shaped in his career.


Tough love meant Mr Lee put interests of workers first

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was not afraid of taking the unions to task if he felt they were doing things that were harmful to Singapore.

But even if he practised tough love, it was because he put the interests of the workers first, said union leaders at a two hour-long memorial service last night.

Government, union and corporate leaders, past and present, praised Mr Lee, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, for his vision and foresight in ensuring industrial harmony, promoting productivity and enhancing the life of workers here.


Memorial photo pose 'the most natural thing in the world'

IT HAD begun to drizzle and with the afternoon light fading fast, the outdoor shoot had to be scrapped, recalled Indonesian photographer Tara Sosrowardoyo of an assignment he had landed on Nov 23, 2004.

The photographer, who was given only 40 minutes for the session, had to find and light a location in the Istana where he could photograph Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

They ended up taking most of the photos in Mr Lee's office as well as along a corridor.


No to flag displays on home fronts, okay to carry it at procession

IT IS no go for a call to allow Singaporeans to display the national flag in front of their homes tomorrow, when the state funeral of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew is held.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, has turned down the suggestion from a group of East Coast GRC grassroots volunteers, following public feedback that the move may not set "the right tone" for the day of the state funeral.

But members of the public can carry the flag along the procession route, said Mr Wong, noting that this was allowed under current rules.


RWS, MBS to close casinos tomorrow

Casino operators Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) and Marina Bay Sands (MBS) will close their casinos from 2pm to 6pm tomorrow, as a mark of respect for Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

RWS will also suspend most of its business operations from 2pm to 2.05pm tomorrow. In a circular to its staff yesterday, RWS senior vice-president Seah-Khoo Ee Boon asked staff to "wear sombre colours on Sunday. Alternative attire will be arranged for those with brightly coloured uniforms".

RWS will also screen the live telecast of Mr Lee's state funeral on television screens in the resort from 12.30pm.


Brisk sales for books on Mr Lee

Books about the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew have been flying off the shelves this past week, according to publishers and bookshops here.

A representative from Kinokuniya bookstore told The Straits Times that while Mr Lee's books have been selling briskly in the past month, sales have come to a noticeable peak this week.

It was a development that was also seen at other large bookstores such as Popular and Times, which reported a sharp uptick in sales this week for books by and about Mr Lee.


A frugal man who brought discipline into government

Mr Lee was a very frugal man, and I explain that because that's the way he ran the country.

Once, I was on a trip with him to the United States. I was at his table for dinner. At the end of dinner, we were given dessert. I asked for ice cream, and we were given ice cream.

This was the United States - they gave me three large scoops. I hadn't expected it. I don't eat much dessert, so I took one scoop and I left the rest behind.


A growing tribute fit for a visionary

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was scheduled to plant a young tree at Gardens by the Bay earlier this year. But the former Prime Minister, who was hospitalised for severe pneumonia on Feb 5, was unable to do so.

Yesterday, as a tribute to the visionary behind Singapore's transformation into a Garden City, around 100 staff members of the Gardens took part in a ceremony to plant a 13m-tall young tree.

Dr Tan Wee Kiat, chief executive officer of the attraction, said: "Mr Lee spearheaded the Garden City movement and he did it by planting the first tree.


e-book revives key ideas

What were some of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's key ideas that shaped modern Singapore? In October 1997, Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas was launched.

It was the first book that tried to answer these questions, through interviews with Mr Lee, who was then Senior Minister, as well as his speeches.

Excerpts of Lee Kuan Yew: The Man And His Ideas, are now available in the form of an e-book in The Straits Times Star app. It is published jointly by The Straits Times and Times Publishing as a public service to commemorate the life and work of Mr Lee. It is free for download.


A soft spot for Britain, but never a 'colonial nostalgic'

It is by now largely forgotten that the first electorate Lee Kuan Yew ever had to face and the first votes he ever canvassed were not, as one may expect, in Singapore but in Britain.

Soon after graduation from Cambridge, Mr Lee and his wife volunteered to help a university friend who was then standing as parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party in Totnes, a charming, rural part of western England. The fight was hopeless: The constituency had been a bastion of the Conservatives for at least one century, and remains so to this day.

Still, the young Mr Lee plunged into the electoral campaign with gusto and, although "voters were intrigued to see a Chinese speaking" - as Mr Lee subsequently recorded in his memoirs - they listened to him intently. Mr Lee and his parliamentary candidate friend were duly defeated, but the British sense of fair play and Britain's openness to foreigners were qualities which Mr Lee always praised about the British.


Staying fit anywhere, in any way

Mr Lee Kuan Yew loved eating, and had a soft spot for fried chicken.

He also liked fish - grilled or fried, but not steamed or poached unless it was very fresh.

"I can eat anything and enjoy it, if it is good to eat," he said in an interview in 1992, when he was 68.


China sending V-P to attend funeral service

China is sending Vice-President Li Yuanchao while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Vietnamese Premier Nguyen Tan Dung confirmed their attendance for tomorrow's funeral service for Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Asia's best-recognised elder statesman.

The Chinese announcement yesterday followed intense speculation on who Beijing would send for the ceremony, which is to be attended by a host of other leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and South Korean President Park Geun Hye.

After initial talk of a trip by President Xi Jinping, speculation had centred on Executive Vice- Premier Zhang Gaoli, co-chair of the Sino-Singapore bilateral cooperation mechanism, as the chosen envoy.


India declares day of mourning

India announced a day of national mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew in an unprecedented gesture of appreciation for his life and work.

The Indian flag will be lowered to half-mast tomorrow across the country and there will be no official entertainment on the day, New Delhi announced yesterday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepared to travel to Singapore for the state funeral.

"We deeply valued his conviction in India's role in Asia's future and to the success of India's 'Look East' policy," said External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.


Overseas S'poreans to mark funeral

Thousands of overseas Singaporeans are preparing to mentally walk the last journey with Mr Lee Kuan Yew tomorrow at community gatherings where they can watch the telecast live.

In overseas communities big and small, Singaporeans were still coming to grips with Mr Lee's passing, even though he had been severely ailing for nearly two months.

In the United Kingdom, which hosts one of the largest expatriate Singapore communities, today was long ago dedicated to the launch of the SG50 celebrations in Britain, with the staging of a charity marathon run through London's Hyde Park.


Singapore will transcend Mr Lee and his era

In death, as in life, Lee Kuan Yew elicits reactions and responses near and far that few global leaders can match.

After the initial period of universal accolades, the written annals on Mr Lee's legacy will likely become more mixed. He did many good things for Singapore but not without flaws and shortcomings. Yet from Singapore's immediate neighbourhood, Mr Lee's legacy is instructive on three fronts.

First, he was the most successful leader in contemporary South- east Asia in the task of nation- building. Singapore had to go it alone after being expelled from what was then a federation of Malay states during the time of Konfrontasi when Indonesia and Malaysia were at odds by the force of arms. In the end, it was the desperate fight for survival that became the bedrock of Singapore's success story under Mr Lee.


Indonesians mourn loss of a close friend

To many Indonesians, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's sincere interest in understanding them as well as his humility stand out from the long list of attributes they admire about him.

"Mr Lee understood how to build relations with big neighbours like Indonesia," said Mr Agus Widjojo, former Indonesia Armed Forces chief of territorial affairs.

"He understood the culture of Indonesia's political system and this is very important because the political situation often depends on the personalities of the leaders," he added, crediting the close ties between Indonesia and Singapore to the foundation that Mr Lee had laid as a result of his close friendship with Indonesia's second president Suharto.


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