SINGAPORE - Singaporeans from all walks of life gathered on Saturday (March 19) at events across the island to celebrate the life and legacy of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, ahead of the first anniversary of his death this week.
Mr Lee died on March 23 last year, at the age of 91.
Some said the show of unity was testament to the enduring impact Mr Lee and his policies had on their lives.
Quality manager Jimmy Lian, 42, who lives in Radin Mas, said Singaporeans "will always remember Mr Lee, whether it is one year or 10 years down the road".
Others said they were thankful to Mr Lee for his vision of a clean and green city, building it up, enforcing a meritocratic system for all people regardless of race, language or religion, and enabling social mobility.
These aspects that define Singapore must continue to be upheld, they said.
Tanjong Pagar resident N Sudha Nair said it was "poignant" how Singaporeans have come together to mark the occasion.
"A year has gone by very quickly. It was not long ago when we were waving goodbye to him on a rainy day," said the lawyer.
"We will never forget what he's done for us and he will continue to live in our hearts and minds."
Mr Lian and Ms Nair were among 1,500 people who gathered at Tanjong Pagar - where Mr Lee was MP from 1959 till his death - to witness the launch of a pottery artwork by members of Tanjong Pagar Community Club's pottery club.
Titled Everlasting Love, it is a tribute to the rich love story of Mr and Mrs Lee Kuan Yew. And for two weeks, orchid hybrids named after the couple will be exhibited at Tanjong Pagar Plaza.
Tanjong Pagar GRC MPs attended the launch, and also moved on to Duxton Plain Park, where they planted seven Mempat trees, the species of tree that Mr Lee planted in 1963 - the year of Singapore's first tree planting campaign.
Said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah: "Mr Lee's passing marks the handing over of a baton from one generation to another. It is our duty to take Singapore into the next chapter, to build a future that is bright for everyone. That's what Mr Lee's legacy is."
Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and labour chief Chan Chun Sing said: "Mr Lee and his team handed over to us a great country. It is upon our shoulders now to unite and take this country forward and to leave behind a better place for the future generation."
Some 3,000 residents also gathered at Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to remember Mr Lee.
Among them was IT security consultant Kelvan Siew, 35, and his daughter Gwyneth, three, whom he also took along to events during the week of national mourning when Mr Lee died last year.
Mr Siew said his daughter is still too young to understand the impact of what Mr Lee has done for Singapore, but added: "I want her to eventually know who Mr Lee Kuan Yew is, and to never forget our roots."
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, penned a note in which he pledged to be caring by "looking after our residents as best as I can".
At Tanjong Pagar and Bishan, grassroots volunteers distributed badges bearing the now-ubiquitous logo "Follow That Rainbow", a reference to Mr Lee Kuan Yew's call for Singaporeans to chase their dreams.
These were but two of at least a dozen events held on Saturday to remember Mr Lee.
In Toa Payoh Central, a remembrance ceremony was held in conjunction with a ceremony to welcome new citizens.
In wards like Mr Heng Chee How's in Jalan Besar GRC, banners were laid out at residents' committees and community clubs to commemorate Mr Lee and for residents to pen their messages.
On Saturday morning, the Singapore Taxi Academy also hosted a panel discussion at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy moderated by former Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Seng Han Thong.
Engineering firm Koh Brothers chairman Koh Tiat Meng spoke of how difficult life was in the years leading up to independence, and thanked Mr Lee for building a country where hard work is key to success, regardless of background.
He noted that he was poorly-educated, but now runs the company behind projects such as Marina Barrage and Punggol Waterway.
Film-maker Jack Neo did not shy from pointing out policy missteps under Mr Lee's prime ministership, citing the "Stop at Two" campaign.
"Mr Lee is not God. There are areas he got wrong," he said in Mandarin. "But if you look at the big picture, it is undeniable he has left too immense an impact on Singapore."
One of those for whom the impact remains indelible is 97-year-old Mr Ong Teng Huat, a resident of Tanjong Pagar for more than 50 years.
Asked how Mr Lee changed his life, Mr Ong could only manage to say "good, very good" as tears began welling up in his eyes.