SINGAPORE - On a 6m-long banner, about 1,500 residents of Tanjong Pagar GRC and Radin Mas constituency penned their get-well wishes for Mr Lee Kuan Yew on Thursday night.
Together with the area's MPs, they wished Singapore's first prime minister a swift recovery. Many spoke of how they wished he could be with them yesterday to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Mr Lee, 91, was to have been the guest of honour at the annual dinner celebration, but he is still in hospital after being warded with severe pneumonia on Feb 5.
To lift their spirits, Mr Chan Chun Sing, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and Minister for Social and Family Development, urged them to give what he thought would be the best present for Mr Lee.
"The best thing we can do is for the younger generation of grassroots leaders (to) continue to take care of all the residents of Tanjong Pagar and Radin Mas, to make sure that each and every resident, especially the pioneer generation, especially the families in need, especially the families with young children, get the best care, are well taken care of.
"That would be the best tribute to Mr Lee for his efforts in building up this constituency over the last 50 years."
Agreeing, Madam Irene Ho, 66, a grassroots leader in Mr Lee's Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru ward, said: "I would not be disappointed with Mr Lee's absence as long as he recovers soon."
The dinner was hosted by Minister of State Sam Tan, who is MP for Radin Mas. Others present included Tanjong Pagar GRC MPs Lily Neo, Chia Shi-Lu and Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Education and Law.
Earlier yesterday, the Prime Minister's Office said Mr Lee continues to be warded in Singapore General Hospital, where doctors have started giving him antibiotics again.
He remains sedated and on mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit, with doctors continuing to monitor him closely, the statement added.
The statement officially silenced the flurry of rumours on social media the previous day that Mr Lee had died - talk that The Straits Times reported online to be untrue.
Still, the celebratory mood at last night's dinner was tinged with quiet anxiety as Mr Lee's state of health loomed large on the minds of many.
Said retiree Chuang Fatt Shi, 74, in Mandarin: "When I found out he was in hospital, my heart was filled with pain. I still remember how he smiled and danced in jubilation when he won the (Legislative Assembly) election. I was a student then."
Mr Lee has served in Tanjong Pagar for 60 years, since 1955 when he was the area's assemblyman. After independence in 1965, he was the MP for the single-seat Tanjong Pagar until 1988. Since 1991, he has been an MP of Tanjong Pagar GRC.
But for the last three years, he has missed the annual dinner for health reasons.
Said operation manager Ramly Mohd Hussin, 42: "Tanjong Pagar is like a family and Singapore is our home. With Mr Lee our father not around, of course we will be sad."