Date
21 November 2017
Mourners wave at the gun carriage bearing the coffin of Lee Kwan Yew. Tens of thousands braved a downpour to bid farewell to Singapore's founding father. Photo: Bloomebrg
Mourners wave at the gun carriage bearing the coffin of Lee Kwan Yew. Tens of thousands braved a downpour to bid farewell to Singapore's founding father. Photo: Bloomebrg

Tens of thousands bid farewell to Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore gave Lee Kuan Yew an elaborate send-off befitting its founding father. 

Tens of thousands lined the streets under a torrential rain to bid farewell to Lee, Singapore’s first prime minister who died on Monday aged 91.

The funeral was attended by world leaders and ended in a private family cremation ceremony, according to BBC News.

About 1.5 million people paid tribute to Lee around the country in th past week, the government said.

In his eulogy, Lee’s son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said his father had “lived and breathed Singapore all his life”.

“The light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished,” he said.

The funeral procession began shortly after noon as Lee’s body was taken from Parliament House on a gun carriage.

A 21-gun salute sounded, echoing across the city, as the procession moved on into the business district and Tanjong Pagar, the docklands constituency Lee represented for his whole political life.

Military jets flew overhead while two Singaporean navy vessels conducted a sail-past of the Marina Bay barrage, the massive water conservation project spearheaded by Lee.

Foreign leaders in attendance included former US President Bill Clinton, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and UK House of Commons leader William Hague.

In an emotional eulogy, Lee said that although his father had not lived to see Singapore’s 50th anniversary celebrations later this year, the country could be proud he had “lived to see his life’s work come to fruition”.

He cited the famous epitaph for Sir Christopher Wren, architect of London’s St. Paul’s cathedral: if you seek his monument, look around you.

“To those who seek Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s monument, Singaporeans can reply proudly: ‘look around you’,” he said.

After eulogies from nine other leading figure, sirens sounded across the city to mark the beginning and end of a minute’s silence. Singaporeans were asked to recite the national pledge of allegiance and join in singing the national anthem.

Even after he stepped down in 1990, Lee remained hugely influential in political life and was held in deep affection by Singaporeans.

He oversaw Singapore’s independence from Britain and separation from Malaysia and was widely respected as the architect of Singapore’s prosperity.

The city-state’s GNP per capita increased 15-fold between 1960 and 1980.

However, he also introduced tight controls, restricting freedom of speech and of the press.

Political opponents were targeted by the courts.

Speaking about his legacy to the New York Times in 2010, Lee said: “I’m not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose.”

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CG/RA

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