[KUALA LUMPUR] Lee Kuan Yew was the "father" of modern Singapore who helped bring his country and Southeast Asia into the modern era, according to former US President George W Bush.
Mr Lee, who died on Monday at 91, was Singapore's first elected prime minister, a Cambridge University-trained lawyer who led the nation from 1959 to 1990.
"The nation he leaves behind is an influential force for stability and prosperity and a friend to the United States," Mr Bush said in a statement.
Mr Bush's father, former US president George H W Bush, said he was proud to have called Mr Lee a friend.
"I respected his effective leadership of his wonderful, resilient and innovative country in ways that lifted living standards without indulging a culture of corruption," he said.
Mr Lee was hospitalised on February 5 to treat severe pneumonia, where he was sedated and put on mechanical ventilation. As leader, he crafted a legacy of encouraging foreign investment, averting corruption and emphasizing discipline, efficiency and interracial harmony. His elder son, Lee Hsien Loong, has been prime minister since 2004.
Leaders from Australia and New Zealand both noted the elder Mr Lee's contribution to the development of modern Singapore.
Mr Lee was a "giant of our region" who 50 years ago led a "vulnerable, fledgling nation to independence," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Monday in a statement.
"Thanks to his leadership, Singapore is now one of the world's most prosperous nations, a financial powerhouse, and one of the world's easiest places to do business," Mr Abbott said.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key cited Mr Lee's work to set up the Association of South-east Asian Nations, "which has offered cohesion and stability in a diverse region." "He was well known for his insights and foresight but what struck me most was his unwavering determination to see Singapore succeed."
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