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SEVERAL New Zealand ministers paid special tributes to Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who passed away early Monday morning.
During the country's parliamentary session on Tuesday, New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister Bill English expressed his condolences to Mr Lee's family and the people of Singapore. Mr English said Mr Lee was "a long-time friend of New Zealand and a supporter of New Zealand's role in South-east Asia".
"He was also instrumental in establishing the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean)-New Zealand and Asean celebrated our 40th anniversary this year.''
Former Labour leader Phil Goff said Mr Lee was "an extraordinary figure". He shared that it was Mr Lee's 1965 speech on Singapore's separation from Malaysia that was "the first political speech that ever impacted on me''.
"I remember when he gave a speech on television in 1965-and I think I was a 12-year-old; a child at that time-he spoke with such power and emotion about why he was taking Singapore out of Malaysia, and decades later I still remember that as the first political speech that ever impacted on me in that way.''
Mr Goff also shared that his mother was an admirer of Mr Lee.
"In 1977, as a student having gone six years without a haircut, passing through Singapore, I was given my first haircut by custom officials at the airport as a price for entry,'' Mr Goff explained.
"My mother congratulated him (Mr Lee) on achieving something that nobody else had been able to do for years before that time," Mr Goff told Parliament.
New Zealand's Green Party, represented by Dr Kennedy Graham spoke of Mr Lee as "a formidable figure in world politics''.
"He maintained a close rein on the country and its people in the interests of growing the country in the way he envisioned it. His tenure, of course, was not without its controversy...We in the Green Party, naturally, have our views, yet we acknowledge the change that was wrought in Singapore, and we appreciate his leadership, his determination, and his vision for a better life for his countrymen and women.''
IN DEPTH: Lee Kuan Yew: 1923-2015