FOR someone who did not believe in monuments, it is "befitting and poetic" that the late Lee Kuan Yew became Singapore's "greatest icon", said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in parliament on Thursday.
He was speaking at a special sitting to pay tribute to Singapore's first prime minister, who passed away on Monday at the age of 91. Mr Lee was a member of parliament (MP) for Tanjong Pagar for 60 years, ever since he was first elected in 1955.
Dr Ng, who is also Leader of the House, said that Mr Lee never believed that physical monuments or towering edifices engendered or sustained greatness.
"He would brush aside these as foundations for our success. This past week, we have seen the glowing tributes to Mr Lee from leaders and on the front pages of newspapers from all over the world," he said.
"Ministers and MPs from Australia and New Zealand have held special sessions in their parliaments in his honour. World leaders are disrupting their schedules to come personally to attend his funeral service. This recognition is seldom given to even leaders of great countries, let alone a little red dot."
In her opening speech, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob described Mr Lee's demise as a "great loss to parliament and the people of Singapore".
"Mr Lee was an outstanding parliamentarian and his speeches in this House were never dull or inconsequential. It was in this House that he fought many battles and shaped numerous policies to set Singapore on the right trajectory," she said.
Madam Halimah urged all MPs to ensure that they continue Mr Lee's legacy of a responsible and effective parliament, adding that it is a duty they owe to all Singaporeans.
A total of 11 MPs are scheduled to speak during the siting, including Workers' Party chief, Low Thia Khiang, former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng and nominated MPs Thomas Chua and Chia Yong Yong.