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LEE KUAN YEW 1923 - 2015

The skies cried for Mr Lee on his final journey

More than 100,000 Singaporeans wait in the driving rain to bid the country's first prime minister goodbye

The cortege leaving Parliament House in the Central Business District to begin the 75-minute journey to the National University of Singapore campus in Kent Ridge where the funeral service was held.

The funeral procession making its way along Jalan Bukit Merah. Throughout the 15.4km route, Singaporeans called out Mr Lee's name when they saw his casket, which was covered by the national flag and protected by a glass case.


DESPITE the torrential rain and claps of thunder, few in the crowd budged. Some had waited overnight, many others arrived before the crack of dawn.

The more than 100,000-strong crowd were united in objective - to bid a final farewell to their first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, as his cortege travelled from Parliament House in the Central Business District to the National University of Singapore (NUS) campus in Kent Ridge.

It was the grandest of send-offs for the revered 91-year-old, who died last Monday at the Singapore General Hospital after a long battle with severe pneumonia.

Fighter jets roared in the skies above and howitzers lined up on the Padang fired a 21-gun salute - an honour usually given only to sitting heads of state - at the start of the procession's 75-minute journey on Sunday.

Two navy patrol ships staged a ceremonial sailpast off the Marina Barrage and sounded three prolonged horn blasts of 10 seconds each.

All along the 15.4km route that passed through the heart of the city, Singaporeans cheered Mr Lee's name and waved the country's flag when they saw his casket, which was covered by the national flag and protected by a tempered glass case atop a two-wheeled gun carriage.

Pulled by a ceremonial Land Rover, the cortege passed many major landmarks such as City Hall, Old Parliament House, the Singapore Conference Hall and the NTUC Centre.

The cortege moved through Tanjong Pagar - where he was a Member of Parliament for 60 years - and then through the Jalan Bukit Merah and Commonwealth neighbourhoods.

At the University Cultural Centre (UCC) in NUS, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra performed Samuel Barber's Adagio on stage as the casket was carried into the hall.

More than 2,200 guests were already seated inside, including leaders and former leaders from 23 countries such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, India's Narendra Modi, Australia's Tony Abbott and former United States president Bill Clinton.

Delivering the first of 10 eulogies at the three-hour service, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the elder of Mr Lee's two sons, described the days since his father's passing as a "dark week" for Singapore.

PM Lee, who struggled to fight back tears a number of times as he paid his tribute, said that while "the light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished", Mr Lee's principles and ideals would continue to invigorate the government and guide the people.

"His life will inspire Singaporeans, and others, for generations to come. (He) once said that 'we intend to see that (Singapore) will be here a thousand years from now. And that is your duty and mine'. Mr Lee has done his duty, and more. It remains our duty to continue his life's work, to carry the torch forward and keep the flame burning bright," said PM Lee.

Like many other Singaporeans, the prime minister had hoped that his father would be well enough to join the country in celebrating its golden jubilee on Aug 9 at the Padang.

"More than anybody else, it was he who fought for multi­racialism, which ultimately led to independence as a sovereign republic. It was he who united our people, built a nation and made our 50th anniversary worth celebrating. Sadly, it is not to be," said PM Lee.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam shared a personal story that emphasised Mr Lee's utmost respect for the Singapore Constitution and the institutions of state, even when he was 89 years old and in weak health.

Dr Tan recalled how, two years ago, he had asked to visit Mr Lee at his office to see how he was doing.

"With Mr Lee's increasing frailty and out of respect, I planned to meet him at his office. Mr Lee, however, was adamant that he should come to my office. It took him a great deal of effort," said Dr Tan. "But he did it as a mark of respect for the Office of the President. This incident was more than a matter of protocol. To me, it demonstrated Mr Lee's strong regard for our Constitution (and) for the institutions of our state."

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who became Singapore's second prime minister in 1990 when Mr Lee stepped down after 31 years at the helm, said Mr Lee would always be his teacher in life.

Even during Mr Goh's time as prime minister, Mr Lee, who was then Senior Minister in Mr Goh's Cabinet, made sure he observed all the necessary protocols. "He made sure he arrived before me for all events. As I respected him as my elder and mentor, I told him to dispense with this practice at non-formal events. But he explained that it was important to observe this protocol. Otherwise, people might draw the wrong conclusion that he did not respect me and take their cue from there," said Mr Goh.

After all the eulogies, a lone bugler from the Singapore Armed Forces military band sounded the Last Post in a final salute to Mr Lee.

PM Lee laid a large wreath in front of the casket on behalf of the Lee family, while Dr Tan did likewise on behalf of the state.

The civil defence sirens sounded twice across the island to signal the beginning and end of a minute of silence. Most of Singapore also came to a standstill as people paid their respects, including at all train stations, land checkpoints and at various community centres and shopping malls.

The funeral service ended with a rousing recitation of the pledge and the singing of the national anthem.

Mr Lee's casket was later placed back onto the gun carriage to head to Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium for the cremation. Again, the streets teemed with mourners, all eager to catch one last glimpse of their country's founding father.

Mr Lee's three children - sons PM Lee and Lee Hsien Yang, and daughter Lee Wei Ling - and two of his seven grandchildren, Hongyi and Shengwu, delivered eulogies at the private service.


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