Singapore mourns founding father

2015-03-24 00:02:04 GMT2015-03-24 08:02:04(Beijing Time)  Shanghai Daily
Photo:Shanghai DailyPhoto:Shanghai Daily

SINGAPORE was in mourning yesterday and world leaders united in tribute after the death of Lee Kuan Yew, the iron-fisted politician who forged a prosperous city-state out of unpromising beginnings.

His son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, issued a statement before dawn announcing the passing of his 91-year-old father at Singapore General Hospital following a long illness.

He declared seven days of national mourning until the former leader is cremated on March 29.

“He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won’t see another like him,” the prime minister said in an emotional televised address.

Onlookers chanted “Mr Lee, Mr Lee” as a white hearse carrying his remains entered the Istana state complex at midday for a two-day private family wake before lying in state at Parliament House.

Lee, whose health rapidly deteriorated after his wife of 63 years, Kwa Geok Choo, died in 2010, was in hospital for nearly seven weeks with severe pneumonia.

Two years before he died, Lee revealed he had signed a directive instructing doctors not to use any life-sustaining treatment if he could not be resuscitated.

He served as prime minister from 1959, when Britain granted self-rule, to 1990, leading Singapore to independence in 1965 after a brief, stormy union with Malaysia.

Singapore now has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes and its residents enjoy near-universal home ownership, low crime rates and first-class infrastructure.

The opposition Workers’ Party, whose leaders were among those harried for years by Lee under his authoritarian rule, joined the rest of the nation of 5.5 million people in mourning him.

“His contributions to Singapore will be remembered for generations to come,” it said in a statement.

The Cambridge-educated lawyer stepped down in 1990 in favour of his deputy Goh Chok Tong, who in turn handed the reins to the former leader’s eldest son Lee Hsien Loong in 2004.

The People’s Action Party, co-founded by the elder Lee, has won every election since 1959 and currently holds 80 of the 87 seats in parliament.

Lee retired from advisory roles in 2011 after the party suffered its worst result since it came to power, with only 60 percent of votes cast.

In his last book “One Man’s View of the World,” published in 2013, Lee looked back at his career and concluded: “As for me, I have done what I had wanted to, to the best of my ability. I am satisfied.”

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