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Tributes from around the world pour in for Mr Lee Kuan Yew

SINGAPORE – Tributes from around the world began streaming in over social media soon after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s death early this morning (March 23).

In this Oct 29, 2009, file photo, Singapore's then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, left, meets with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP

In this Oct 29, 2009, file photo, Singapore's then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, left, meets with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photo: AP

UPDATE (March 26)Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop


President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on March 25 to send his condolences on the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The full readout of Mr Obama's phone call with Mr Lee:


SINGAPORE – Tributes from around the world began streaming in over social media soon after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s death this morning (March 23).

President Barack Obama paid tribute to modern Singapore's founding leader, calling him a "giant of history'' as well as one of the great strategists of Asian affairs.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Singapore’s Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew.  On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our deepest condolences to the Lee family and join the people of Singapore in mourning the loss of this remarkable man.  A visionary who led his country from Singapore’s independence in 1965 to build one of the most prosperous countries in the world today, he was a devoted public servant and a remarkable leader.  Minister Mentor Lee’s views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic management were respected by many around the world, and no small number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought his advice on governance and development.  I personally appreciated his wisdom, including our discussions during my trip to Singapore in 2009, which were hugely important in helping me formulate our policy of rebalancing to the Asia Pacific.  He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one the great strategists of Asian affairs."

View the story "International tributes pour in for Mr Lee Kuan Yew" on Storify]

US Secretary of State John Kerry:

"When Lee Kuan Yew became its first Prime Minister in 1959, Singapore was a newly independent nation with an uncertain future.  By the time he left office 31 years later, the small island had been transformed into one of the most prosperous and dynamic countries in the world.

"Lee Kuan Yew exuded wisdom.  The counsel I was fortunate to glean from conversations with him--about life and politics and global affairs--is among the most valuable and insightful I have received. He was, of course, a uniquely astute analyst and observer of Asia, and it is largely through his life's work that Singapore became one of the United States' strongest strategic partners in the region.

"Teresa and I join so many around the world in offering our deepest condolences to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has so ably carried on his father's legacy, to the entire Lee family, and to the people of Singapore, who Lee Kuan Yew always knew were his nation's greatest resource. May he rest in peace."

US Vice President Joe Biden:

"Jill and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. Lee was a visionary leader who spearheaded Singapore’s economic growth and helped it become one of the most prosperous countries in the world today. He understood the importance of economic integration and effective governance to building a thriving, modern economy. He was a pragmatist, and sometimes uncompromising. But his commitment to delivering excellence in public service was exemplary. I valued his insights on Asia, geopolitics, and economics, which have shaped the thinking of many around the world. I will always cherish the wisdom he imparted on me when I had the honor to sit and talk with him in Singapore in July 2013. Then just shy of 90 years old, he remained formidable. Lee’s legacy lives on in the nation of Singapore. He was a believer in the importance of America’s enduring role as a resident Pacific power and a friend and admirer of the United States. Jill and I offer our condolences to Lee’s family and join the people of Singapore in mourning his loss."

Former US President Bill Clinton and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

"Hillary and I mourn the passing of Lee Kuan Yew. Prime Minister Lee transformed Singapore into one of the world's strongest and most sustainable economies. He also firmly established his country as an important friend and partner of the United States. After leaving office, he continued to offer brilliant analysis and wise advice to those who sought it. We will always be grateful for our fascinating conversations with him over the years. Our thoughts are with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his entire family, and all the people of Singapore."

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe:

"I was deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Singapore Founding Father as well as your own father, His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore. On behalf of the government and people of Japan, and on my behalf, I would like to offer our deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to you and your own family and to the Government and people of the Republic of Singapore. His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew is one of the greatest leaders of modern times that Asia has ever produced. With his incomparable leadership and unparalleled insights, His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew played, for more than half a century and throughout his life, a key role not only in achieving Singapore’s remarkable economic growth and prosperity but also in securing peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region and the world. He was highly revered all over the world. In the bilateral context, His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew, during and after his tenure as Prime Minister, frequently visited Japan including his State Visit to Japan in 1968 and made outstanding contributions in the advancement of the today’s good and close relations between Singapore and Japan. I still vividly remember how much I was impressed by his profound wisdom, including when I met him in person in 2014.The demise of such a great leader is indeed a great loss not only to your country but also to the entire international community. At this time of bereavement, I hope that your people will overcome this grievous loss and, under your good leadership, your nation will build upon his legacy and achieve further success. May his legacy live on, may his soul rest in eternal peace."

Japan Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida:

"The Government of Japan extend our deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to the Government and the people of the Republic of Singapore as well as his bereaved family including His Excellency Mr Lee Hsieng Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore. His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew is not only credited for building Singapore into one of the wealthiest nations of the world as the country’s first Prime Minister but also, with his outstanding wisdom, played a key role in securing peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region and the world for more than half a century. His Excellency Mr Lee Kuan Yew, during and after his tenure as Prime Minister, frequently visited Japan and made outstanding contributions in advancing the good and close relations between Singapore and Japan. Together with so many around the world, the Government of Japan mourn the grievous loss of a great leader. Our thoughts are with you and the people of the Republic of Singapore during this difficult time."

China's President, Premier and Foreign Ministry: 

China's President Xi Jinping praised Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew as an "old friend of the Chinese people" on Monday (Mar 23), Channel NewsAsia reported. Mr Xi said Mr Lee was "widely respected by the international community as a strategist and a statesman" and expressed "sincere condolences" to his relatives, . Mr Lee was the "founder, pioneer and promoter of China-Singapore relations", Mr Xi said in a message sent to Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sent a telegram to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expressing his condolences on the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. "Mr Lee Kuan Yew had worked together with the pioneering generation of Chinese leaders in opening the gate for the friendly cooperation between China and Singapore," said Mr Li in a message posted on the website of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. "His contributions to the China-Singapore relationship and China’s reform and opening up will surely be marked by history."

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said: "Mr. Lee Kuan Yew is a uniquely influential statesman in Asia and a strategist boasting oriental values and international vision. He is the builder and founder of China-Singapore relations and has long been committed to promoting mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries, making historic contributions to the establishment and development of China-Singapore relations. The Chinese side deeply mourns the loss of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew and offers sincere sympathy to the Singaporean government and people as well as the families of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew."

Hutchison Whampoa chairman Li Ka-shing:

In a condolence letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Li Ka-Shing said the world would remember Lee as a “historical giant, a steadfast builder of a new nation committed to a true and ordered liberty, a humane and just society with fair and equal participation for all,” reported the  South China Morning Post. Mr Li and his sons are expected to attend Mr Lee Kuan Yew's funeral, Channel NewsAsia reports. 

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying:

Mr Leung wrote to PM Lee Hsien Loong, saying that Lee Kuan Yew’s “integrity, tenacity, vision and drive laid the most solid foundation possible for the impressive economic development, prosperity and social harmony that epitomises Singapore today". The statement added: "Singapore and Hong Kong have long been partners for each other in the pursuit of excellence and we continue to look to Singapore as a close friend. This year, Singapore celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence. The man who was the central player in making that happen has sadly taken his untimely leave. But his legacy of how to build a thriving, proud, diverse and dynamic country will live on for generations, not just in Singapore or Asia, but the world over.”

Australian PM Tony Abbott:

"Today, we mourn the passing of a giant of our region. Fifty years ago, Lee Kuan Yew led a vulnerable, fledgling nation to independence. Today, thanks to his vision and determination, Singapore is one of the world’s most successful countries. In Lee Kuan Yew’s own words, Singapore’s remarkable journey has been from 'third world to first’. 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. Our region owes much to Lee Kuan Yew. Here in Australia and beyond, leaders sought and learned from his wise counsel. As Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew enjoyed close relationships with successive Australian Prime Ministers and worked with them to establish the strong partnership that Singapore and Australia have today. At every stage, Australia and Singapore have stood shoulder to shoulder. We continue to do so today, as we salute one of the significant leaders of our time. On behalf of the Australian Government and people, I extend my condolences to Mr Lee’s family and to the people of Singapore."

New Zealand PM John Key: 

"Lee Kuan Yew’s courage, determination, commitment, character and ability made him a formidable leader who held the respect of Singaporeans and the international community alike. His loss will be deeply felt by his family and the people of Singapore.
"I had the honour of meeting Mr Lee in 2007 during his last official visit to New Zealand. He was well known for his insights and foresight but what struck me most was his unwavering determination to see Singapore succeed."

UK Prime Minister David Cameron

“I am sad to hear of the death of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

“Lee Kuan Yew personally shaped Singapore in a way that few people have any nation. He made his country into one of the great success stories of our modern world. That Singapore is today a prosperous, secure and successful country is a monument to his decades of remarkable public service. He was always a friend to Britain, if sometimes a critical one, and many British Prime Ministers benefited from his wise advice, including me.

“Lady Thatcher once said that there was no Prime Minister she admired more than Mr Lee for ‘the strength of his convictions, the clarity of his views, the directness of his speech and his vision of the way ahead’. His place in history is assured, as a leader and as one of the modern world's foremost statesmen.”

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair:

"Lee Kuan Yew was one of the most extraordinary leaders of modern times. He was a genuine political giant. He was the first to understand that modern politics was about effective Government not old-fashioned ideology. Whether in the economy, social cohesion or law and order, he applied methods of rigorous analysis and detailed implementation. He built Singapore into the success story it is today by intelligence, wisdom and determination in equal measure. As a result Singapore has a respect and admiration far above its size.

"I knew him well. When I became leader of the Labour Party I travelled to Singapore to seek his advice, which he gave with typical acumen and frankness. Over the years we then worked together in many ways. He will be profoundly missed and greatly mourned not only by the people of Singapore but by his many friends the world over.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry:

"The government and the people of Indonesia convey their deepest condolences on the passing away of the former Prime Minister of Singapore, His Excellency Lee Kuan Yew, on Monday, 3.18am.The former Prime Minister was a close friend of Indonesia and renowned as the founding father of modern Singapore. As a great leader and a statesman who truly loved his people, he was also known as an influential political figure in Asia. Under his leadership, Singapore has succeeded in transforming itself into a major economic hub for the Asian region and stands in equal footing to other developed nations of the world. The government and the people of Indonesia prays that the bereaved family, nation, Government, and all the people of Singapore is granted strength and fortitude in this sad and difficult time. The government and the people of Indonesia believes that Singapore will be able to go through this difficult times and continue to grow in line with the national aspirations of its people."

Former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudoyono

Indonesia's former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has paid tribute to former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in a video uploaded onto his YouTube channel. 

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon:

"The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the death of H.E. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore. He offers his condolences to the family of the former Prime Minister, the Government and the people of Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew was a legendary figure in Asia, widely respected for his strong leadership and statesmanship. During his three decades in office, he helped Singapore to transition from a developing country to one of the most developed in the world, transforming it into a thriving international business hub. As Singapore marks its 50th anniversary of independence this year, its founding father will be remembered as one of the most inspiring Asian leaders. The Secretary-General is grateful for the strong cooperation between the Government of Singapore and the United Nations, and looks forward to deepening this partnership."

A statement from Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah called Mr Lee Kuan Yew a "charismatic and exemplary leader", whose "vast contributions towards maintaining regional peace and stability" he appreciated.

Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong

The Prime Minister of Laos has conveyed his condolences to PM Lee Hsieng Loong, saying that Singapore has lost “an outstanding leader” who significantly contributed to the development of friendly ties and cooperation between Laos and among ASEAN countries, and that he shared this “moment of sadness” with the Government and people of Singapore. 

Philippine President Benigno Aquino 

"An era has passed, one upon which Singaporeans can look back on with deep pride and a sense of accomplishment. Throughout his long life, as prime minister and senior minister, Mr Lee demonstrated an unswerving devotion to his country, turning it into a statement that would be an exemplar of efficient, modern and honest governance. The development of Singapore has earned it the respect of nations and peoples, including the tens of thousands of Filipinos who work there and visit the country."

North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju

According to the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea Premier Pak Pong Ju sent a message in which he expressed his deepest condolences and described Mr Lee as a "close friend of the Korean people".

South Korean President President Park Geun-hye 

In a statement released by the presidential Blue House, President Park called Mr Lee Kuan Yew a friend of South Koreans, as he had offered wisdom for the development of relations between South Korea and Singapore. She said Mr Lee was not only highly respected by the people of Singapore but also an exemplary model for many world leaders. President Park is planning to personally attend the state funeral in Singapore on March 29, Channel NewsAsia reported. 

Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Mr Lee Kuan Yew "one of the most important leaders of our time" and said he played a decisive role in transforming Singapore's economy and its institutions. The ministry added that Mr Lee showed it was possible for people of different races and religions to live in a country like Singapore, and this serves as an inspiration to other countries around the world.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)'s Managing Director, Ms Christine Lagarde:

“It is with great sadness that I have learned of the passing of Lee Kuan Yew, Founding Father of Singapore. He was a visionary statesman whose uncompromising stand for meritocracy, efficiency and education transformed Singapore into one of the most prosperous nations in the world. His wisdom and leadership will be remembered by people all around the globe. On behalf of the International Monetary Fund, I extend our condolences to his family and the people of Singapore.”

The World Bank Group CEO Jim Yong Kim:

"On behalf of the staff of the World Bank Group, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the people of Singapore on the passing of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, on the passing of his father. We will be forever grateful to the former Prime Minister for his role as a pioneer of development and the architect of modern Singapore. We were privileged to have had a close working relationship with him over several decades.The late Prime Minister is recognised around the world for transforming Singapore in a short time from an undeveloped nation to one of the most successful high-income countries in the world. He showed that a city-state with few natural resources could rapidly evolve into a global trading hub and financial powerhouse through education, integrated planning, and a highly-trained civil service. He tackled corruption relentlessly and held public servants to the highest standards. Most importantly, he showed that economic development could provide opportunities and improve the lives of a country’s citizens. At this time of grief, the World Bank Group offers its deepest sympathies to the family of the late Prime Minister and to all people in Singapore."

Obituaries also appeared on the websites of international media, including  The New York TimesThe Economist, the  BBC and the  South China Morning Post (SCMP). Kerry Group controlling shareholder Mr Robert Kuok, a life-long friend of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, called him a “giant of a man” in the SCMP report.

“All of us who have known him, feel greatly distressed and saddened by his passing,” said Mr Kuok, who was a schoolmate of Mr Lee Kuan Yew at Singapore’s Raffles College and the biggest shareholder in SCMP Group which publishes the SCMP.

He added: “His mind, sharp as a fine blade, was focused on pursuing his wish of establishing a just, fair and decent society. And no-one, whether friend or foe, can deny that he achieved this.”

More in our Special Edition this afternoon (March 23).

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