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Tribute sites for Mr Lee Kuan Yew draw visitors from all walks of life

SINGAPORE — Even as condolence boards and awnings were being put up at various tribute sites around the island, visitors — be they commuters on their way to work or retirees, locals or foreigners — were already trickling in, ready to express their condolences and gratitude for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

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SINGAPORE — Even while condolence boards and awnings were still being put up at various tribute sites around the island, visitors — be they commuters on their way to work or retirees, locals or foreigners — were already trickling in, ready to express their condolences and gratitude for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Among the first at the Istana was security guard S N Pillai, 50, a Tanjong Pagar resident of over 40 years. Having heard the news on the radio while on shift, he went to the Istana after he knocked off at 7am.

Recalling meeting the Mr Lee at a Tanjong Pagar GRC event when he was 10 years old, he said: “He said to me, ‘You must study hard, ah boy’.”

Ms Maureen Teo, 54, who works in school operations, was also at the Istana: “My father has 13 children and he was a hawker selling teochew fishball noodles. He was chased away ... but he met Mr Lee and Mr Lee gave him a hawker licence. We are always grateful.”

Mr Anthony Pain, 40, a French consultant working in Singapore, said he had read Mr Lee’s memoirs and what Mr Lee said about going from Third World to First in one generation. “I (had) to experience it for myself ... And I am impressed. (Singaporeans) are very lucky,” he said.

Mr Jailani Sanwan, 51, an area manager, lived in a kampung for 21 years. “I saw Singapore from kampung days to today. My kids may not appreciate, but I grew up during that period and I saw how Singapore has changed,” he said, as he penned a note at the Istana.

Added civil servant Jeremy Tan, 39: “When you travel around the world, you see how great Singapore is. You will be grateful for all Mr Lee has done.”

Navy servicemen and aspiring Paralympian Jason Chee arrived around lunchtime, as the crowd picked up. Mr Chee, who lost three limbs in an accident on board a Navy ship in 2013, recalled what the late Mr Lee said to him when they met during the National Day Parade last year: “Keep up the spirit.”


By the afternoon, Tanjong Pagar Community Club, located in the late Mr Lee’s constituency, had seen about 600 visitors, some of whom had waited in line in the morning until the centre was ready for visitors. Among the visitors was Professor Koo Tsai Kee, who was MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC from 1991 to 2011.

Speaking to the media, he recounted meeting Mr Lee for the first time just before the 1991 General Election. “(Initially), I felt rather small, rather intimidated. But over the years, 24 years, I’ve grown to work with him, I’ve grown to understand his emotions and I find him a very simple person. His needs are simple but well-defined, very demanding but at the same time he sets clear targets and expects those targets to be met,” said Prof Khoo.

Present at Teck Ghee Community Club was a teary-eyed Seng Han Thong, Member of Parliament (MP) for Ang Mo Kio GRC, who told reporters: “We’d all wished that Mr Lee, our founding Prime Minister, could celebrate with us our Jubilee Celebration on Aug 9.
It’s regretful that he passed along months ahead.”

He recalled Mr Lee visiting him when he was hospitalised in 2009, even though his wife was sick at the time. “He treated his comrades ... his MPs as friends, (not) as subordinates. He’ll say, ‘You are my friend, Seng Han Thong’.”

Mr Ho Nam Hua, 67, was the first to sign the condolence book at Teck Ghee, and plans to visit Parliament House on Wednesday, where Mr Lee’s body will lie in state till Saturday (March 28), to pay his respects. “I woke up at 7 plus and turned on the television. When I saw the news, I cried and woke up my son up,” said Mr Ho in Mandarin. “Yesterday (Sunday) I came here to leave a message ‘Mr Lee, get well soon’. Today I wrote ‘Mr Lee, please go well’.”

Mr Loke Wai Tong, 76, also a retiree, recalls living in Tanjong Pagar in his younger days. “Mr Lee Kuan Yew used to take care of us. He’ll take care of everything that we need in general. He is very approachable, although people say he’s fierce. I’d approached him before. Tanjong Pagar used to be a notorious area in the past. So I told him my concerns ... Now it’s very safe.”

He added: “I don’t know how to express ... We lost somebody who fought for us, against the British, fought for our rights.” By 5pm, some 1,000 had gone to pay tribute at Teck Ghee. 

Meanwhile, Ang Mo Kio Central Stage also opened around 9.45am as a tribute site and students from nearby schools came in the afternoon. Anderson Secondary School student Rachel Chng, 14, said: “We had one minute of silence during morning assembly. I’m hoping that the school will bring us (to Parliament House) to pay our respects on Wednesday.”

Mayflower Primary School student, Jace Lim, 10, who came with her mother, said: “Our principal showed us a half-hour video of him during morning assembly and told us about him. We also had one minute of silence. Some people cried. I almost cried but I held back my tears.”

By 6pm, People’s Association staff said, about 3,000 had come to visit.


Parliament House, where Mr Lee’s body will lie in state for three days from tomorrow, saw tourists and locals alike penning notes for the condolence boards set up there. Ms Trina Liu, an administrator in her 30s, said Mr Lee’s death was a sad loss for Singapore. “He has done so much for us and we all feel the sadness as Singaporeans,” she said.

The Singapore General Hospital, which has been seeing a steady stream of well-wishers since Friday, continued to draw visitors. Mr Simon Crellin, 44, an expatriate from the United Kingdom who has been living in Singapore for 16 years, said: “I came down to pay my respects to him. He is a great man who made Singapore what it is today.”

Mr Goh Hoo Kee, 64, who lives in Jurong East, said: “I met him once at a pasar malam in Jurong. He was with his family. I wanted to go up and shake his hand but didn’t get the chance to ... this is something I regret now that he is gone.”

Student Christopher Lim, 15, said: “He is a great man, someone who has help Singapore accomplished a lot. My parents always told me how grateful we should be to him.”

Reporting by: Ng Jing Yng, Amanda Lee, Valerie Koh, Jean Khoo, Xue Jianyue, Siau Ming En Angela Teng, Matthias Tay

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