Mourning and grief engulfed Southeast Asia’s economic powerhouse as the people of Singapore braved heavy rains to bid farewell to their beloved leader Lee Kuan Yew. The streets were stormed by people – according to officials, more than 450,000 people paid their respect to the legendary leader and icon of the nation. The 15 km-long procession from Parliament to the National University of Singapore, where the funeral was held, was awash with mourners. As the procession moved, there was both cheering and grief.
In the early 1950s, when Singapore was undergoing constitutional reform and independence, Lee was one of the few people to challenge the governing structure of the country. In order to see the nation rise and shine like it has today, back in 1954 Lee took charge of then island country in his own hands and became secretary-general of his own party, the People’s Action Party.
Lee Kuan Yew took charge as the first Prime Minister of independent Singapore on June 3 1959. He came to power with a popular mandate. Lee is remembered as a visionary who served as the prime minister of the nation for three decades and moved it from a third world to a first world country. Under the new constitution he strove to bring in sweeping anti-colonialist social reforms and make laws for greater freedom for women. He is not only remembered for putting Singapore on the world map but also for his incorruptible ideas. He was an orator and one of the finest leaders that Asia ever saw.
Under his leadership Singapore became the co-founder of ASEAN (Association for Southeast Asian Nations). His constant emphasis was on economic growth, internal democracy, and business entrepreneurship. His death marked “the end of an era.” He fought for Singapore’s independence and as the people say, their pride of being Singaporeans emanate fundamentally because of him.
Lee has left behind a legacy of an efficiently run country and as a leader who ushered in national prosperity beyond imagination before his era. By the 1980s, Singapore, under Lee’s guidance, had a per capita income second only to Japan’s in East Asia, thus becoming a chief financial centre of Southeast Asia. Today this country has one of the highest GDP per capita incomes in the world. It has bridged the gap and has an estimated GDP of US$445.172 billion.
“He was a torchbearer of hope, not just for Singapore but for all of Asia,” says Indian Prime Minister Modi.
Singapore is “… one of our strongest relationships in the world. India’s integration with Southeast Asia and beyond is growing,” he said, adding: “Singapore is a key pillar of India’s Act East Policy.”
Lee Kuan Yew’s son and the current prime minister is reported to be deeply moved with love and affection from all over the world said, “He breathed Singapore all his life, the light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished.”
Though there was grief, sorrow and a sense of loss, but continuing on Lee’s spirit, the nation did not shut down even for a day. The public affairs continued.
World leaders trooped to pay homage to the man who has come to symbolise the Singapore model of growth. Apart from India’s Modi, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, former US President Bill Clinton, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Japanese President Shinzo Abey and Malaysian King Abdul Halim Shah attended the funeral and paid respect to the leader.
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