Tamil Diplomat

Lee Kuan Yew: Singapore holds funeral procession

Singapore is bidding farewell to its founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Monday aged 91.

Despite torrential rain, tens of thousands lined the streets to view the funeral procession carrying Mr Lee’s coffin through the city-state.

A state funeral then took place attended by world leaders, ahead of a private family cremation ceremony.

About 1.5m people paid tribute to Mr Lee at sites around the country this week the government said.

In his eulogy, Mr Lee’s son, the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said his father had “lived and breathed Singapore all his life”.

“The light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished,” he said.

The funeral procession began on Sunday at 12:30 (04:30 GMT) as Mr Lee’s body was taken from Parliament House on a gun carriage.

A 21-gun salute sounded, echoing across the city, as the procession moved on into the business district and Tanjong Pagar, the docklands constituency Mr Lee represented for his whole political life.

Military jets flew overhead while two Singaporean navy vessels conducted a sail-past of the Marina Bay barrage – the massive water conservation project spearheaded by Mr Lee.

It was a scene unlike any other in practical-minded Singapore: a mass demonstration of pure emotion.

As the funeral procession rolled into view at the Padang outside parliament, the chants and cheers grew louder from the thousands clad in black waiting in the downpour. Some wept, and people began shouting, “Thank you Mr Lee”, “Goodbye”, “Take care”, and a refrain from Mr Lee’s speech at the same spot 50 years ago declaring Singapore’s independence: “Merdeka”, meaning “free” in Malay.

At the Tanjong Pagar Community Club, hundreds more gathered to watch a screening of the funeral service. Many had come from elsewhere as they knew it was Mr Lee’s constituency. “He was a great man. Nobody can replace him,” one 60-year-old man told me.

Singapore has seen increasing political and social divisions in recent years as it grapples with inequality and demands for political pluralism. Even Mr Lee’s death spurred debate online with critics fearing that idolatry would sweep his controversial human rights record under the carpet. But on Sunday, the country came together briefly for a rare show of grief.

Foreign leaders in attendance included former US President Bill Clinton, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and UK House of Commons leader William Hague. (BBC World Service)

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