Remembering Lee Kuan Yew, 1923-2015.

30 Mar

The nation was in mourning ever since the news of our founding father, MM Lee Kuan Yew, passed away in Singapore General Hospital at 0318 after a bout of pneumonia, aged 91. Though the news didn’t exactly come as a shock, because it already had been reported that his condition was deteriorating despite best efforts from his medical team; when the news officially broke, it was still saddening to hear about it all too, and the impact of what he has done for our nation is something that not many can do within the span of 50 years.

He was our first prime minister, from 1959-1990. He came up with many policies to shape Singapore into where it is today.

In secondary school days, we had to do social studies as part of our humanities. For me personally, I didn’t really like social studies because I had a hard time trying to do well in source-based questions, and it always dragged down my marks during exams. But in every social studies textbook, MM Lee would be present in it, in the history of Singapore, the many economical policies as well as childbearing policies when it became clear that some families were having too many children, hence the Stop at Two policy. This policy, will somehow be one that I will remember because of the number of times we had to read through it in school.

Not to mention the time in 1965 when Singapore had to be separated from Malaysia. Seeing all the documentaries of his past and events now makes me sadder, and makes one realize just how much of a legacy he has left behind. From a 3rd world nation, he has shaped it into its current 1st world country state today within the span of 50 years. It’s no mean feat, and yes, there might be some of his viewpoints that we may not agree with, but what can’t be changed is the fact that he slogged himself out for Singapore, to boost its economical growth into where it is today. It is also through him, that we have our current education system.

I admit, I’m not really into politics. But as a Singaporean, if one doesn’t know who Lee Kuan Yew is, I really have no words to say.

Through MM Lee’s long life, he has taught us the importance of frugality, and being down-to-earth.

It is you, who has taught Singapore so much about life’s core values; placed Singapore on the world map; and about going all out to do things for the welfare of others.

For the week of mourning, hundreds gathered outside the Istana on Monday afternoon, when his hearse came in at around 1300. Many, including me, left messages of gratitude outside Istana. And many as well, went to Parliament House to queue for grueling hours to pay our last respects.

Shi Hui and I went on Friday night at around 9plus, after work, dinner and a good shower to combat the humidity first, and got flowers to pay respects. I think florists all around Singapore had booming business this period, besides Valentine’s Day. We were very lucky that we managed to enter the Padang before the queue had to be suspended for the night, from 11PM onwards due to safety issues, as the crowds thronging City Hall were absolutely insane.

We were already prepared for the wait, in any case we were ready to pull an all-nighter wait, and boy was it the longest wait of my life ever. Yes, we even laid our ponchos out on the grass so that we could sit properly without getting too dirty. But this, is an experience I’d not exchange for any other, because after all MM Lee was our founding father, and if I had to wait for many hours just to pay my respects to him, I’d gladly do it. It’s a historic moment after all.

Without MM Lee, we would never have bilingual education, HDB to stay in, clean rivers, Marina Barrage.. The list goes on, but the education aspect was most prominent. I’ve never been so thankful in my life for my education, that I was able to finish university. Even though studying can be a pain sometimes, it’s true that we are better off, compared to many 3rd world nations who don’t even have access to clean water and food, much less education.

Throughout the night, Shi Hui and I talked, played with our phones, scrolled for updates, I dozed a bit. Around 2+AM, in the distance we heard a group of people singing Home and We Are Singaporeans. Both of us needless to say, joined in too. It was heartwarming :’)

The view of the opposite of Boat Quay. Time check then: 0659. Magnificent sight, as the colourings of the sky lightened up.

Time check: 0705. Outside Parliament House, which also meant that by then we were able to go in and pay our last respects to MM Lee.

It was honesty a very surreal moment being in Parliament House, because prior to this I always saw Parliament House from the outside, so going inside was an eye opener. Obviously the mood was very somber because of the occasion, and it made me realize just how much of a legacy MM Lee has left behind. I nearly teared when I saw the casket and his portrait, as the reality of it was slowly starting to sink in.

Fast forward to Sunday, the day of the state funeral. Li Ying and I decided to meet up together for breakfast, and to head down to Padang to see the missing man formation and the 21 gun salute. It was lucky that we decided to change our plans and head to Padang, because the initial plan was to go to NUS, but we later found out that security at NUS had been tightened tenfold because of the state funeral being held at UCC.

1130 – the heavens opened up. It was as though the heavens were mourning for MM Lee too 😥 needless to say, the areas where the procession would take place were crazily packed, even more so at Parliament House and Esplanade area. We both ended up at the exit outside the underpass that led towards Esplanade, and it was packed beyond belief. Many donned umbrellas and ponchos, and there were also many who didn’t have either and ended up drenched, because not many anticipated the sudden change. As a result of the downpour, the missing man formation couldn’t be performed due to safety and visibility reasons 😦
By 1200, some people around started to watch the live stream of the state funeral on their phones, me included, because it was a sure way to gauge how long it would be before the cortege passed us..

1245 – the 21 gun salute started. We all heard airplanes fly above, but when we looked up we couldn’t see any formation due to the heavy downpour 😦 And soon before we knew it, the cortege arrived and drove past us, amidst sobs and cheers of “Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew!” It was honestly a very surreal feeling, I nearly teared up too when I saw the gun carriage drive past, because it now became very clear that this was really it, the final day. Even the heavens cried for a great, selfless person like him, just as how the whole nation wept for him.

50 years ago, he wept for Singapore. 50 years later, Singapore weeps for him. 😥

It really would have been very fitting if he was able to hold on until SG50, to witness our NDP, to celebrate our 50th anniversary. Unfortunately, as life would put it, when the time is up, it’s time to go.

To sum up everything, thank you MM Lee, for all that you have contributed and sacrificed for Singapore. For fighting for the rights of people, for planting trees, cleaning the rivers, just so that we could have a cleaner and greener Singapore. For all that you have done, Singapore is eternally grateful for you, for you have taught us the importance of frugality, for being appreciative and knowing how to show gratitude, and above all, how to carry on your legacy after you have passed on. Rest in peace MM Lee, for you have fought the good fight. It’s time for you to rest, and to be reunited with your beloved wife at last. Singapore will miss you, and we will continue to live your legacy.

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Posted by on March 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


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