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Friday, April 03, 2015

Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew

[Image Credit]


This week, the hot conversation topic of how long the queue is has fizzled to a nought.

This week, newspapers of all languages feature lesser pages of Lee Kuan Yew.

This week, TV is back to broadcasting its normal drama serials and variety shows.

This week, radio resumes to playing the usual tunes.

This week, Facebook news feed has images on food, celebrations and selfies, and videos of funny pets and pranks replacing the countless shares of Lee Kuan Yew articles the last week.

This week, Facebook friends replace their Lee Kuan Yew profile pictures and banners with their own pictures.

Life is gradually regaining its normalcy in Singapore. But still, some of us continue to talk about the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew.

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The Final Send-off

The last week had been a week of mourning for Singapore with the demise of our founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Sunday (29 Mar 15) was a melancholic day for many Singaporeans. It was the day of the final send off.

On top of queuing up for almost 6 hours to pay my respect to Mr Lee Kuan Yew on Day 1 (25 Mar 15) of Lying In State, I had wanted to line the street along the route taken by the funeral procession to bid Mr LKY the last farewell on Sunday.

I thought that that was the last thing I could do for this great man.

[Image Credit]

In the morning, I woke up to a dark room with grey skies. Thunder rumbled and soon it began to pour. I decided it would be wiser to stay at home to watch the live telecast of the funeral.

All this while, I saw status updates and WhatsApp messages like 'even the sky is crying', 'heaven is weeping', 'praise the Lord for cleansing the land to prepare for the funeral procession' etc.

It hadn't rained at all for the whole week of mourning. Then on the day of the final send-off, it poured torrents of rain. Is there any divine significance to the coincidence? I don't know.

In 1968, it rained for the first time on our National Day Parade. Mr Lee Kuan Yew sat in his seat and said, "The whole world is watching us to see what we are made of. We will brave on!"

On Sunday, thousands of Singaporeans braved the rain once more for our dear Mr Lee.

It was really heart warming to see how well-loved our Mr Lee Kuan Yew is with Singaporeans and even non-Singaporeans working here chanting his name, waving little Singapore flags, throwing petals, singing National Day songs etc all these while braving the rain for him.

Majority of the crowd was dressed in black and white but the colourful rain coats, umbrellas and the Singapore flags lining the roads made everything so vibrant. As we mourn the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew, we also celebrate the creation of our beautiful nation.

Instead of being clad in black or white, I donned one of my usual "home clothes" which is my hubby's SAF T-shirt. I made a decision that the last and neverending thing I could do for this great man is to keep him in my heart and to contribute to his dreams for Singapore through my own tiny efforts.

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My Altered View of Lee Kuan Yew

Over the past week, the demise of Mr Lee Kuan Yew had hit many Singaporeans hard. Those who love him. Those who hate him. Those who are neutral. And those who have a love-hate relationship with him.

I'm one of those free-spirited individuals with a dislike for being too mainstream. Hence, I'm not really a fan of many of his policies as much I see the greater good of it all. There are things he had said and done that I do not agree with. I know many people are in the same camp as me as well.

I started off being a Singaporean who do not love Mr Lee Kuan Yew though I have full respect for him for all that he had done for Singapore. I'm also particularly moved by his tender love for his wife.

And that's almost it.

However, my sentiments now and from my last post has taken a different turn. He is not an authoritative figure to be feared and obeyed. He is a man to be revered and loved.

After a whole week of reading numerous articles, watching videos and listening to first hand accounts of other people's encounters with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, I've seen the many facets of Lee Kuan Yew that many Singaporeans never knew and I've grown to like this man a lot. I know many Singaporeans who were neutral towards him have also altered their views of him. Some of my friends even lamented about how we only realize things or let go of bitterness when they are gone.

It turns out that he was not just a paramount leader that ruled Singapore with an iron fist. Below that steel layer is a normal human being who loved his family, the people around him and Singaporeans so dearly. Removing that iron fist is a loving hand of flesh who supported the nation throughout his life.

There are simply too many heartwarming anecdotes about Lee Kuan Yew and his family. People spoke of his devotion to Singapore, his frugality, his kindness (a great surprise to me), his sense of justice, his integrity. The list is endless.

For the detractors who assert that propaganda has whitewashed us, I stand firmly by the fact that these articles and transcripts are from people who have personally encountered him or his family, be it the common folks or the high-profile ones. You have your views and I have mine. My view is that for so many people to say the same things about him with different examples, situation and context, it sure proves a lot.

LKY's death has brought our nation together and it is really amazing to know about all the kindness exhibited by Singaporeans during the mourning week.

LKY's death has also unfortunately caused tension in many relationships which won't be my focus in this post. His achievements far surpassed frivolous comments from keyboard warriors and haters.

Personally, I'm deeply grateful to Mr LKY for 3 main reasons.

He provided us with a safe and secure home to live in. Singapore is ranked second for the country with the lowest crime rates. Yes, he had enforced strict laws. We are called an autocratic country by many Western countries. But you know what, I've never felt more freedom in Singapore than anywhere else in the world. I'm free to walk home at 3am without any fear of being mugged or shot.

I'm also thankful for the bilingual education I've received due to his Bilingual policy back then. People are often very surprised that Singaporeans are well-versed in 2 languages. I'm ashamed to say that my Mandarin isn't at all good but at least I can switch easily from English to Mandarin to communicate my point. I'm also able to appreciate Chinese text which sometimes are more lyrical than when written in English.

I'm also very proud of our little red passport. It was Mr LKY's great foresight that led to Singapore's good diplomatic relationship with many countries. Singapore passport holders enjoy visa-free access to 167 countries. It extremely convenient for Singaporeans to travel to many countries without the hassle of obtaining visas.

I could go on and on but if ever, I would probably save it for a new post on why I'm proud to be a Singaporean.

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Chronicling the Great Singapore Queue on Day 1 Lying in State

On 25 Mar 15, there was an official address by our division's head in the morning. Videos of Lee Kuan Yew were played and fellow colleagues shared their encounters with him. After that, we were given time off to pay our respects.

It was the first day and nobody knew what to expect. That day, Singapore formed the longest snaking queue ever!

We alighted at Raffles Place MRT Station and tried as best as possible to find the end of the queue. We got our updates from social media, texts from friends in the queue and people working in the area while navigating the snaking queue to find its tail.

We went by the Singapore river, walked through underpass, slinked along five-foot ways, took shelter under shophouses in Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, went up the overhead bridge and down again and lined the path in Fort Canning Park!

I've drawn out the trail of the queue on Day 1 without factoring in U-turns at various shops and bridges. Click here to view enlarge map.

We found the end of the queue at Clarke Quay. But as time went by, the end of the queue behind us snaked around the shophouses in Clarke Quay.

All of us clad in black were perspiring profusely under the hot scorching sun for it took us more than half an hour of walking just to find the end of the queue.

Singapore is well-known for queueing but it was the first time I see queues going up and down an overhead bridge.

We wondered how long the waiting time was.

And nope, we saw the overhead bridge but we weren't about to reach there yet. There was still the 2-lane queue along the shophouses to get by.

I bumped into my gal pal and her guy at Fort Canning Park but I can't reveal who she is as she actually skipped work to pay her last respect before she flew off for the week.

Some of our colleagues were activated to man the 24-hour hotline for the public during that week. They were located at MCI which is the building with colourful windows that you see behind the overhead bridge.

This is what I mean by 2-lane human traffic and U-turns. The red path that I drew did not factor in all these.

The queue got a little messy when we reached the overhead bridge. We could no longer see the trailing queue behind us and the snaking queue seemed to have been broken at various points. We were slowly led to Hong Lim Park which was the temporary the holding area where we were told it would be a 6-hour wait from there.

Some of my colleagues who had family commitment left in disappointment after queuing for 3 hours. Moreover, when the queue was broken, it seemed that anyone could just cut in anywhere. It made some people unhappy. At this juncture my gal pal had an emergency and after "saving" her, I queued together with her and her guy.

Just when we thought that we would be parked at Hong Lim Park forever, the queue started to move!

It was a long walk to the Parliament House but at least it wasn't a 6-hour wait like what was previously communicated to us.

When we saw Asian Civilisations Museum, we almost jumped for joy. That's the building to see before reaching Parliament House.

And finally the white tentage!!! It had been about 5 hours since we started queuing.

We were so glad we kept the faith despite being told "8h from here", "10h from here", "4h from here". When finally we were told "half an hour from here", we gave a loud "yeah" and the staff also "YEAH!" so loudly with us. My gal pal even high-fived with the volunteer on duty. In all, we spent about 5 and a half hour queueing.

Walls and walls of tributes.

My friends and I felt that it was a blessing that we pressed on at the Hong Lim Park holding area after the crowd control went a little messy and being told of the 6-h wait.

The fact that we belonged to that part of the queue, the perfect timing (without cutting queue like many others) and the "stars and moon aligned" allowed us to catch Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his wife Ho Ching and Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen (blocked by PM Lee) emerging from the Parliament House and shaking hands with all in queue and thanking us for going down.

Everything happened so quickly that I muttered a "My condolences to you and your family" to PM Lee. He looked a little surprise and then he smiled, not saying anything. As for DM who is my favourite minister, I muttered something bimbotic. He too, smiled and did not say anything. They still had a long line of hands to shake.

My FIL and BIL said I need not wash my hand that night. Lol. My gal pal and I were both equally glad to have spent this significant day in the company of each other. She, a fan of LKY. Me, a Singaporean thankful to him.

Singapore, being a very efficient state, changed the queueing system from the lessons reaped on Day 1. From Day 2 onwards, tents were set up by the SAF for people to wait in line. The hours for paying respect were altered to 12 midnight and subsequently 24 hours. Public Transport services also operated for 24 hours. Public officers were activated to help out with the whole proceedings. Everything became a lot more manageable from Day 2 onwards.

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My Last Tribute to Lee Kuan Yew

On the night before the final send-off (or should I say the wee hours of the final send-off), the hubz and I dropped by Nee Soon GRC Community Tribute site.

It was already 2 am, but people continued to pen their condolences at the counter manned by volunteers and watch reruns of LKY's National Day Speech over the years.

I have lots of favourite images of LKY but I particularly love this screenshot from the video. I smile at the way he laughed like a little boy receiving a golden ticket in the chocolate bar when Mrs Lee said he was a handsome young man.

I hope this card reaches him somehow somewhere.

Along with the rest of many Singaporeans' tributes.

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Cache of Memories of Lee Kuan Yew

For prior general knowledge of Lee Kuan Yew's death
1. Death of Lee Kuan Yew in summary

Lee Kuan Yew lived and breathed Singapore all his life
1. Mr Lee Kuan Yew lived to see his life’s work come to fruition: PM Lee Hsien Loong
2. 'A nation cries out in mourning’: Dr Ng Eng Hen on Lee Kuan Yew
3. Mr Lee's Red Box

Lee Kuan Yew's love for his wife
1. The Lee Kuan Yew And Kwa Geok Choo Love Story
2. Love does indeed spring eternal

Kindness in Singapore during national mourning week
1. Acts of kindness: People offer free food, drinks to mourners queueing to pay respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew
2. In sadness, kindness
3. Acts of kindness for crowd queuing to pay last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew
4. A chain reaction of kindness

Singapore is autocratic? Singapore has strict laws? Singapore curtails freedom? I echo the rebuttals here.
1. The Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew and the Myth of Trade-Offs
2. Critics call Singapore an autocracy. But I never felt more free than when I lived there
3. By gum, the West is wrong about Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew's diplomatic ties around the world.
1. Foreign leaders to attend Lee Kuan Yew's State Funeral on Sunday
2. Messages from Foreign Leaders
3. How Mr Lee Kuan Yew's State Funeral is being marked around the world
4. NZ public buildings to fly flags at half-mast on Sunday to mark Mr Lee Kuan Yew's funeral
5. India to fly flag at half-mast on Sunday as nation mourns Lee Kuan Yew
6. Bhutan Queen's Facebook post on national flag at half-mast on Sunday to mark Mr Lee Kuan Yew's funeral

Voices from the people who worked with Lee Kuan Yew that show his softer side
1. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: The trusted photographer, George Gascon 
2. Mr Lee Kuan Yew's maid for 40 years says of the Lee family: 'They had no airs'
3. 'A nation cries out in mourning’: Dr Ng Eng Hen on Lee Kuan Yew
4. Here's why Mr Lee Kuan Yew didn't want to go to the hospital immediately on the night he was feeling sick

Heartfelt personal blog posts that resonate a lot with me.
Also a good read for the detractors of LKY/PAP/incumbent government. 3, 4 and 5 show how people who resented him for some of his hard measures acknowledged his strengths and let go of their bitterness after his death.
1. Singapore Cries
2. Mourn now – fight later
3. Nicole Seah: What lies ahead for S’pore?
4. It's time to let him go
5. The Harder Truth

Detractors still hung up on hating LKY/PAP/incumbent government? Move on.
1. Frenemy & former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad pays tribute to Lee Kuan Yew
2. Former MP Chiam See Tong pays final respects to Lee Kuan Yew
3. 10 revelations from Chiam See Tong’s biography that will interest every well-informed S’porean
4. Opposition Member Mr Low Thia Khiang pays tribute to Lee Kuan Yew

1. 10 moving eulogies delivered at funeral service of Mr Lee Kuan Yew
2. PM Lee finally calls Lee Kuan Yew “Papa” & delivers a private eulogy as a son
3. Li Hongyi and Li Shengwu are the two latest Internet sensation from the Lee family

Summary of events during the final send off.
1. Remembering Lee Kuan Yew: Stories from March 30 edition of ST 
2. SAF to bid farewell to Mr Lee Kuan Yew with the 'highest honours' 

And finally one of my favourite videos! Maybe if you had been scrolling through without reading, you might want to spend some time to watch this video? >_<

Without knowing, I've spent so many hours on this post over a period of days. It looks like there is a lack of focus but I guess I just want to put everything about Lee Kuan Yew all in a post for me to refer to and reminisce in future.

The mood has been sombre here and I will be back to updating light-hearted stuff soon!

#rememberingleekuanyew #tributetoleekuanyew #thankyoulky #riplky #thankyew #proudtobeasingaporean #singapore #igsg #igers #loves_singapore


  1. I am always so glad to see someone so passionate about something or someone. A tribute like this most people would not have for their spouse or parent, but you are so invested even in this public figure that it moves your heart so strongly. Very impressive. And you have introduced me, a total stranger, to the man and made me know him a bit as well. Passion often lacks focus, too much focus often shows a lack of passion. Your writing is perfect here.

    1. Thank you, Rick. I like what you said "Passion often lacks focus, too much focus often shows a lack of passion." New quote of the day for me! Mr LKY has certainly done a lot for Singapore and who knows without him, there would be no me? My parents were post-war babies and I'm sure his contribution in the modernizing of Singapore certainly helped create lots of babies.

  2. My condolences, Jo! I don't know what more to say.

  3. Such a wonderful and warm tribute to a man many thought so highly of and loved. This was beautiful xx

  4. What a great leader and man he is. Thank you for sharing this, i have learned more about him. He is well loved and will be missed. Hope you are doing well Jo.

    1. Hey Nelah, I'm glad to have helped my foreign readers and blog friends know more about Mr LKY. And yes, I'm doing well. Thank you. =)

  5. Oh my Jo, Im so impressed, he must have been an amazing man, your tribute is so touching and beautiful beyond the word. I feel very sorry as before have read about him from you, I didnt know him and had to google to know him better (in my language). He must have been so loved, almost a legend. May he rest in peace and keep to protect you Singaporeans.

    Jo, take advantage to wish you a very happy Easter, hope you have a wonderful and peaceful time with your hubby and friends. Many hugs! xo

    1. Hey Lilli, I'm glad to have helped my foreign readers and blog friends know more about Mr LKY. Thank you for taking the time to read more about Mr LKY in Italian. Happy Easter Sunday to you and your loved ones! =)

  6. This brought tears to my eyes, Jo. True I am Malaysian but I have great respect for the man. He built Singapore from scratch after leaving Malaysia, it looked like an impossible task but yet, this man brought Singapore high to the eyes of the world.

    It's so refreshing to see people coming out in droves to pay their last respect, it's very clear that he has the love and respect from Singaporeans.

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

    1. Hello Shireen, Sorry I didn't mean to bring tears to your eyes and I'm touched by your reaction. =) I'm quite pleasantly surprised that many Malaysians (esp Malaysian Chinese) love Mr LKY. In fact, some of them love him even more so than fellow Singaporean haters. And yes, the number of people queuing up to pay respect to him took the state by surprise from Day 1 onwards. Apparently, the deluge of hate sentiments to him when he was alive isn't indicative of the silent majority who love and respect him.

  7. Omg Jo you made an amazing tribute to a great man. He was very respected in the whole world. Even the Germans talked about all his achievements for Singapore. It was all over the news. I think you guys can be proud of him. I know that your country has one of the lowest crime rates. I wouldn't dare to walk home alone at 3am in the morning over here. I would love it if I could. Despite all the sadness and mourning I wish you a happy Good Friday and happy Easter holidays!
    RYC: Not all the products that I use are probably a 100% cruelty-free but I think it's great to at least try it. It's the little things that count. Hopefully one day everything will be cruelty-free :D

    1. Hey Mira. Singapore and Germany has a long-standing friendship and good diplomatic ties but still, I'm so happy to hear from you that the Germans talked about all of LKY's achievement for Singapore. Singapore is so safe that you could fall asleep in the taxi and 99.99% you would be brought to your destination safe and sound. Happy Easter Sunday to you and your loved ones!

  8. I love what he implemented Jo! Schools here in the States would benefit by learning 2 languages much earlier and we could definitely do better when it comes to crime. It's deplorable. Everyone has their faults and people will always find something on the best person. He did what he felt was best. From the amount of people that stood in line, he was loved. This post was absolutely lovely!

    I received your parcel Jo! I only read the note. It was so beautiful. I haven't opened the package. I can't wait. You are so kind and I'll be showcasing it on my blog in a couple of weeks. Thank you so much doll. I will add you to Facebook, although nothing really happens on my page. I'm happy to call you my friend. Thanks.

    1. Hi Kim, there were lots of contention with the bilingual policy especially for those who aren't good at either English or their Mother Tongue. However personally (and I know many of my peers share the same view), I find it beneficial for myself or I would totally have thrown Chinese out of the window.

      This quote of LKY aptly sums up what you mentioned:
      “I did what I thought was right, given the circumstances, given my knowledge at the time, given the pressures on me at the time. That’s finished, done. I move forward. You keep on harking back, it’s just wasting time.”

      I'm so excited to know that the package reached you so quickly! Yours was the first I prepared and I could kick myself that the metal tin wasn't big enough to fit so many other things that I had to pick and choose what to put inside. Seeing some of your posts about how you love Asian snacks, I regretted taking out the Asian snacks from your package. I should have just used a bigger box instead of choosing a pretty tin to house your items. >-<

  9. Hi sweetie...what a wonderful post...well written and very is true that in most cases we realize what we lost only after we lose made a lovely tribute to this man.

    1. Hi Ivana, It is a long post and I don't expect many people to have finished it. I'm only glad to have helped my foreign readers and blog friends know more about Mr LKY. =)

  10. I'm not surprised to see so many people there. I do understand what a great tragedy it is for Singapore, what a desperate thing is this to lose such a splendid person. I have a fellow feeling for all your nation, all the Singaporian people. The success has rewarded his efforts and deeds, I do hope nothing of what he had done will go to waste.

    1. Thank you, Alexandra, his legacy is everywhere in Singapore. The HDB flats that majority of us live in, the clean drinking water from the tap, the greenery all around etc. We will continue to work hard and contribute to Singapore in our own little ways. That would be the bext tribute to Mr LKY.

  11. Jo, this is a lovely tribute... we all have a our differences with our leaders but if we were to lose them, I am sure we would be saddened... I have watched the change in you on Facebook... it's interesting to see when someone starts researching and seeing a different way... I don't know a lot about Singapore... although it is a country I would love to visit as there are many blogger friends there that talk about it so highly... I hope you are doing well... I have learned so much from reading this... thank you for sharing your thoughts xox

    1. Thank you, Launna. It is a long post and I don't expect many people to have finished it. For you, you've seen my shift in sentiments over the week on FB so it is a lot easier for you to understand and empathize with my writing. I'm only glad to have helped my foreign readers and blog friends know more about Mr LKY with this post.

  12. Maybe great men have to be a paradox. Capable of great kindness but also able to make the hard, seemingly cold-hearted decisions needed to establish and protect the people around them. You showed great respect for Singapore's founding father....and great kindness to me!!! :)

    1. You're right about that! Ah, by the time I reply this comment, I already saw the feature on your Instagram. Kindness begets kindness and you deserved it!


I love reading sincere comments and hearing your voice. While blatant self promotion of blogs and follow for follow requests are not advisable, I would love if you leave a mark here with a trackback link so that I could connect with you. I reply to comments here or on your blog so don't forget to check back on replies! =)


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