Former Prime Minister credited with modernizing the Southeast Asian state
Singapore stood in silence on March 25 as the casket of late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew traveled from the presidential palace to parliament.
The 91-year-old passed away March 23 at Singapore General Hospital after a lengthy battle with a case of severe pneumonia. The state declared a week of mourning.
Lee has been credited with aggressively transforming the historically resource-poor island nation into a booming financial and trade hub with low crime and corruption rates.
The first Prime Minister of Singapore, he was also a self-proclaimed authoritarian who stifiled civil and political rights and implemented a rigid social order.
Lee ruled Singapore with a tight grip for more than three decades until 1990, but like Putin, he commanded respect from many in Singapore.
He placed a substantial emphasis on rapid economic growth, support for business entrepreneurship, limiting internal democracy, and developing close relationships with the United States, China, and Russia.
Lee’s policies, which deeply impressed the Chinese government under Deng Xiaoping, sent over 22,000 officials to study Singapore’s economic modernization. Many in Singapore believe his leadership and state-directed economy explain how the country transformed itself into a thriving, first world nation with a bustling economy.
His supporters also credit the late prime minister for providing stability and security in a region that has historically been saddled with corruption, political violence and widespread poverty.
Huge numbers of grieving people lined up for hours in the tropical heat for a chance to pay their last respects.
55-year-old homemaker, Lua Su Yean, who drove to the hospital immediately after the news broke of his passing, praised Lee for his role in transforming Singapore.
“He’s done such great things, there’s nothing bad I can say about him,” said Yean.
Lee’s son, current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, declared “We won’t see another man like him. To many Singaporeans, Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore”.
U.S. President Barack Obama said he was saddened by his death and called Lee a “visionary” and a “remarkable leader”.
China’s Chairman, Xi, also weighed in, praising Lee as a “strategist and politician widely respected by the internatioanl community”.
On March 29, tens of thousands gathered at the National University of Singapore where Lee’s funeral took place. 170 foreign dignataries from around the world paid their respects.