Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, passed away at the age of 91 on 23 March 2015.
The nation mourned the passing of Mr Lee, who was instrumental in creating modern Singapore. This was accompanied by a wave of national solidarity, as Singaporeans came together to share memories and gratitude for his leadership and legacy.
After Mr Lee’s passing, an estimated 1.2 million people paid their last respects to him at the Parliament House and tribute centres across the island. Many people queued overnight, some waiting for as long as eight hours outside the Parliament House. Singaporeans looked out for each other during this time, with some offering bottles of water and snacks to people in line.
On 29 March 2015, the day of the state funeral and procession, more than 100,000 people lined up along the streets in torrential rain from Parliament House to NUS Cultural Centre to see Mr Lee off. Clutching umbrellas, flags and tissues, the crowds – with many elderly and young children among them - broke down in tears and joined in the heartfelt roar of “Lee Kuan Yew, Lee Kuan Yew”. The chant was an expression not just of spontaneous grief but solidarity transcending all classes, ages and backgrounds, who stood together united as a monument to the life and work of the great statesman.
Different groups of Singaporeans came together in various ways to pay tribute to his contributions to Singapore.
An art installation entitled “Our Father, Our Country, Our Flag” was among these tributes. Some 110 Singaporeans aged 18 to 35 constructed a portrait of Mr Lee with erasers bearing the image of the Singapore flag. Some 4,877 erasers were used to build the installation, which was 2.3 metres wide and 3.1 metres tall.
Image Credit: Kaplan Singapore’s Facebook Page
On the first anniversary of Mr Lee’s death, organisations, companies, and individuals organised more than 100 events , including tree planting activities in a special nod to his favourite tree, the Tembusu. Singaporeans also visited remembrance sites to pay their respects, while a carnival was organised for Singapore families to bond together.
Over the years, individual Singaporeans continue to remember Mr Lee on National Day and special occasions, such as 7 August 2021, which marked the 70th anniversary of the day he was called to the Bar. Beyond organising the events to mark his work for Singapore, Singapore honours his legacy by continuing to build the nation that Mr Lee, together with his team of pioneering leaders, helped to steer more than five decades ago.