Singapore – The Government of Singapore said it commenced a seven-day of national mourning on Monday to mark the death of its first premier and dominant statesman, Lee Kuan Yew.
This is contained in a statement issued by the Office of Premier Lee Hsien Loong, Lee’s son.
It said: “The Prime Minister is deeply grieved to announce the passing of 91 years old, Lee Kuan Yew, the founding prime minister of Singapore, who died in hospital early Monday.
The statement said Lee was hospitalised in early February with severe pneumonia and had been on mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit since then.
Outside Singapore General Hospital, members of the public paid their respects at a makeshift tribute wall made out of flowers, gifts, balloons and cards left by well-wishers over the past week.
Government said preparations have commenced to move Lee’s body to Parliament House, where he would lie in state for four days from Wednesday.
It said all roads around Parliament House would be closed until his body is moved for a State funeral on Sunday.
The statement also said stands had been erected on pavements for mourners to leave condolence cards, while flags were flown at half-mast above the parliament building.
The statement said a private family wake was expected to begin later on Monday at Sri Temasek, a house on the Istana Grounds.
Singapore President, Tony Tan, said as the Country’s founding Prime Minister, Lee dedicated his life to Singapore and served Singapore until his final days.
He said without Lee’s strong leadership and immense contributions, “The Singapore that we know today would not have existed.”
Lee was Singapore’s Prime Minister during 1959-90 and was widely credited with having transformed the country from a small port city into a thriving economic powerhouse.
Meanwhile, tributes to Lee have begun to pour in from Asia and around the world.
Hong Lei, China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman, described Lee as a strategist with both oriental values and international visions.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Lee a “visionary” and “a true giant of history.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Lee, whom he described as “a legendary figure in Asia.”
Phil Robertson, Deputy Director, New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Lee defended his heavy-handed dominance of politics as necessary for the speed and the scope of the country’s development.
But, critics say his system was, and remains, less than democratic.
“Today’s restricted freedom of expression, self-censorship and stunted multi-party democracy is also a part of his legacy that Singapore now needs to overcome,” he said.
Robertson acknowledged Lee’s role in the economic development of Singapore, but said it came at a significant cost in human rights.
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund, said Lee’s “uncompromising stand for meritocracy, efficiency and education transformed Singapore.”(dpa/NAN)