Rain-soaked farewell for Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore honours him with grand state funeral

It was a sombre day for Singapore as the country on Sunday prepared to hold the state funeral for its founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2015, 17:04 PM IST
Rain-soaked farewell for Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore honours him with grand state funeral

Singapore: It was a sombre day for Singapore as the country on Sunday held state funeral for its founding father Lee Kuan Yew, honouring him with a 21-gun salute.

Torrential rains poured as thousands of countrymen, some holding umbrella, some with flowers, lined the streets to attend the funeral procession carrying Lee's coffin from the Parliament House where it had been lying in state.

Nearly half a million people turned up at the Parliament House to pay last tributes to Lee, whereas a million others visited tribute sites at community centers across the city during a week of national mourning that began Monday.

91-year-old who was suffering from pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital since Feb 5, died last Monday.

The funeral procession began on on Sunday at 12:30 local time with Lee's coffin draped in red-and-white Singapore flag being carried on a gun carriage through the grounds around Parliament House.

Mourners who braved rains to say their last goodbyes to their founding father, were in tears as they chanted his name, throwing flowers on the street as Lee's national flag-draped coffin passed by.

Delivering a eulogy for his beloved father, Lee's son and current Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong said his father had "lived and breathed Singapore all his life".
"The light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished," he said.

"Singapore has lost the father to our nation. For my family we have lost our beloved father and grandfather. We are bereft," he added.

The funeral that began at 2 pm local time, concluded with the National Anthem that played out after the Howitzers fired 21-gun salute followed by a minute's silence. 

A 21-gun salute is normally reserved for sitting heads of state but an exception was made for Lee, whom many regarded as the de facto national hero of Singapore even when he was alive. 

Four F-16 fighters from the air force`s Black Knights aerobatic team staged a fly-past -- with one peeling off to symbolise a "missing man" -- as the cortege made its way through the adjacent civic square where Lee was first sworn in as prime minister in 1959.

​Lee's body was then driven to were driven to the Mandai crematorium for private family ceremony.

The expansive show of emotion is a rare event for Singapore. The island nation about four times the size of Washington DC is known around the world as a wealthy trade and finance center with a strict social order including a ban on chewing gum and caning for some crimes.

Lee was Singapore's prime minister for more than three decades, ruling with an iron grip until 1990, and is regarded by Singaporeans as the architect of their island's prosperity. But his authoritarian rule has also left a legacy of restrictions on free speech, a tame media and a stunted democracy. His son, Lee Hsieng Loong, is the current prime minister.

Leaders and dignitaries from more than two dozen countries are attending the state funeral. Apart from Modi, several world leaders are attending Lee's funeral, including former US President Bill Clinton, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Malaysian King Abdul Halim Shah and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. While, India has declared a national day of mourning, in New Zealand, the government is flying flags at half-staff. 

Prime Minister Modi lauded Lee as a "global thinker" and said India deeply valued his friendship and his support for its economic progress.

Modi, who arrived here this morning to attend the State Funeral Services of Lee, said the former Singapore Prime Minister was "among the tallest leaders of our times". 

Highlights of the procession are expected to include a 21-gun salute by four howitzers and a flyover by air force fighter jets. Churches will toll their bells.

During the funeral service, civil defense sirens will blare across the island to begin a minute's silence.

With Agency Inputs