7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:
On the 4th day of national mourning for Lee Kuan Yew, after MRT and LRT trains and some buses ran all night, the crowds cleared a little. We got to City Hall MRT, took Exit B to emerge outside St. Andrew’s Cathedral. There, those for the priority queue (frail, elderly, special needs) turned left and headed to the steps of the old City Hall, while the rest of us turned right and skirted the other side of St. Andrew’s Cathedral.
There was a last chance to get to the priority queue.”Oh! Me, me!” yelled the white-haired man in front of me as he sprinted forward with remarkable agility, to the amusement of the crowd. No one begrudged him his technical right.
From there, there were snaking queues on the Padang, where the hardworking army boys had set up tents. The queues were efficiently run, though of course, people weren’t always around to stop queue jumpers.
Then across to the Cenotaph at Esplanade Park, along the leafy Connaught Drive where we had a good view of the new Downtown Core and magnificent Marina Bay Sands. More water was available, as were clean portaloos.
We shook hands with (and here I had to check against the composite photos of MPs, ignoramus that I am) Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shamugaratnam and Halimah Yacob, who thanked us for our patience and for coming.
Past Victoria Memorial Hall (or Victoria Concert Hall), we hanged a left on Fullerton Road, down the underpass to the other side, past the Asian Civilisation Museum, kept along the Singapore River, where there was more water available and some cold yoghurt drinks and juice.
You could tell some people were a little worried. It was a typical Singaporean worry:
“Eh, where is the dustbin?”
Under the white tentage, there were powerful fans, and pens and cards for condolences messages, and the opportunity to read some condolence boards until we got to the security scanners.
“No point spreading out, please keep to one line.”
“Tell your friends to keep all their metal objects in one bag.”
No photos inside, but not many were obeying the SILENCE sign. Suddenly, and very matter-of-factly, there was the casket drapped with the Singapore flag, and the vigil guard.
“Don’t stop, keep moving.”
Several people choked up. Many bowed as they wiped their tears (and sweat).
Then we were out, blinking in the sunshine. The priority queue was heading in as we exited.
As one of my queue neighbours said, waiting in line was almost like a tour of what LKY had achieved for Singapore* – look at the greenery; look at the well-paved roads; look at the efficiency of the army and police; look at the cleanliness of the place – no globs of spit everywhere like in Beijing, no smell of urine or vomit like in London; look at the polite but again efficient security clearance; look at the buildings all around – office buildings full of workers driving the financial sector, shopping centers where a wide selection of goods are available to most of the population.
As George Yeo is reported to have said, quoting the epitaph of Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s Cathedral,”If you seek his memorial – look around you.”
*no he didn’t physically do the work, but as the leader, he set the vision, recruited the right people, drove them towards the goal. In the world, the leader is the one who is responsible for the group, the company, the country he leads. When Churchill led Britain to victory, Churchill wasn’t in a uniform with a gun, but the world credits the victory to him. In the same way, when a bank does dodgy deals, it is not usually the managing director who authorised or even had knowledge of the deals – but the world also holds him to account for them.
Good places to eat after the long queue to Parliament House (and talk more about LKY’s legacy and toast to his memory):
food court at Peninsula Shopping Centre