7-day Period of National Mourning for Lee Kuan Yew:
The heavens opened up onto the tiny island at the tip of the Malayan Peninsula. A fitting end to a week of national mourning for Harry Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister. As thousands (some reports give an estimate of 100,000) lined the state funeral procession route, drenched even in their ponchos and under their umbrellas, salty tears mixed with the rainwater coursing down contorted faces.
Strangers held up the ends of full-sized state flags and distributed smaller ones to those who had none. While waiting, standing in unmuddied rainwater, under the shadow of skyscrapers in the financial district, we spoke of the magnificence of the man, not tiring of reminding each other of his legacy.
People were worried about the “Missing Man Formation” ceremonial flypast by the Republic of Singapore Air Force – “Aiyoh, raining so heavily, can fly anot? I hope they take care!” And true to form, several in the crowd were following the “Live” proceedings on their mobile phones – “Ok, they’ve just left Parliament House…now turning right…wait, why are they travelling so fast? That’s not 25km/h…Oh! Coming, LKY is coming!” The last cry was taken up by the waiting crowd.
And there he was – so small, so frail, in his casket in a glass case; so vulnerable. “We love you Lee Kuan Yew!” “Thank you Lee Kuan Yew!” cheered the onlookers, waving their dripping flags and wiping away tears and rain.
There was no reply, of course, no acknowledgement, no smile and a wave. That man, that personality, so immortalised in videos and photographs at different stages of life – dispensing wisdom, being cheeky to American journalists, firing up the people of Singapore to do the right thing for themselves and their nation, was no more.
Then it was as if the whole nation was tuned in to the state funeral at the University Cultural Centre. At Heartland Mall, the aunties selling dim sum had the radio on, the promoters of products in Cold Storage were watching it on their mobile phones, and shoppers had gathered around the HD TV seller’s demo set:
Here it is on Youtube:
And then the eulogies at the private funeral service at the Mandai Crematorium by LKY’s son, current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong (full script, and this is possibly the the speech to cardiologists that he referred to):
daughter, Lee Wei Ling (excerpt) youngest son, Lee Hsien Yang:
Li Hongyi, son of Lee Hsien Loong:
Li Shengwu, eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang (full transcript):
After the rain, after the state funeral, after the private cremation, we saw the sun break through the dark clouds. A reminder that great as our founding father was, there is a greater Father still who:
makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:45b)
And so we carry on not just to make Singapore a great nation, but to live according to the contrarian values of that even greater kingdom:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)