Singapore's 'founding father' Lee Kuan Yew dies aged 91

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lee pictured at the Pentagon in 2002.
Image: Robert D. Ward.

Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, has died at the age of 91. Considered the "founding father" of Singapore, Lee led Singapore through the aftermath of independence to become one of the world's richest nations. He died yesterday under treatment for pneumonia at the Singapore General Hospital.

The current Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, announced the former Prime Minister's death in a televised statement. Prime Minister Lee, who is the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, said "The first of our founding fathers is no more. He inspired us, gave us courage, and brought us here[...] To many Singaporeans, and indeed others too, Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore."

More tributes came from within Singapore and around the world. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, called Lee "a true giant of history." Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, said "Lee Kwan Yew's passing is as much a loss for the international community as it is for Singapore".

Lee, co-founder of the People's Action Party, was the nation's first Prime Minister from 1959 continuously to 1990. Despite no longer holding the office he remained highly involved within Singaporean politics until his death. He was both admired and criticized throughout the world during his rule.

He was condemned by opponents over many of his strict home policies. During his tenure the press and media was strictly controlled and chewing gum was banned. He was however highly regarded for his financial tact, leading Singapore to vast financial success through his economic policies.

Lee defended his tough stance in a 2010 New York Times interview, saying "I'm not saying everything I did was right[...] But everything I did was for an honourable purpose." He admitted to ordering "nasty things" such as “locking fellows up without trial."

A period of national mourning has begun and his body is to lie in state from Wednesday until Saturday. A state funeral for Lee is to take place on Sunday, followed by private services on Monday and Tuesday.