PM Najib pay last respects to Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak paid his last respects to the late Lee Kuan Yew at Parliament House yesterday.

Speaking to reporters, Najib said that the late Lee Kuan Yew was a "great man whose leadership, vision, fortitude and perseverance helped shaped Singapore to what it is today: An advanced economy and finding its own place in the world".

"All Singaporeans owe him a huge debt of gratitude," he said. "Mr Lee also was a man who helped shape Southeast Asia as a region of peace and prosperity. He will go down as a great man of history, whose vision and leadership helped make this world a better place.

"I'd like to thank him for strengthening bilateral ties between Malaysia and Singapore," Najib said.

Najib also met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to personally convey Malaysia’s condolences over the death of his father, who was Singapore’s first prime minister.

Najib was accompanied by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, Natural Resources Minister Datuk Seri G.Palanivel and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Mah Siew Keong.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk Husni Zai Yaacob was also in attendance.

In an emotional televised address, Lee Kuan Yew's son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to him. "He fought for our independence, built a nation where there was none, and made us proud to be Singaporeans. We won't see another man like him."

As we look back in history, back in 1960s, Lee Kuan Yew oversaw Singapore's independence from Britain and separation from Malaysia. 

From then, Lee Kuan Yew became the island-state's prime minister for 31 years and was widely respected as the architect of Singapore's prosperity.

As early as 1973, Lee Kuan Yew had raised the idea of a free trade area and took every opportunity to promote trade within Asean. 

This suited Singapore, which had pinned its survival on having one of the world's freest trade and investment regimes. Finally, after two decades of talks, the Asean Free Trade Area started to firm up in 1994. 

Lee Kuan Yew's body is currently lying-in-state at the Parliament House at North Bridge Road. Lee, 91, passed away on March 23 at the Singapore General Hospital. He had been warded in the intensive care unit of the hospital since Feb 5 for severe pneumonia.

So far, the eulogies to Lee Kuan Yew from leaders of neighbouring countries are heartfelt. Lee Kuan Yew has certainly played an outsize role in building the stability and prosperity of this region.

Channel News Asia reported that the Yang di Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, Malaysia's King, will be among foreign dignitaries attending the late Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral this coming Sunday.

Others include former US president Bill Clinton who will lead the US delegation, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Indonesia president Joko Widodo, South Korea president Park Geun Hye, Thailand's prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and India prime minister Narendra Modi.

Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (centre right in black) with wife Datin  Seri Rosmah Mansor (centre left in black) pay their respects to Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew as he lies in state at the Singapore's Parliament House. The current Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and wife Ho Ching mourn the death of his father and her father-in-law.