Over 300,000 People Wait Up to Ten Hours to Pay Respects to Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew

( [email protected] ) Mar 27, 2015 06:10 PM EDT
Singapore's authorities have advised people to stop joining the queues to view founding father and statesman Lee Kuan Yew as he lies in state due to the overwhelming number of people hoping to pay their respects.
Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew speaks during a ceremony marking the opening of Reuters' new office in Singapore's business district, April 24, 2007. Reuters/Vivek Prakash

More than 300,000 people have traveled to the Parliament House in Padang to pay their respects to the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father.

On Friday, Singapore's authorities advised people to stop joining the queues to view Mr. Lee as he lies in state due to the overwhelming number of Singaporeans hoping to see their revered leader one last time.

"We would like to accommodate as many as possible in this overwhelming outpouring of respect and love for Mr Lee Kuan Yew," said the organizing committee for the state funeral.

"However, to ensure safety of individuals due to the large crowds and to limit the physical discomfort of the long wait, especially for the elderly and young children, the queue line will be temporarily suspended."

According to BBC News, thousands of people were forced to wait in line for as long as ten hours before entering the Parliament House.

"I was standing outwards facing the public's legs, so I can actually see people, even the physically disabled, dragging their feet in, sometimes on crutches, sometimes in a wheelchair, and they really made this effort to really queue under the hot sun," said Captain Damien Pek, who stands guard by Mr. Lee's casket."And when they came in, they were so emotional, some of them were sobbing."

Mr. Lee's popularity is not without merit; for over half a century, he dominated Singapore politics and was  highly respected by Singaporeans. During his 31 year tenure as Singapore's first prime minister, Lee built a First World country that focused on clean and efficient government, economic policies that favored businesses, and maintaining strict social order.

"Lee is credited with transforming Singapore from a sleepy Asian entrepot into a bustling and wealthy financial hub," writes The Guardian's Ben Doherty.

"He led Singapore's six-year transition from British colonial outpost, through self-administration, merger with and then separation from Malaysia, to independent statehood, and Singapore declaration as a republic, in 1965."

However, as previously mentioned by the Gospel Herald, Singapore achieved its remarkable transition from a former British colony at the expense of personal freedoms and full Western-style democracy.

"Although Singapore held regular free elections under Mr. Lee, laws proscribing public gatherings and limiting other civil liberties hampered the development of a powerful opposition," the Wall Street Journal reported. "Western media called Singapore a 'nanny state' and lampooned its attempts to create an orderly society through rules, incentives and ad campaigns."

Despite his flaws, Mr. Lee's groundbreaking achievements have earned him the reputation as the father of modern Singapore.

"One of his greatest policies is to really allow us - even the ones from poor families to have an opportunity to succeed in life so coming from a not so well-to-do family, I'm given sufficient opportunities to be in the civil service so that's one of things I'm grateful to him for," Captain Pek told Channel News Asia. "I feel very comforted that I managed to be a part of this and I'm really honored to be close by. I really feel very fulfilled at the end of the day that I'm able to do my little part."

Mr. Lee passed away at 91 years of age after being treated in hospital under intensive care for a pneumonia infection since early February.

According to the BBC, he will lie in state until Sunday morning, when his body will be moved to a cultural center in the west of the city for his funeral. The funeral procession will wind through the city center and his Tanjong Pagar constituency on the edge of the business district.