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Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, dies at 91

Singapore first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore: Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding father who dominated the country’s politics for more than half a century and transformed the former British colony into a global trade and finance powerhouse, today died aged 91.

Lee, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, “passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital,” the government said. He had been under intensive care for pneumonia since early February 5.

In an emotional televised address, his son and current 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.”

Junior Lee said that his father would lie in state from 25-28 March at Parliament House so the public could pay their respects.

The announced of Lee’s death in the early hours of the morning prompted a flurry of tributes from world leaders.

US president Barack Obama called Lee a “true giant of history” while UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon described him a “legendary figure in Asia”. The Chinese foreign ministry called him “a uniquely influential statesman in Asia”

A steady stream of people arrived at the hospital and the Istana, the prime minister’s office, to offer their condolences.

Singapore declared seven days of national mourning starting today and will hold a state funeral for Lee on March 29.

The city-state’s prime minister for 31 years, Lee is widely respected as the architect of Singapore’s prosperity.

Born in 1923, Lee became Prime Minister in 1959 when Singapore, a tiny spit of land with no natural resources and a polyglot population of Chinese, Malays and Indians, was still British territory and beset by riots and unrest.

He presided over Singapore’s bitter split from Malaysia in 1965.

Lee’s core principles—including a focus on clean and efficient government, business-friendly economic policies, and social order—helped attract massive investment and many of the world’s biggest companies to Singapore after he became prime minister, catapulting living standards to First World status from Third World levels in hardly more than a generation.

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