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Thousands bid farewell to Lee amid heavy rains in Singapore

Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore: Undeterred by heavy rains, tens of thousands of people today lined a 15 kilometer route in Singapore to bid farewell to the founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, who will receive a state funeral in presence of a galaxy of dignitaries including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

91-year-old Lee, the city-state’s prime minister for 31 years and widely respected as the architect of Singapore’s prosperity, died of severe pneumonia on March 23.

Lee’s coffin, draped in red-and-white Singapore flag and protected from the downpour by a glass casing, lay atop a ceremonial gun carriage that was being carried through the streets from parliament, where it was lying in state for the public to pay respects to the leader.

More than 450,000 people had paid their last respects to Lee during the week.

Lee’s son and current Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong said his father had “lived and breathed Singapore all his life”.

“The light that has guided us all these years has been extinguished,” he said.

The state funeral procession will cover a distance of 15.4 kms to the National University of Singapore, where a funeral service will be held from 2 PM.

The procession would pass through old parliament house and other iconic places while the armed forces will accord a 21-gun salute, an air force fly-past and a patrol boat sail-past in honour of Lee.

Lee is widely credited with transforming Singapore from an impoverished third-world nation into an advanced first- world economy within just a generation, shaping the city- state’s present status as a global financial and commercial hub.

He became Singapore’s first prime minister in 1959, when the island gained self-rule from Britain. Singapore became a republic in 1965 after a brief and stormy union with Malaysia.

Lee stepped down in 1990 in favour of his deputy Goh Chok Tong, who in turn was succeeded by Lee’s son.

Apart from Modi, several world leaders are attending Lee’s funeral, including former US President Bill Clinton, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Malaysian King Abdul Halim Shah and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Prime Minister Modi lauded Lee as a “global thinker” and said India deeply valued his friendship and his support for its economic progress.

Modi, who arrived here this morning to attend the State Funeral Services of Lee, said the former Singapore Prime Minister was “among the tallest leaders of our times”.

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