Grieving Singaporeans pay respects to Lee Kuan Yew

AFP , Wednesday 25 Mar 2015

Members of the public take pictures and shout "Thank you, Mr Lee!" as the coffin of Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew leaves Istana, or Presidential Palace on a ceremonial gun carriage to lie in state at parliament in Singapore Wednesday, March 25, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Singaporeans wept on the streets as they gathered in their thousands Wednesday to pay respects to founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, whose flag-draped coffin was transported in a gun carriage to parliament for public viewing.

The coffin was taken from the Istana government complex -- Lee's workplace for decades as prime minister and cabinet adviser -- where his family had held a private wake.

It will lie in state in Parliament House for public viewing until the weekend.

The 91-year-old patriarch died Monday after more than half a century in politics, during which Singapore was transformed from a poor British colonial outpost into one of the world's richest societies.

He will be cremated after full state honours on Sunday.

Applause and shouts of "We love you!" and "Lee Kuan Yew!" broke out as the dark brown coffin, draped in the red-and-white Singapore flag, emerged inside a tempered glass case atop a gun carriage pulled by an open-topped military truck.

In scenes that evoked Singapore's colonial past, Lee's coffin stopped in front of the Istana main building, where British administrators once worked, as a bagpiper from Singapore's Gurkha Contingent -- the city-state's special guard force -- played "Auld Lang Syne".

It was brought down tree-lined Edinburgh Road to the Istana's main gate, and then made a slow turn to Parliament House as crowds including schoolgirls in uniform with black arm bands waited behind barricades.

Many along the route were in tears as they raised cameras and mobile phones to record the historic event. Some threw flowers on the path of the carriage.

People also watched from the windows of highrise buildings along the route.

Local media said Singaporeans began queueing up after midnight Tuesday for a chance to be among the first to pay their respects to the man popularly known by his initials "LKY".

Before Wednesday's lunch break, the line was already snaking for up to two kilometres (1.2 miles) as Singaporeans patiently awaited their turn to enter the viewing hall in the riverside parliament.

The visiting hours were extended until midnight in response to the turnout.

"These are amazing scenes. I have not seen anything like this in my lifetime," bank executive Zhang Wei Jie, 36, told AFP.

"LKY is the founder of our country. It is a no-brainer that we have to pay respect. We have taken some time off from work, my supervisor is also here somewhere in the crowd."

R. Tamilselvi, a 77-year-old grandmother, brought two of her granddaughters, each clutching flowers.

"Lee Kuan Yew has done so much for us. We used to live in squatter (colonies) in Sembawang, my husband was a bus driver. Now my three sons have good jobs and nice houses. The children all go to school. What will we be without Lee Kuan Yew?"

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