Home English News Lee Kuan Yew’s personality cult lives on a year after his death

Lee Kuan Yew’s personality cult lives on a year after his death


Singapore (dpa) – The veneration of Singaporeans for their country’s founding premier Lee Kuan Yew has if anything increased since his passing a year ago, with a wide range of projects by officials and spontaneous citizen initiatives springing up to honour his legacy.

On Sunday, a portrait was unveiled made out of more than 4,800 erasers bearing the Singapore flag.

The installation will be displayed for a week at The Red Box, a building that formerly housed the government’s youth council, now renamed after the briefcase that Lee carried to parliament.


The portrait was assembled by around 110 Singapore youths.

Death Anniversary of Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Ye

Visitors photograph a mural of nearly 5,000 erasers in the likeness of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s venerated founding premier, at a tribute on 20 March 2016. Lee died on March 23 2015 aged 91.

Gluing the final eraser, Lee’s younger brother Dr Lee Suan Yew said his brother “wants us to move on.”

“As he said, we must build up Singapore and the youths must also be the next generation to take over the raising of Singapore,” Dr Lee was quoted as saying by Channel NewsAsia.

He was impressed to see so many young people among the 415,000 who queued in the rain to pay their last respects to his late brother at his week-long public wake, Dr Lee told Yahoo Singapore.

In a remembrance event Sunday hosted by nine organisations from different racial communities, student Shanice Vanessa Hedger, 20, recounted seeing her mother cry while watching Lee’s memorial service on television.

“You see so many people crying over a public figure – I’ve never even met him before. He gave his life to build Singapore. What are we going to do without him around?” she told dpa.

But she was optimistic about the state’s future.

“The youth nowadays are learning to appreciate every root that we have in Singapore. That is something we can look forward to – breaking out of the old Singapore and into the new, to carry on his legacy,” she added.

In Lee’s former constituency of Tanjong Pagar, a specimen of Aranda Lee Kuan Yew – an orchid species named after the late leader – was displayed Saturday next to a Vanda Kwa Geok Choo, another orchid species named after his late wife.

People have been holding up pictures of the late leader as they visit the blooms, member of parliament Indranee Rajah told Channel NewsAsia. “It just goes to show that that bond runs very deep.”

Citizen’s initiatives included a silent candlelight rally, a guided tour of his favourite haunts in Singapore and a bound collection of oil paintings depicting Lee.

The book is the brainchild of art collector Vincent Chua, 72, who since 2007 has collected photos of Lee from bazaars or the national archives and commissioned paintings of them from artists in China.

The collection is “to showcase our history, how leadership of one man was able to transform Singapore from a third world country to the first,” he told Channel NewsAsia.

A public memorial is also in the works, but the location is still under debate by a committee. The project will take input from public consultation “from the design to the construction,” the Culture Ministry said.

Whether the memorial ends up in the city’s Fort Canning Park or at the Gardens by the Bay, Lee remains an inspiration for Singapore’s future generations.

“We need to continue to work hard to ensure that Singapore stays competitive on the world stage,” Nicole Peta Leong, 32, said at a remembrence event this week by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), which Lee formed 62 years ago.

“This will be our way of saying thank you to for all that he has done for us – for uniting us as one united people, even in death,” said Leong, a PAP youth member.