SINGAPORE, March 26 — More than 59,000 people have waited for as long as eight hours to pay tribute to Singapore’s first prime minister as more stand in line to view the body of Lee Kuan Yew as he lies in state for a second day.
Lee died March 23 at 91 after being hospitalised on February 5 for severe pneumonia. His state-flag draped coffin was carried to Parliament House on a gun carriage from the presidential palace yesterday. As of midnight, 59,420 people had visited Lee at the venue, the government said, after it allowed mourners 24-hour access.
Roads were closed, events canceled and lights turned off at buildings as the Southeast Asian nation remembered Lee, who led the island from 1959 to 1990 and stepped down from the cabinet in 2011. Lee’s state funeral on March 29 will be attended by government leaders including Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Australia’s Tony Abbott, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and South Korean President Park Geun Hye and former US President Bill Clinton.
“Singapore shared this founding father with the world,” US Ambassador to Singapore Kirk Wagar, said in an interview. “We feel like we’ve been a part of this journey.” Wagar is attending the funeral as part of a five-member US delegation led by Clinton, which also includes former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.
Outside Parliament House, the waiting time for the public to pay their respects to Lee was reduced to 1 1/5 hours as of 10am Singapore time, according to the official Facebook page set up for tributes to Lee. The government extended visiting hours to 24-hours after thousands joined a line that stretched more than a mile through the financial district yesterday. Parliament House will be open through 8pm on Saturday.
Officials handed out bottles of water to those in line as the temperature rose to 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Celsius) yesterday and is forecast to climb to 93 degrees Fahrenheit today. A line for the elderly, pregnant women and families with young children and those with special needs was set up.
A special parliament sitting will be held at 4pm Singapore time to commemorate Lee. — Bloomberg