Aranda Lee Kuan Yew - A Singapore Botanic Gardens orchid hybrid named in honour of Mr Lee Kuan Yew,
former Prime Minister and Minister Mentor of Singapore.
Thunderstorm, rain and strong winds swirl the tiny island. I couldn't recall when we last experienced this degree of frightful weather. Next day, a typical Monday morning, breaking news of the passing of Singapore's first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew came.
The media was quick to release old videos and speeches of our once vigorous prime minister - he canvassing for votes, debating on government policies, chiding and correcting us like we were ignorant children. We recalled his unfriendly speeches, and harsh lectures. By and large, he does no music for our ears. We remembered clearly.
Strangely, we are really missing him now. Laughing and sobbing at these old memories that came flooding back. Realizing, he is now no more.
Like most Singaporeans, we are pragmatic, shy and acting cool. Nobody discuss our grieve openly, but you sense it in the unusual silence of the workplace and neighborhood. We carried on our day work; quietly planning around our schedule, so we could visit the laying in states when the Parliament House opens to public mourning on Wednesday.
The Parliament House, lighted up with people in queue, under tentage.
Many interviewed confessed their restlessness till respects have been paid at the Parliament House. I then realized, i'm not the only one. Clearly not. Multitude queued through hot day and dark night to enter the Parliament House. Public response was overwhelming!
Everyone grew anxious by now, discussing when was the best time to go down and how our office does not get affected. We had to defer our visit till Friday morning, just a day before the end of public mourning. It was sleepless in Singapore this week.
Arriving at 5am, Friday. We were taken aback by a bustling Central Business Distinct - hurrying pedestrians, heavy traffic and long car queue outside various car parks displaying the "Full" sign! No. It was not a scene of disorder and chaos. On the contrary, i was struck by an air of solemn. I have never seen a crowd this large, yet this quiet.
Hurrying pedestrians gave way to drivers who waved back with a smile. Patient drivers waited in line of the parking queue, nobody horned at anybody. Everyone is here for a common cause. I feel my eyes welling up. The stirring emotion of standing around here is beyond words.
Anyone who has been here, understand what I am talking about. We are a nation united; like never before. Living in an era of comfort and riches, our desire to stay together has never been this intense. We would have made Mr Lee very proud. If only he could see us.
Are Singaporeans muddled? They forgot the ISA detainees who were jailed and suffered? They are not aware of the history of Operation Cold Store? They enjoy living in high costs Singapore? What about free press? Human rights?
I would say Singaporeans are a fortunate lot who traveled widely. And books published by ex-ISA detainees are readily available on the internet. Socio-political activists and groups freely curse and condemn the government, on the internet and at the Speakers' Corner; mixing truth with half-truths. We had had enough.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a blessing to Singapore, to us. No one shall discredit him. He did his best, given the circumstances. And his best is enough for us. We would not have wished things to happen otherwise.
Thank you, Mr Lee.
For making us a nation of proud Singaporeans.
We know you didn't need all this sentimentality about your passing - all this overnight queuing at the Padang field to pay our last respects to you. You resisted the cult of personality too. We are getting back to work. We are reading up your books. We will look after Singapore.
R.I.P Mr Lee.