By Zakir Hussain Deputy Political Editor
IT WAS a scene replicated across many parts of Singapore the morning after news broke that the country's first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, had died at 3.18am on Monday, March 23, at the age of 91.
In homes, offices, MRT platforms and bus terminals - almost any place where a television set, radio, smartphone or computer terminal was turned on to a news channel or website - people were gripped by what they heard.
Some bowed their heads in sorrow. Others buried their face in their hands in anguish or disbelief, or offered a silent prayer.
Yet others sat still for several moments, stunned, making sense of the moment they knew was inevitable, yet somehow hoped would not happen.
Concern over Mr Lee's health had become a major talking point in recent months. He had not been seen at a public event since the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the People's Action Party in November.
Confirmation of his condition came only in late February, just after Chinese New Year: He had been warded in the intensive care unit of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) with severe pneumonia since Feb 5.
Regular updates on his condition from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) gave rise to hope, worry, then dread.
On March 17, the PMO said Mr Lee's condition had worsened due to an infection, 40 days after he was admitted to the hospital. Brief daily statements followed for the next five days, each time saying he had weakened further.
Singaporeans from across the island began turning up at SGH to offer prayers and good wishes, to stand vigil, to will him on.
The hospital eventually designated a special area for them. So large were the number of people, get-well cards and flowers for the man that few knew in person, but who all said had made a significant difference to their lives - from the homes and opportunities they had, to the stability, economic security and brighter future their children now have.
A tent was eventually put up outside to shelter the gifts, cards and flowers, and the area it covered was expanded a day later.
In their messages of support, well-wishers shared a common sentiment: gratitude, whether for help given personally or in shaping the country they live in.
Mr Patrick Ang, 41, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorised wheelchair, and sells Singapore Sweep tickets, left a card.
He wrote to Mr Lee for help after he was robbed in his Bukit Merah rental flat three years ago. Mr Lee helped him move to a new rental flat in Clementi.
Deliveryman Zuraimi Abdul Karim, 55, dropped by with his sister to offer a silent prayer: "A whole generation knows the hardship he faced building Singapore. He's a great man to us."
Tanjong Pagar Community Club, at the heart of the constituency that Mr Lee represented for almost 60 years since he was first elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1955, also set aside space for cards and flowers.
Even though Mr Lee stepped down as prime minister in 1990, he was still an influential member of Cabinet as senior minister, and then as minister mentor, until 2011. After that he remained an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC.
The crowds at SGH and Tanjong Pagar grew over the weekend of March 21 and 22, when hundreds flocked to the community club, many unable to hold back tears.
They remembered growing up when the area was filthy and dilapidated, and recalled how Mr Lee had more than delivered on his promises to improve their conditions.
Then came the dreaded news in the small hours of the morning of March 23. As the nation awoke to find that Mr Lee had died, many tuned in to television and radio broadcasts and live streaming online as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, visibly tired, told them: "The first of our founding fathers is no more."
Flags would be at half-mast, there would be a seven-day mourning period, a state funeral service. The details came thick and fast, planned with an efficiency that Mr Lee had made into a Singapore hallmark.
By the time Mr Lee's body returned to the Istana grounds shortly after noon on Monday, hundreds had gathered outside its main gates to bid farewell.
The casket was laid to rest in Sri Temasek, the official residence of the prime minister, for a private wake for family members and close friends.
Six, then 10 community tribute centres were opened across the island for the public to pen messages and pay their respects, and 18 in all were open a day later.
Over the week that followed, some 1.2 million visited these centres to leave notes of thanks in Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English. They brought artwork and craftwork, soft toys, pictures.
Some highlighted their gratitude for the policies that brought the country from Third to First World status; improved their housing; provided education and jobs. Minorities especially singled out Mr Lee's commitment to multiracialism and meritocracy. Many others said Mr Lee and the progress he brought to the country made them proud to be Singaporean.
"It is a bond that goes beyond policies," Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah said in Tanjong Pagar of the affection for Mr Lee.
"He gave this nation pride." Lining up in the sun
THE strength of that bond was evident in the crowds that lined the streets to see Mr Lee's casket make its way on March 25 from the Istana to Parliament House, where he would lie in state.
The route was packed, some having arrived at sunrise that day. Amid the throng, a man held a plastic miniature Singapore flag aloft, and that, too, was at half-mast.
Inside Sri Temasek, officers draped the State flag over the casket, the crescent and stars lying over the head and close to the heart of Mr Lee, before carrying and laying it on a gun carriage.
As the procession made the 2km journey along Orchard Road, Bras Basah and North Bridge Road, queues were quiet, respectful. And as it reached Parliament House, there were some who cheered, applauded, and called out: "Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew! Lee Kuan Yew!"
By noon on Wednesday, the line of people converging at Parliament's gates had grown impossibly long: stretching along the banks of the Singapore River that he vowed to - and did - clean up, and the queues snaked to Hong Lim Green, Battery Road and Coleman Street.
Thousands braved the sweltering heat, waiting patiently in line for over eight hours to file past Mr Lee's casket, even if it was just for a few seconds.
Among them was housewife Jenn Lee, 54, who grew up in Tanjong Pagar and remembers Mr Lee as her MP: "He transformed this from a shipping port into a big city, and I wanted to show my gratitude and express how blessed we are to have had him lead us."
The queues were a scene never before seen in Singapore. So overwhelming was the public's response that the State Funeral Organising Committee chose to extend visiting hours not once, but twice - from the originally scheduled 10am to 8pm, first to midnight, and then round the clock until Saturday evening.
"When we planned this one week of national mourning, we of course expected a tremendous outpouring of emotions," National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said on March 26.
"But the reality exceeded our expectations."
Organisers had, by then, implemented a more organised queue system, with the Padang as the starting point - including a separate line for those who were older or had special needs. Like many public-spirited businesses and individuals had done previously, bottles of water and umbrellas were made available to those in line.
Inside Parliament House, ushers encouraged visitors to move along quickly - though individuals still made the effort to bow; some knelt, waved, saluted.
And many wept.
Try as the organisers did to discourage the public from joining the queues when waiting times were at their longest - eight, nine, 10 hours - and to head for community tribute centres instead, the crowds kept on coming.
Transport officials chipped in, working with SMRT and SBS Transit to extend train and feeder bus services past normal hours to operate round the clock.
PM Lee and several ministers visited those waiting in line to thank them for coming and for being patient. Those waiting, in turn, urged them, PM Lee in particular, to take care of themselves.
"Singaporeans aren't given to outward displays of emotion. We have a reputation for being diligent, task-oriented and focused on our work," Mr Walter Lim, who runs marketing agency Cooler Insights, wrote.
But, somehow, this reserve crumbled over the week, he added of the overwhelming outpouring of sentiment.
The queues grew longer on Thursday, when a special session of Parliament was held. There were few dry eyes in the Chamber. The most poignant reminder of Mr Lee's absence was a spray of white flowers placed on his empty seat in the House.
Outside Parliament, tributes came from community and religious groups, which held memorials and special services to honour Mr Lee and his contributions.
Political scientist Bilveer Singh of the National University of Singapore, who joined the queue at the Padang on Thursday night with his wife and waited seven hours, tells Insight: "You felt there was a nation out there."
Recalling how volunteers handed out apples and drinks, and strangers shared snacks and stories, he added: "We were all united. And we were all crying, we were in tears, especially when we saw the hearse."
Even the military guards who stood ramrod straight as they kept vigil by the casket struggled to fight back tears, which others dabbed away for them.
By Friday, the volume of people swelled even further. With the work-week behind them and a weekend ahead, many felt it would be all right to tough it out. Besides, with the cut-off for the queue scheduled for Saturday night, many took the plunge to stand in line.
But with an eye on the increasing numbers, and safety, organisers closed entry to the queue late on Friday night till the congestion cleared. The lines reopened early on Saturday morning. Yet when the 8pm queue cut-off time came around on Saturday, many were left disappointed.
By the time the last visitor left Parliament House at around midnight, some 455,000 people had paid their last respects in person.
Whichever way you look at it, the numbers are astonishing, said political scientist Lam Peng Er of the East Asian Institute.
The figure of 1.7 million visitors who were at the lying in state and community tribute sites translates into one in two Singaporeans turning up to pay their respects.
Dr Lam's explanation for the turnout: "For most Singaporeans, their lives were intertwined with his." Many, in person or through their parents, knew what life was like when Mr Lee took office in 1959 and the tremendous change Singapore has since witnessed.
Standing in the rain
AND Singaporeans were prepared to do it all again on Sunday - in driving rain as the skies opened up as Mr Lee's casket left Parliament House shortly after noon for the procession to the funeral service at the University Cultural Centre in Kent Ridge.
For a handful of those waiting for the funeral procession outside City Hall and across the Padang, the torrential rain brought back memories of the 1968 National Day Parade, also at the Padang, when a downpour drenched all those who were taking part.
But the parade carried on, and as Mr Lee said at a National Day dinner at the Tanjong Pagar community centre a few days after that parade: "All those who watched Friday's Parade could take heart from the display of discipline and determination in the face of heavy rain and high winds."
He added: "This is what makes Singapore take shape: the growing confidence of the younger generation that has got the gumption, the guts and the gusto to carve a future for themselves in Southeast Asia."
Waiting to wave Mr Lee off at Queensway on Sunday was Ms Wan Fatt Ngai, 64, who was a student cadet at the Padang in 1968.
"We were all wet, rooted to the ground, but nobody moved. It was so cold," she recalled, adding that she remembered Mr Lee being fiery and inspiring.
"It didn't mean anything to me then. It was only later as I looked around at the changes to the country - the houses, the clean river - that I realised the impact this man had on our country.
"It seems fitting that we are sending him off in the rain," she added.
Many who braved the downpour on Sunday, 47 years on, were students just like Ms Wan was. Others also lined the streets along virtually every stretch of the 15.4km-long route to Kent Ridge.
In all, an estimated 100,000 lined the streets. Many gathered from early morning, and others joined in from nearby churches, mosques and temples, or their homes along the route.
Wherever they stood in line, many said they were grateful for the opportunities that Mr Lee and his team opened up for them and their children. And so they designed placards, gave out flowers and cheered his name as the cortege made its way down rain-slicked roads.
After the procession passed, many headed home or to community and tribute centres to watch the funeral service. The 10 eulogies celebrated Mr Lee's dedication to his family and work, his devotion to the country, and his determination to make life better for his fellow Singaporeans.
And when the civil defence sirens sounded at around 4.30pm, many nationwide rose to join in a minute of silence, a final honour for Mr Lee.
Trains stopped at stations with their doors open, as did buses, and staff and passengers at Changi Airport.
The moment of silence over, in unison Singaporeans recited the pledge and sang the National Anthem - with sadness, but also with a realisation that it was now up to them all to take the nation that Mr Lee bequeathed to them higher, further along.
The emotional commitment that Mr Lee inspired The unprecedented display of emotion after Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death was because people respected Mr Lee as a man of principle, whose leadership made their lives better, even if they disagreed with some of his policies.
By David Chan, For The Straits Times
THE period of national mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew will remain vivid in the memory of Singaporeans for many years to come.
For seven days, Singaporeans experienced what I called "nationally shared emotions".
It was a collective grief, accompanied by a deep sense of gratitude to a great man who devoted his adult life to building a city-state that Singaporeans can be proud to call home.
As a behavioural scientist, I was constantly asked over the last two weeks to explain the psychology underlying Singaporeans' public display of emotions.
Singaporeans are now returning to the normalcy of their daily lives. It is time to take stock of Singaporeans' recent collective experiences. And it would be irresponsible to not address the question of a post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore. Personal experiences, shared beliefs
MANY Singaporeans grew up with Mr Lee as their iconic leader.
They heard his hard-hitting speeches and experienced his commanding presence even if it was only through watching the television. They have shared beliefs that he was the primary person responsible for transforming Singapore.
But why are younger people - who have not known Mr Lee as their prime minister - also intensively moved?
It is true that they learnt in school that he is the founding father of modern Singapore. But they have also heard about the real experiences of older people or others who know about Mr Lee. And they grew up listening to stories about the rare combination of leadership abilities and values embodied in the man.
In other words, Mr Lee has been Singapore's national leader, who has been revered or talked about among Singaporeans for over 50 years. His influence and impact on Singapore and the lives of Singaporeans has been long and lasting.
And when Singaporeans look at their country, many are likely to agree that, overall, the positives outweigh the negatives. Psychology of public reactions
DID Singaporeans simply feel obliged to acknowledge that Mr Lee was primarily responsible for the country's improved material conditions? Research on psychological commitment has shown that people can be motivated to do something when there is a sense of obligation.
By itself, commitment based on obligation - as in feeling duty-bound to do something - can explain behaviours reflecting determination and perseverance, such as queueing for many hours to pay last respects to Mr Lee. But it cannot explain the visible grief and public display of emotions.
Complaints of inconvenience, which should occur to some degree if people feel that they have to, even when they do not want to, were conspicuously absent.
Moreover, volunteering and looking out for each other were in abundance. To understand public reactions, we need to go beyond commitment based on obligation to include commitment based on emotion. Emotional commitment is about motivation based on "want to".
When people are emotionally committed, they experience a strong feeling of attachment and sense of belonging. They feel like "part of the family". Studies have shown that emotional commitment is often accompanied by a display of emotions. It also leads to "citizenship" behaviours, such as putting up with inconveniences, pro-social behaviours, taking initiatives to improve a situation, and volunteering.
But given Mr Lee's strict enforcement of obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom, or an authoritarian approach, can we still say that people are rooted to him through emotional commitment?
In fact, there is no inconsistency. It turns out that emotional commitment can be developed over time through positive personal experiences and beliefs based on perceptions of principled treatment.
First, Singaporeans have personally enjoyed many positives in their life experiences that are attributable to Mr Lee's efforts and decisions. For example, in addition to living in a vibrant metropolis, Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure country and a harmonious society that emphasises multiracialism.
Despite the usual complaints of stress and strain, Singaporeans have personally experienced a place that is highly liveable, for themselves and their family.
Second, in addition to being a pragmatic leader, Mr Lee has been widely perceived as a man of principle.
While there may not be a consensus on the desirability of all his principles, many that he zealously safeguard have benefited Singaporeans though the building of a fair and just society.
Singaporeans from all social backgrounds have been able to excel and be rewarded under a meritocratic system based on performance rather than one's connections.
People have also experienced fairness and justice from a government with zero tolerance for corruption. And many would describe Singapore as a land of opportunity, where self-reliance can lead to achievements of goals.
Mr Lee is seen as a man who practised what he preached, said what he meant, and meant what he said.
So, beyond his intellect, there was a deep respect and trust for Mr Lee's character. Note that this is not about his personality or rationale for specific policies. Singaporeans may disagree strongly with some policies advocated by Mr Lee or dislike some of his personality traits. But they appreciate the values that he painstakingly cultivated, and the principles that he unwaveringly upheld for Singapore.
Singaporeans' shared values include integrity, fairness and social harmony, and guiding principles such as the rule of law, accountability and people-centricity. For over 50 years, Mr Lee translated these values and principles into Singapore's collective narratives and convictions. And so, today, Singaporeans hold strongly to their beliefs in meritocracy, multiracialism, incorruptibility and self-reliance.
For Singaporeans, Mr Lee's death activated the realisation that the generally good life that they and their children have been enjoying did not come easily. Neither did it come automatically. It came about because of Mr Lee and the team of pioneers he led.
The recounting of past events and Mr Lee's past speeches in the media played a role in this mental activation.
But it was not the primary reason for the public's reactions. People could have responded the way they did only if they have existing strong beliefs, trust and respect for Mr Lee.
And real experiences of positive well-being living in Singapore. These beliefs and experiences have, over time, developed into a commitment that is based on both obligation and emotion.
It is noteworthy, though, that none of the above tells us anything directly about whether Singaporeans are happy or unhappy with the government of the day or prevailing policies.What's next?
THE national mourning has also turned out to be a period of reflection. It is likely that Mr Lee will remain an inspiration for many Singaporeans moving forward.
But how do we imagine a Singapore without Mr Lee Kuan Yew?
There are good reasons to be confident that a post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore will continue to thrive. Precisely because of what Mr Lee has done in building up Singapore and putting it on the map, the world now knows of the Singapore brand - Singapore is a choice place to invest in and partner with.
And this is more than just its strategic location, excellent infrastructure and global connectivity. Backed by its solid record - including the past two decades when Mr Lee was no longer in charge - it is a nation of trustworthy people who can and will deliver what is promised.
In my view, this is Mr Lee's greatest legacy. He has put in place institutions and values that ensure Singapore will continue to survive without depending on any one individual. Singaporeans can be optimistic about the future of Singapore without Mr Lee.
But Singapore's continued success is not a given or guaranteed. The country needs capable and trustworthy leaders who are citizen-centric with a global outlook. Leaders who ensure that the fundamentals of economics and foreign relations are well taken care of.
The country also needs communities who will speak up and step up to address those issues that the Government cannot tackle alone, or those that are better resolved without government intervention. This builds social capital.
And the country needs individual citizens who would uphold shared values and guiding principles.
This should translate into how people think, feel and act. But it also includes the conscious efforts to transmit values and principles to the next generation.
Singapore has the foundations for us to be confident that we can make things happen. As individuals, there is hope to achieve our goals and aspirations. Singaporeans can be optimistic about the progress and future of our society.
And when we recover from adversity and adapt to changes, we become more resilient, individually and nationally.
This psychological capital, together with economic and social capital, will see us through. The writer is director of the Behavioural Sciences Institute, Lee Kuan Yew Fellow and Professor of Psychology at the Singapore Management University.
Crowds 'like never before' for local history exhibition Many came to see Mr Lee's red box, which was added on Thursday
By Olivia Ho
HE HAD waited in line for almost five hours to pay his respects to Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
The strain from a recent appendix operation, however, forced Mr Jaiyaseelan to drop out of the queue before he got to Parliament House.
Yesterday, the software engineer in his 30s jumped at the chance to queue again in tribute to Mr Lee, this time for a memorial exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore.
Mr Jaiyaseelan, who goes by only one name, said: "This is my last chance to see a part of him."
Long lines formed at the museum for the exhibition on Mr Lee's life and work, snaking out of the building and onto the driveway outside. The waiting time became so long - up to four hours - that admission to the exhibition had to be closed four hours early, at 4pm.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the crowd was like nothing he had ever seen before for a local history exhibition at the museum. "We have seen big crowds for blockbuster exhibitions, like something from Musee d'Orsay, but for history exhibitions, typically we have not had such big crowds.
"It is very good to see such renewed interest in our founding fathers, Mr Lee in particular. This is something we hope to build on when we revamp our permanent galleries, which will be happening later in September."
Although the exhibition has been open since March 25, many visitors said they came in particular to see a red box that Mr Lee used to keep his working documents. It joined the exhibition on Thursday. Education Minister Heng Swee Keat wrote about the box in a widely shared Facebook post on March 24, detailing how it had been a key feature of Mr Lee's life.
Secretary Sharon Khng, 43, said: "The box shows how serious he was about his work. The day before he was hospitalised, he was still working, the box was still with him."
The box is displayed together with other personal items used by Mr Lee, including the barrister wig he wore for admission to the Bar, and a Rolex watch presented to him by the Singapore Union of Postal and Telecommunications Workers.
Cleaner Mary Wey, 68, had already queued three times to see Mr Lee lying in state, but said she did not mind waiting for more than two hours to look at the artefacts. She recalled meeting Mr Lee when she was seven and he stopped at her mother's laundry shop on a walkabout. "He said she was doing a good job. I had never seen my mother so excited before, she lit firecrackers. I remember he was very, very kind."
Seeing the exhibition left security officer Jesse Kris Rajoo, 60, in tears. She said: "For the past week, I could not sleep or work. He touched everybody's heart, and when I see all these, I can feel he is still with us."
Additional reporting by Chew Hui Min