|Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, pictured here on August 6, 2013, one of the towering figures of post-colonial Asian politics, died in hospital on March 23, 2014. — Photo AFP
SINGAPORE — Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, one of the towering figures of post-colonial Asian politics, died on Monday after a long illness, plunging the city-state he steered to prosperity into mourning.
Lee's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said in a statement that he was "deeply grieved" to announce the passing of his 91-year-old father at the Singapore General Hospital.
He declared a seven-day period of national mourning before the late leader is cremated on March 29.
Lee's remains will first be taken to the Istana state complex for a two-day private family wake before lying in state at Parliament House for five days for the public to pay their respects.
US President Barack Obama led world leaders in hailing Lee, an autocratic politician who dominated Singapore politics for half a century.
"He was a true giant of history who will be remembered for generations to come as the father of modern Singapore and as one of the great strategists of Asian affairs," Obama said in a statement.
"Lee Kuan Yew was a legendary figure in Asia, widely respected for his strong leadership and statesmanship," a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.
Lee, whose health rapidly deteriorated after his wife died in 2010, was in hospital for nearly seven weeks with severe pneumonia.
Two years before he died, Lee revealed that he had signed a medical directive instructing doctors not to use any life-sustaining treatment if he could not be resuscitated.
He served as prime minister from 1959, when colonial ruler Britain granted Singapore self-rule, to 1990, leading Singapore to independence in 1965 after a brief and stormy union with Malaysia. — AFP