|Mr Lee Kuan Yew in a picture taken in 2009. — PHOTO The Straits Times/ANN
SINGAPORE — Tributes have poured in from world leaders past and present for the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, hailing him as a visionary and legendary leader respected all over the world, whose legacy will be remembered by many.
US President Barack Obama was among the first world leaders to pay tribute to Mr Lee who died on Monday at the age of 91.
"On behalf of the American people, (First lady) Michelle and I offer our deepest condolences to the Lee family and join the people of Singapore in mourning the loss of this remarkable man," he said in a statement released just hours after news broke of Mr Lee's passing.
He hailed Mr Lee as a "visionary" as well as a "devoted public servant and remarkable leader" and said he was deeply saddened by the news
"Minister Mentor Lee's views and insights on Asian dynamics and economic management were respected by many around the world, and no small number of this and past generations of world leaders have sought his advice on governance and development. I personally appreciated his wisdom, including our discussions during my trip to Singapore in 2009, which were hugely important in helping me formulate our policy of rebalancing to the Asia Pacific," Mr Obama said, referring to Mr Lee by his previous title.
Former US president George W Bush also posted his condolences on Facebook with a photograph of himself with Mr Lee.
"Laura and I are saddened by the death of Lee Kuan Yew. The father of today's Singapore transformed his country and helped usher the Asean region into the modern era. The Singapore he leaves behind is an influential force for stability and prosperity and a friend to the United States. Laura and I join those in Singapore and around the world who are mourning his loss, and we send our heartfelt condolences to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and family."
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak also conveyed his condolences to his Singapore counterpart early Monday morning.
"I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your father. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. On behalf of all Malaysians, my deepest condolences to the people of Singapore,'' Mr Najib posted on his Facebook page:
"Founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew's achievements were great, and his legacy is assured,'' Mr Najib wrote.
|Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was the nation's Prime Minister then, speaking to a packed lunchtime rally crowd at Fullerton Square. He said that the "hoary" question of the government "killing" Chinese education had been raised again by the opposition and warned that he would "smack" anyone inciting Chinese chauvinism as that could lead to bloodshed. He also said that the real issue facing Singapore and one, which the government had to resolve, was, what happens when the present leadership is gone. — Photo The Straits Times/ANN
China also expressed "deep sorrow" over the death of Mr Lee, whom it describes as a cornerstone of Sino-Singapore bilateral relationship.
China foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei described Mr Lee as "an Asian political leader with unique influence, and also a strategist with Oriental values system and international perspective".
"He was the founder and cornerstone of Sino-Singapore relationship, advancing mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation and making historic contributions to the founding and development of the bilateral relationship," said Mr Hong.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino extended the Filipino people's "solidarity with Singapore at this time of mourning", as he honoured Singapore's first prime minister.
"An era has passed, one upon which Singaporeans can look back on with deep pride and a sense of accomplishment," said Mr Aquino.
"Throughout his long life, as prime minister and senior minister, Mr Lee demonstrated an unswerving devotion to his country, turning it into a statement that would be an exemplar of efficient, modern and honest governance," he said.
"The development of Singapore has earned it the respect of nations and peoples, including the tens of thousands of Filipinos who work there and visit the country."
British Prime Minister David Cameron praised Mr Lee for making his country "into one of the great success stories of our modern world". He also said Mr Lee "was always a friend to Britain, if sometimes a critical one, and many British Prime Ministers benefited from his wise advice, including me".
Mr Cameron recalled that Lady Margaret Thatcher, former British prime minister and former leader of the ruling Conservative Party, "once said that there was no Prime Minister she admired more than Mr Lee for 'the strength of his convictions, the clarity of his views, the directness of his speech and his vision of the way ahead'".
"His place in history is assured", said the tribute from Mr Cameron.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the region owes much to Mr Lee.
"Today we mourn the passing of a giant in our region," Mr Abott said in a statement.
"Fifty years ago, Lee Kuan Yew led a vulnerable fledgling nation to independence.
"Thanks to his leadership, Singapore is now one of the world's most prosperous nations, a financial powerhouse, and one of the world's easiest places to do business.
"Our region owes much to Lee Kuan Yew,'' he added. — The Straits Times/ANN