Remembering Mr Lee Kuan Yew

By Aloysius Boh and Derek Rodriguez
The NTU community mourned the passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, at an emotionally charged memorial ceremony.

There was hardly a dry eye in the Nanyang Auditorium at the memorial ceremony held in honour of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew on 25 March.

Yeo Wei Ren was one of the 3,000 people who packed the auditorium or watched the ceremony from a live feed beamed to the Tan Chin Tuan Lecture Theatre and the canopy outside it as well as on screens across the campus.

Said the first-year medicine student: “The memorial ceremony showed me that his actions went beyond setting policies. I was particularly touched when Prof Freddy Boey, the NTU Provost, choked and teared as he recounted how Mr Lee impacted his life. Even though Mr Lee’s tenure as Prime Minister was before I was born, he inspires me to give my all to Singapore.”

Prof Freddy Boey, NTU’s Provost, recounting his childhood during Singapore’s turbulent early years.

“There was an atmosphere of sombre respect and a sense of nostalgia – a feeling that our nation had lost its great founding father, and a heightened consciousness of the brevity of our existence,” said Samantha Lim, a fourth-year linguistics and multilingual studies student.

Representing the student body was Wu GuoYi, the 2015 NTU Students’ Union President, who eloquently expressed the thoughts of many in her generation through her eulogy. She said her admiration and respect for Mr Lee stemmed from the fact that he was a dutiful family man. “Mr Lee was known to be a role model to his three children, as well as a devoted and loving husband to his late wife, Mdm Kwa Geok Choo.”

GuoYi assures the late Mr Lee that Singapore’s future is in good hands.

Claire Tan, a second-year psychology major, said: “I felt humbled during the service. The speeches were especially heartfelt, and the sombre mood was a testimony to the respect Singaporeans have for Mr Lee. The speeches and videos helped me recall how his decisions, although administered at an institutional level, had such a great impact on all our lives.”

An exhibition outside the auditorium highlighted the milestones of Mr Lee’s life, particularly his good advice at various ministerial forums at NTU over the years and his deep personal interest in the university’s development.

Among the exhibits was incoming Art, Design & Media freshman Ong Yi Teck’s arresting portrait of Mr Lee, which he created by writing “Lee Kuan Yew” about 18,000 times. The portrait had gone viral on social media in the days leading up to the ceremony.

The queue to sign the condolence books.

At the end of a snaking queue, students, faculty, staff and alumni penned their tributes on condolence books. In the next few days, thousands would add their words to the books, most of them celebrating his life and Singapore’s.

Black ribbons prepared for memorial attendees in commemoration of Mr Lee, a heartwarming gesture by NTU students.

“Amidst the solemnity, there was a strong sense of cohesion among those present. However sorrowful, Mr Lee’s passing and the memorial ceremony serve as a reminder of how far we have come in 50 short years,” said second-year mechanical engineering student Benedict Ong.

Teo Liang Wei, a first-year mathematics and economics student, added: ”Although there are differing opinions about his policies and actions, there is no doubt Singapore would not be where we are now if not for Mr Lee. I am so glad that NTU organised this memorial ceremony. It allows us to gather and mourn as a community, and to remember the sacrifices he made.”

Rest in peace, Mr Lee. We will never forget all that you have done for Singapore.

Touching tributes from NTU students.
Read the moving eulogies of Prof Bertil Andersson, Prof Freddy Boey and Wu GuoYi at blogs.ntu.edu.sg/hey
Personal glimpses of the life of Mr Lee in the HEY! online gallery
This picture is worth 18,000 words

Chrystal Chan catches up with Ong Yi Teck, the soon-to-be NTU student responsible for the famous sketch of Mr Lee

Why did you decide to draw this portrait?
My parents admire Mr Lee a lot and they’d been prompting me to do it since August last year when they spotted him looking frail at the National Day Parade, but I didn’t have time and held it off. Earlier this year, the end of my National Service just happened to coincide with Mr Lee’s hospitalisation, so I realised it was the right time to start.

How long did you take to finish it?
Fifteen hours. It was done over three five-hour sittings.

When did you discover your artistic talent?
I started drawing when I was nine. My parents encouraged me to develop my talent and now I have a folder full of artwork.

How did the idea of writing Mr Lee’s name over and over come about?
As an aspiring artist, I haven’t yet discovered my signature style. I was searching for inspiration from other artists when this particular idea came about. I combined the styles of two artists. One worked on big canvases while the other worked on a smaller scale but used this “writing” style.

Why draw Mr Lee at this particular age?
I grew up remembering his face like this. Plus, I wanted to remember him this way and not in his frail state. I wanted people who view this portrait to glimpse that lively side of him.

Tell us the truth. Are there any misspellings?
Yes, there is one error. In my tiredness, I wrote “kwan” instead of “kuan”. Everyone makes mistakes, even Mr Lee, but it ultimately is about the bigger picture.