He left his mark on them

This article is more than 12 months old

In a special Parliamentary sitting yesterday, 11 Members of Parliament paid tribute to founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on Monday. They also shared personal anecdotes on how Mr Lee made an impact on their lives. Here are some of their stories

It was a special sitting at the packed House yesterday.

Among those present were Mr Lee's family who included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Madam Ho Ching. Also present were Mr Lee's daughter Lee Wei Ling and his younger son Lee Hsien Yang and his wife, Madam Lee Suet Fern.

A bouquet of white flowers had been placed on Mr Lee's vacant seat.

Opening the session, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said: "With a heavy heart, I wish to place on record the demise of Mr Lee Kuan Yew."

She described his demise as a "great loss to Parliament and the people of Singapore".

The session ended with a minute of silence as a mark of respect.

Here are vignettes from six MPs:

'He phoned her every night, even when she couldn't reply'


Defence Minister, Leader of the House and MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC

For every night that Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his delegation spent in Malaysia on an official trip, he made it a point to speak to his wife, Mrs Lee (Madam Kwa Geok Choo) on the phone, Dr Ng recalled.

This was in 2009.

Due to previous strokes, Mrs Lee could not speak, but she remained conscious and aware.

Mr Lee had made it a routine to speak and read to her each night and he did not want to break the routine on that long trip, said Dr Ng.

His voice breaking, Dr Ng said: "We stood aside to respect their privacy, but that image of Mr Lee, hunched over the phone speaking to Mrs Lee, who could not speak back, will stay with me for a very long time as a simple but pure picture of true devotion."

Then, there was the plan to celebrate Mr Lee's 90th birthday on Sept 16, 2013 - and there was a Parliament sitting that day.

Dr Ng said he had called on Mr Lee at the Istana earlier and told him about the plans. Mr Lee said he would be present.

But when that day came, "a dehydrated and weakened" Mr Lee had to be hospitalised and be put on a drip.

"Doctors advised Mr Lee not to attend Parliament.

"We were informed and called off our plans," said Dr Ng.

But just as Parliament adjourned, Mr Lee entered the Chamber - on intravenous nutrition and in a wheelchair.

"That September 16, this House had the last privilege to wish him happy birthday together."

Dr Ng added: "I found out later that he over-ruled his doctors, saying that he must attend Parliament because he had given his commitment.

"At age 90, frail and dehydrated, Mr Lee kept his word to be here."

'100 years, very difficult'


MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC

Speaking in Mandarin, Mr Seng told the House that it was a yearly ritual for the MPs to present Mr Lee with a card on his birthday.

On Mr Lee's 88th birthday, Mr Seng handed over the card and wished him "chang ming bai sui" (a long life until 100 years old in Chinese).

Mr Lee smiled and said: "Ninety years old is not a problem, but 100 years old will be very difficult."

He had, said Mr Seng, drawn that conclusion from his family history: Mr Lee's father had lived till 94 years old and his mother, to 69.

'He nagged at me to rest when I was ill'


MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC

Mr Wong had the chance to experience Mr Lee's caring nature.

When Mr Lee learnt that Mr Wong had been seemingly diagnosed with transient ischemic attack (TIA), he called the former Deputy Prime Minister on the phone.

He said: "On hearing that I was attending a dinner, he nagged me to go home... as I might suffer a stroke if I did not go back to rest."

Mr Lee also named a doctor and insisted that Mr Wong see the cardiologist, and later neurologists.

"It turned out that I had no TIA. I was relieved and I believe he was very relieved too," Mr Wong said.

'Women walk safe because of him'


Minister of State, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communications and Information, MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC

Women today can walk on the streets without fearing for their safety, enjoy a freedom that is yet to be fully realised in other societies, be educated and get jobs.

This is all made possible because of our founding PM, said Ms Sim Ann.

Paying homage to him in Mandarin, she said: "Mr Lee has never described himself as a feminist, yet his policies had made an immense difference to women."

She also pointed out that Mr and Mrs Lee's loving and lasting union set an excellent example for many families. More importantly, his respect for women set the tone for gender equality in society.

"He believed that traditional notions of male dominance and men refusing to marry their equals were outdated, and must change with times."

'If not for him, I wouldn't be what I am today'


Nominated MP

Some may call Mr Lee arrogant, ambitious or even ruthless and unforgiving, she said.

But Ms Chia Yong Yong, who has peroneal muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, is convinced that if not for Mr Lee, she would not be what she is today - a lawyer and the president of the Society for the Physically Disabled.

"As for me, I am convinced that if I were born in Singapore in an earlier era, or if I were born in a similar era, but in another Asian country... being a girl with a disability (and) coming from a poor family with no connections, I would not have been able to go to school, enter a profession and serve the community today," said Ms Chia.

'He kept asking me 'what have you learnt today?'


MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC

Mr Christopher De Souza, the youngest MP in the 2006 batch, described Mr Lee as a mentor who encouraged him whenever there was an opportunity.

He recalled how on official visits to Indonesia and India with Mr and Mrs Lee, "in between the official meetings and calls, when it was just the Singapore delegation, he would ask over dinner or in the corridor or in his hotel room, 'Are you learning? What have you learnt?'

"He was a mentor and he encouraged."


Lee Kuan Yewparliamentdr ng eng henmr seng han thongmr wong kan sengMs sim anneulogy