Thousands stood in line for a third day to pay their respects to Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew as a rehearsal was held Friday morning for the funeral that will draw leaders from the U.S., India and Japan.
Almost 150,000 people have waited for as long as 10 hours to pay tribute to Lee as his body lies in state at Parliament House. Sunday’s funeral will cap a week of mourning for Lee, who died Monday at 91 after being hospitalized for pneumonia.
“We only appreciate how much he’s done for Singapore and us after his death,” said Chow Yew Tuck, 40, who joined the line Friday morning after prompting from his five-year-old daughter Beth, who said she will miss Lee after watching television footage of him from the early days.
Lee, who led the island from 1959 to 1990, turned Singapore into Southeast Asia’s richest nation by opening it to foreign investment while running a tightly controlled state that emphasized incorruptibility and stability. Leaders including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former U.S. President Bill Clinton are set to attend the funeral on Sunday.
The line to Parliament House snaked through the financial district as people ranging from children in school uniforms to elderly in wheelchairs waited to catch a glimpse of Lee’s coffin draped in the red and white state flag. Some queued through the night after the government allowed 24-hour access.
“We just want to pay our last respects,” Henry Ong, the managing director of Winston Engineering Corp., said as he stood in line with about 20 of his workers. “He’s a great man; everybody agrees that without him we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
The Asian edition of Time magazine dated April 6 featured Lee on its cover. Members of parliament and cabinet ministers wore black and white with black ribbons pinned to their chests on Thursday at a special sitting to pay tribute to Lee, the longest serving member of about six decades.
The state funeral procession is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. local time on Sunday and will be broadcast live on national TV, according to the official website set up for tributes to Lee. It will cover a distance of 15.4 kilometers (9.6 miles) and pass landmarks including the Old Parliament House and City Hall.
“I’m extremely privileged to be living in Singapore and I want to pay my respects to such a fantastic, fantastic person,” said Renata Janini Dohmen, 44-year-old Brazilian who has lived in Singapore for the past four years. “I’ve been very welcomed here and very well-respected. This is possible due to his legacy and that foreigners are welcome to the country.”