Final journey through Singapore for Mr Lee today

Final journey through Singapore for Mr Lee today

The endless queue of visitors lining up to pay their respects to the country's founding Prime Minister was finally closed last night, setting the stage for Singapore to give Mr Lee Kuan Yew a final farewell today.

Some 1,000 Singapore Armed Forces servicemen were deployed to clear the Padang. Their task was to work through the night to dismantle 360 tents and shift 2,000 barricades so that four ceremonial 25-pounder Howitzer guns can be moved onto the Padang for a 21-gun salute.

The Padang and City Hall provide a fitting stage for the nation to give a solemn send-off to Mr Lee, who died on Monday, aged 91.

It is the site of many a historic event in this nation's past - the declaration of self-government in 1959, the introduction of the national flag, anthem and state crest later that year, the announcement of Singapore's independence in 1965 and the first National Day Parade a year later.

Mr Lee himself was instrumental in those moments.

Over the past four days, some 450,000 people queued for up to 10 hours to pay their respects in person to Mr Lee.

Another million people had visited 18 community tribute sites islandwide by 9pm yesterday.

Today, many will line the streets around the Padang and down Shenton Way to Tanjong Pagar, Bukit Merah, Queenstown and Commonwealth as a ceremonial gun carriage makes its journey to the University Cultural Centre (UCC) in Clementi for Mr Lee's state funeral service.

Mr Lee's funeral will also be marked abroad, with India and New Zealand flying their flags at half-mast today.

The state funeral procession will begin at 12.30pm, when Mr Lee's casket will be carried onto a ceremonial gun carriage and transported out of Parliament House in a solemn procession.

The cortege will make its way to Parliament Place, and as it journeys around the Padang, the Republic of Singapore Air Force's Black Knights will do an aerial salute.

Two navy patrol vessels will conduct a ceremonial sailpast at sea off Marina Barrage and sound three prolonged horn blasts as the procession passes the Padang.

The cortege will then travel past the new and old National Trades Union Congress buildings, where thousands of workers will gather to bid farewell to Mr Lee, who began his career fighting for trade unions.

Mr Gary Haris, 40, of the Union of Security Employees, plans to line the route alongside other unionists from 9am. "Mr Lee's leadership and dedication have touched many of us and given us better living and working conditions. This is the least we can do for him," he said.

Many in Mr Lee's Tanjong Pagar constituency plan to line the streets there, and Singapore Police Force bagpipers will play Auld Lang Syne as the procession passes by the Police Cantonment Complex.

The 15.4km procession is expected to take under an hour, and will be broadcast live on national TV, online, as well as at all community centres and tribute sites.

The procession will arrive at the UCC shortly before 2pm for the funeral service, which top leaders from more than 20 countries will attend alongside family members and 2,000 invited guests.

Mr Lee's son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will be the first of 10 people who will deliver eulogies. At the end of the service, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will sound a siren islandwide for everyone to observe a minute of silence, before the pledge is recited and the national anthem sung.

"This rallying call is befitting of members of the public to mark our deepest respect for a remarkable leader," said Colonel Abdul Razak Raheem of the SCDF.

The one-minute silence will also be observed at border checkpoints, and on departing buses and trains.

PM Lee yesterday thanked the last visitors queueing at the Padang and said of today's procession and service: "We have a ceremony which will be a fitting tribute and a fitting mourning and celebration of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's life."

zakirh@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Tham Yuen-C


This article was first published on March 29, 2015.
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