SINGAPORE - Deliveryman Ong Eng Hue, a Teck Ghee resident, turned up for the ward's annual Chinese New Year dinner last night hoping to catch a glimpse of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
He was slightly disappointed that PM Lee, who went through surgery for prostate cancer a few days ago, could not attend the event as he was recuperating at home.
But when Mr Ong, 56, heard that PM Lee's father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, was hospitalised for severe pneumonia, and had been warded for two weeks, he was shocked. His wife, Madam Zhong Liyu, 47, cupped her hands over her mouth.
Their first question was whether the elder Mr Lee was all right, and how serious his illness was.
"During the National Day Parade last year, you could see him unsteady on his feet, so unlike the fiery person he was when he was younger," Mr Ong said worriedly.
"I admire Mr Lee for the way he helped to build Singapore into the country it is today."
His sentiments were echoed by others at the dinner, where Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min, who was standing in for PM Lee, relayed the news of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's illness to the 3,000 Ang Mo Kio GRC residents present.
For many, it was their first time hearing the news, which broke only 1½ hours before Dr Lam's announcement.
A number of residents interviewed also expressed sadness that the elder Mr Lee was not well enough to usher in Chinese New Year with his family.
Ms Sandra Yeoh, 57, who works in the finance industry, said the news surprised and saddened her.
"It is a pity they (both the elder and younger Mr Lee) couldn't celebrate and have their reunion dinner together," she said.
But Ms Ang Jia Li, 21, a student, said she was glad to hear that the elder Mr Lee's condition had stabilised.
"We would definitely keep Mr Lee in our prayers, regardless of our faiths," she said.
Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State for Education and Law and an MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, told The Sunday Times: "I and all the Tanjong Pagar grassroots leaders wish him a speedy recovery. We are certainly keeping him very much in our thoughts and prayers. Things at the Tanjong Pagar side will continue as usual."
Ms Indranee, who has been conducting Mr Lee's weekly Meet-the- People sessions at Tanjong Pagar- Tiong Bahru ward on his behalf for the past 2½ years, said it was unlikely Mr Lee would be able to attend the GRC's Chinese New Year dinner later this week, "but we will see".
"What is more important is that he should have sufficient rest to recover," she added.
Mr Zaqy Mohamad, an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said on Facebook: "Wishing Mr Lee Kuan Yew speedy recovery... Happy Lunar New Year, Mr Lee!"
Mr Inderjit Singh, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said: "We are all waiting to see him appear at the National Day celebration this year."
As for Mr Ong, he wished Mr Lee a speedy discharge from hospital, saying: "A Singapore without Mr Lee Kuan Yew would be very strange indeed."
This article was first published on February 22, 2015.
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