LKY mourner: He's going even though he can't see

 LKY mourner: He's going even though he can't see
UNDAUNTED: Mr Khoo Kong Ngian, 67, who is visually handicapped, wants to be at the roadside for the funeral procession.

With his trusty walking stick and the support of his wife, he made his way on Thursday morning to Parliament House, where Mr Lee Kuan Yew is lying in state.

But the mood was so sombre that visually handicapped Khoo Kong Ngian, who relies on his hearing to discern what is happening, became confused.

"I didn't know what was going on, but I prayed and chanted for him. I felt closer to him even though I cannot see," the 67-year-old retiree recalls.

He spent more than an hour in the priority queue, but had been fully prepared to queue for longer than that.

"It's quite problematic for me to take the bus to get there and I always need to trouble someone to be my guide," says the former army captain.

Mr Khoo developed an eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa in 2000 which resulted in him becoming blind over the years.

The wait on Thursday was made worse when the couple accidentally joined the queue of people exiting Parliament House.

This meant that they had to join the priority queue all over again, but thankfully, it was short at that time.

Mr Khoo wants to be at the roadside to observe the funeral procession today. It is because of one memory he has of Mr Lee on the Istana lawn in the early 70s, when he was an officer at the Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute (Safti).

Singapore had separated from Malaysia a few years back and its military, established by then Prime Minister Lee, was still at its infancy.

Mr Khoo was there to prepare for a passing out parade by Safti cadets when he bumped into Mr Lee.

"I said 'Good morning, Sir' and saluted him. It turned out that I was heading in the same direction as him, so we walked side by side. I was absolutely terrified."

As they walked together quietly, a teenage cadet appeared in front of them.

Recalls Mr Khoo: "The cadet was his elder son Lee Hsien Loong. He was also there to prepare for the parade and was rushing past us."


Then PM Lee stopped his son and chided him. Mr Khoo says: "He said, 'Cadet, you didn't respect your officer.' He was stern and didn't refer to (Lee Hsien Loong) by name or 'son'."

The cadet saluted Mr Khoo immediately.

"I returned the salute and remember being quite shocked. I've always regarded him as a strict and impartial man."

Now, he wants to return the favour to Mr Lee by being there for the final farewell, however difficult it might be.

His son, an army captain, is one of the vigil guards at Parliament House guarding Mr Lee's coffin and is showing his superior the same respect Mr Lee demanded from his son, says Mr Khoo.

"Even if I can't understand what's happening, I don't mind taking the extra effort to be there."

This article was first published on Mar 29, 2015.
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