The health condition of Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew weakened further on Sunday as he battles severe pneumonia in hospital, the government said. The 91-year-old, one of Asia's towering post-colonial leaders, has been in the Singapore General Hospital for more than six weeks and is being aided by mechanical ventilation, a form of life support.
"Mr Lee Kuan Yew has weakened further today," said a statement from the office of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who visited him in hospital. The government earlier said the patriarch was critically ill.
Hundreds of floral tributes and cards dedicated to Lee have piled up outside the hospital as Singaporeans displayed affection for the British-educated lawyer who steered the city-state to prosperity but is also criticised for his iron-fisted rule.
Singapore media reported that the prime minister mingled early Sunday with well-wishers outside the hospital block where his father was being cared for under tight security. The elder Lee was prime minister from 1959, when colonial ruler Britain granted Singapore self-rule, to 1990.
He led Singapore to independence in 1965 after a brief and stormy union with Malaysia. He stepped down as prime minister in favour of his deputy Goh Chok Tong, who in turn handed the reins to Lee's eldest child in 2004.
The former leader is still an MP for the port district of Tanjong Pagar, but retired from advisory roles in government in 2011. In a book published in 2013, Lee said he was feeling weaker by the day and wants a quick death.
He rapidly began to look feeble after his wife of 63 years, Kwa Geok Choo, died in 2010, and has rarely appeared in public in the last two years. Lee has signed an Advance Medical Directive, a legal document instructing doctors not to use any life-sustaining treatment if he cannot be resuscitated.
Mr Lee, who turned 91 last September, has been warded in the intensive care unit of Singapore General Hospital (SGH) with severe pneumonia since Feb 5.
Many Singaporeans have gathered at the Singapore General Hospital where Mr Lee is warded to show support and leave notes and gifts. Grassroots leaders at Tanjong Pagar GRC, where Mr Lee is an MP, have also set aside the Tanjong Pagar Community Club art gallery as a space for the public to place get-well cards and gifts.