Tribute cards headed for library archives

Tribute cards headed for library archives
Flowers and cards left at the Tanjong Pagar tribute site by people who paid their last respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew last week. The gifts left by bereft Singaporeans who thronged the 18 tribute sites across the island filled hundreds of large boxes, volunteers said.

The hundreds of thousands of cards that Singaporeans have written on the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the past week of national mourning will be sent to the National Library Board to be archived.

A selection of the cards collected from the Istana tribute site will be exhibited at the National Museum of Singapore starting today, said a spokesman for the National Heritage Board.

Meanwhile, the gifts - from handmade cards and posters to knick-knacks and craftwork - have been boxed up and will be delivered to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his family.

On Sunday, immediately after the 18 tribute sites across the island were closed at 6pm, People's Association (PA) staff and volunteers started sorting and packing the memorabilia left by people who paid their last respects.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who was Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990, died on March 23, aged 91.

The gifts left by bereft Singaporeans who thronged the tribute sites filled hundreds of large boxes, volunteers said.

At the Tampines tribute site, handmade posters left by students from nearby schools formed a stack 2m tall.

About 1,000 condolence books were filled up all together at sites across the island.

At Tanjong Pagar, Mr Lee's lifelong political base, 80 volunteers at the community club worked until 11.30pm on Sunday to return things to normal.

The big clean-up marked the end of an unprecedented period of national mourning that those working behind the scenes at the tribute centres said will stay with them forever.

In all, 1.2 million people went to the 18 sites over the week. The Tanjong Pagar and Ang Mo Kio centres had the most visitors.

Last Friday night, when the line to file past Mr Lee's casket at Parliament House was temporarily suspended for safety reasons, the crowds at the Tanjong Pagar tribute site swelled by five times.

PA group constituency director Tang Chi Ming, 43, recalled that "when we pressed the panic button, 50 more volunteers came to help out within an hour".

Volunteers stood ready across the island. At Sengkang, warehouse supervisor Johnson Ong, 57, ushered the crowds last Saturday night even though he was on medical leave for heart surgery last month.

The volunteers needed to be focused and efficient so that Singaporeans could grieve, said Tampines Central grassroots leader Alvin Yeo, 31, a teacher.

"I thought to myself that if I was going to help, I could not be distraught," he said.

Ms Rita Zuhaida, 28, a PA constituency manager in East Coast, said: "It was a call of duty, so I focused on getting things done and making sure people had a good experience in our centre."

As Mr Tang had to keep the Tanjong Pagar tribute centre running, he could not go to Parliament House, where Mr Lee's body lay in state.

"I told myself that what I was doing was also a form of paying respect. If I did it well, more people would get to pay their respects to Mr Lee."

rchang@sph.com.sg

yuenc@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on March 31, 2015.
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