SINGAPORE - On the advice of his doctor - and the organising committee chairman - former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had to stay away last night from a big dinner party to celebrate his 90th birthday.
Instead, his second son, Hsien Yang, stood in for him at the dinner which was hosted at the Shangri-La Hotel by three major Chinese community organisations - the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Business China.
The former prime minister, who will turn 90 on Sept 16, had wanted to be present at the event which was attended by some 800 guests, including Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, according to his press secretary, Yeong Yoon Ying.
But he was persuaded by his doctor not to attend the dinner for "precautionary health" reasons. The dinner's organising committee chairman, Chua Thian Poh, also advised that his health was more important than turning up.
Mr Lee was to be presented the "Business China Lifetime Achievement Award" for his "exceptional contributions and commitment towards fostering Singapore-China bilateral ties".
A commemorative book titled Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore-China Relations, which was commissioned by Business China, was also unveiled.
"His strong conviction, extraordinary foresight and great wisdom have transformed Singapore from a third-world country to a modern global city," Mr Chua said of Mr Lee.
In thanking the organisers, Mr Lee's son recalled that his father, raised in a Peranakan family, learnt Mandarin only as an adult.
"Learning the language enabled my father to more effectively convey his ideas and rally political support for them," he said. "Without that, it would not have been possible to go down the path that has led Singapore to where it is today."
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