The seven-day period of mourning for Singapore’s founding Prime Minister moves into a more formal phase on Wednesday (Mar 25), when the body of Mr Lee Kuan Yew will be transferred from Sri Temasek – the Prime Minister’s official residence on the Istana grounds – to Parliament House where it will lie in state until Saturday.
Mr Lee’s casket will be carried on a ceremonial gun carriage in a solemn procession that will see it traverse the lawns of the Istana, before making its way through parts of the Central Business District.
In doing so, it will afford Singaporeans, who have thus far travelled in droves to the various tribute centres nationwide, a way to pay their last respects in person to a man who has touched many lives.
Preparations for the lying-in-state began on Tuesday, with barricades for queues and tentages for people to go through security scans set up outside Parliament House.
COMPANIES GIVING STAFF TIME OFF
A huge turnout is expected, with organisations and companies making plans to ferry their members and employees, respectively, to the venue. Credit Suisse and DBS, for example, are understood to have chartered buses to provide transport for employees from their offices.
Several firms, including BNP Paribas Singapore, Standard Chartered Bank Singapore and law firm Rajah & Tann, have also allowed their staff to take time off from work to pay their respects. Staff of the National Trades Union Congress can also request for time off, subject to work exigencies, its spokesperson said.
A BNP Paribas Singapore spokesperson said: “Mr Lee was instrumental in building Singapore into the key financial hub it is today and we believe that it is important for our employees to have the chance to pay their last respects to the founding father of this successful nation.”
StanChart Singapore CEO Neeraj Swaroop added: “Mr Lee Kuan Yew had dedicated himself to build a nation where there was none, pursued a vision for Singapore, and built a first class country that every Singaporean should be proud of ... For a man who had done so much for Singapore, this is the least that we can do.”
GUN CARRIAGE MOVEMENT
At 9am, a coffin bearer party – led by Brigadier-General Ong Tze-Ch’in, Commander 3rd Division, and comprising eight officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Police Force – will drape the state flag over Mr Lee’s casket, the highest state honour accorded to a leader. The coffin bearers would carry the casket and make their way to the gun carriage waiting just outside the entrance of Sri Temasek.
Eight pallbearers, made up of people who had worked for Mr Lee at the Istana and in his Office, would be behind the carriage as part of a 70m foot procession. The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Band would play Beethoven Funeral March No 1 during the procession, which would be led by his family members including Mr Lee’s three children – Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang – and seven grandchildren.
The carriage will pass by a military line of honour comprising 48 personnel from the SAF Military Police Command, and 20 representatives from Mr Lee’s Tanjong Pagar ward and Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s Teck Ghee ward.
After the foot procession, the carriage will proceed towards the Istana main building, making its way past a garden. A dozen Istana landscape technicians and horticulturalists would be lined up along the entrance to the garden.
At The Istana Plaza, President Tony Tan and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will offer their respects, along with 90 staff from the President’s Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, and 24 Ceremonial Guards. As the carriage comes to a stop, a bag piper from the Singapore Gurkha Contingent will play Auld Lang Syne.
The carriage will then make its way out of the Istana grounds, with 24 Ceremonial Guards from the SAF Military Police Command forming a line of honour at the main gate as a mark of respect to the Republic’s first Prime Minister.
Leaving the Istana, the carriage will pass through Orchard Road, Bras Basah Road and North Bridge Road enroute to Parliament House where the casket would be received by the Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng, Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yaacob, as well as the Prime Minister and the rest of the family.
MOUNTING OF VIGIL GUARDS
Unlike previous state funerals for the country’s leaders, the state funeral for Mr Lee will see, for the first time, the tri-service chiefs – Chief of Army Perry Lim, Chief of Navy Lai Chung Han and Chief of Air Force, Major-General Hoo Cher Mou – being part of the first Vigil Guards, which will also consist of Lieutenant-General Ng and Major-General Chia Choon Hoong, Chief of Staff-Joint Staff. The traditional mounting of Vigil Guards during the lying in state period symbolises the highest form of respect accorded to the deceased.
Mr Lee’s friends and former colleagues will also hold vigil at Parliament House. They will be joined by representatives from various national agencies, as a reflection of his diverse contributions to nation-building, the Government said.
Members of the public who wish to pay their last respects at Parliament House can do so from 10am to 8pm daily from Wednesday to Saturday. A state funeral service will be held on Sunday afternoon at the National University of Singapore’s University Cultural Centre.