By: Jovi Ho & Shah Kyle Malinda
Thousands thronged the culture city-centre of Bras Basah to pay their respects to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew as his body was to be carried from the Istana to Parliament House for the public wake.
As the gun carriage brought Lee’s coffin down Bras Basah Road and North Bridge Road, the myriad of buildings in the periphery hold memories related to the late Lee or were products of policies he implemented.
Pavements were barricaded.
As the livestream started on television, foot traffic came to a standstill.
As the casket came out of the Istana main gate…
… it passed by Plaza Singapura…
Largely credited to be a pioneering mall that combined an all-in-one concept (remember Ponderosa, Yaohan & Do Re Mi?), this was also the place where the late Mrs Lee Kuan Yew sent her granddaughter Li Xiuqi to the Yamaha school for holiday courses.
… and Macdonald House…
After a controversial Konfrontasi led in Singapore executing both Indonesian perpetrators of the Macdonald House bombings, then-Prime Minister Lee was advised by Singapore ambassador to Indonesia Lee Khoon Choy that Indonesian generals reported a “serious obstacle to sincere friendship” due to the incident.
So, to address Javanese beliefs in souls and a clear conscience, Lee took time out of a state visit to Indonesia to visit the graves of the two soldiers who were executed, to scatter flowers on their graves. It was widely seen as a surprising move and one that sweetened diplomatic ties between both countries.
… and School of the Arts…
Due to his participation in the J.P. Morgan International Council, the firm created a Lee Kuan Yew-J.P. Morgan Grant to help fourth- and fifth-year students receive financial assistance to ake part in overseas programmes.
J.P. Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon said the grant was given “in recognition of (Lee’s) legacy as a statesman and a visionary leader”.
… down the Bras Basah stretch…
In a 2006 speech while opening the Li Ka Shing library in the Singapore Management University, Mr Lee noted how the Bras Basah belt was continuing on its legacy of having institutions of learning within proximity of cultural monuments.
“A generation ago, this area in Bras Basah was home to some of the most established schools in Singapore. Raffles Institution, St. Joseph’s Institution, Raffles Girls School, CHIJ and Catholic High shared and contributed to the buzz of the area,” said Lee.
“Bras Basah’s pre-eminence as a centre for education is being restored with the Singapore Management University’s new city campus. With the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts, and the School of the Arts, the area will once again be an enclave for learning, creative expression and youthful exuberance.”
… down North Bridge Road…
The stretch is a successful case-study of conservation in a city centre, where Chijmes and the refurbished Capital Towers complex were fruits of a vision by Mr Lee to not let history be obliterated by progress.
He even commended Mr Alan Choe, chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority in 1967 for his initiative in identfying monuments for conservation such as the Fatimah Mosque.
“I’m pleased that we redeveloped the city when there was a chance to do it… and the big heritage sites in the city, like Fullerton, we left those alone. That was the chance of a lifetime.”
… and finally down the City Hall stretch to Parliament House.
Against the backdrop of City Hall, this was the location where Mr Lee Kuan Yew did the three things that impacted Singapore’s future: the declaration of self-governance in 1959, the separation from British rule in 1963 and the declaration of Singapore’s independence in 1965.
This was where he rallied Singaporeans to shout the independence slogan, “Merdeka”.
From then on, it was no looking back.