Founding Father of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, Dies at 91

Image: Singapore vigil for Lee Kuan Yew
People pay tribute Sunday outside Singapore General Hospital, where elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew died Monday at age 91.ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP - Getty Images

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Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore, who steered the southeast Asian island nation from British colonial rule to one of the richest countries in the world, died Monday morning at 91, his son, the current prime minister, announced. The government gave no cause of death, but Lee had been in the hospital with pneumonia for more than 1½ months.

Tens of thousands of Singaporeans have filed past Singapore General Hospital in the last few weeks leaving placards and floral tributes for Lee, who became the country's first prime minister in 1959 and ruled for 31 years.

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Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee's son, said on Facebook that he was touched by the parade of well-wishers.

"There were many cards, flowers and other gifts," the prime minister wrote on his Facebook page. "Glad I had a chance to meet and thank well-wishers for their support."

Lee was widely known as "Singapore's George Washington," having won eight straight victories beginning with Singapore's and Malaya's independence from Britain — they merged as Malaysia in 1963 — and overseeing Singapore's subsequent separation from Malaysia as an independent nation separate two years later.

Under Lee's stewardship, Singapore grew into one of the "Asian Tiger" economic powerhouses, with the 11th-highest per-capita gross national product in the world when he stepped down in 1990, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later, the government said.


— M. Alex Johnson