Singapore Former PM Lee Kuan Yew Passes Away

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Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister and architect of the tiny south-east Asian city-state's rapid rise from British tropical outpost to global trade and financial centre, died on Monday, aged 91, the government announced. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr. Lee's son, confirmed the country's founding father had died in a post on his Facebook page.

"The Prime Minister is deeply grieved to announce the passing of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding Prime Minister of Singapore. Mr. Lee passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital today at 3.18 am. He was 91," the post read.

"Arrangements for the public to pay respects and for the funeral proceedings will be announced later."

Mr. Lee has been in hospital with severe pneumonia since February 5. Singapore residents have been leaving flowers, cards and other gifts at the Singapore General Hospital to show support for him.

One of the prominent political figures in modern Asian history, Mr Lee is widely credited with transforming Singapore into a financial powerhouse with one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. 

"Harry" Lee became Singapore's first prime minister in 1959 and held onto power for over three decades, overseeing the island's transformation from a malaria-infested backwater into one of Asia's most prosperous nations.

Even after stepping down as leader, the fiery Mr. Lee was never far from the decision making process, holding a cabinet level post until 2011. He was a member of parliament until his death and subsequently as "minister mentor" when his eldest son Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister in 2004.

Mr. Lee combined market-friendly policies with strict controls over the press, free speech and his political opponents. He was hailed by some as a visionary and criticized by others as authoritarian, a leader who would brook no dissent and hounded his political rivals through the courts.

Mr. Lee's death and his son's expected retirement within the next few years will mark the end of an era, but industry leaders say any change of the guard will have little impact on business in the city-state, renowned for its robust institutions. Reuters

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