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Prez Mukherjee condoles demise of Lee Kuan Yew, says Asia will mourn loss of towering leader

ANI  |  New Delhi 

President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday condoled the passing away of Singapore's founding father and first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and said Asia will mourn the loss of a towering leader.

President Mukherjee took to Twitter for the condolence message.

"Heartfelt condolences on sad demise of former PM Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, Asia will mourn the loss of a towering leader".

Yew, the founding father and first prime minister of Singapore, who transformed that tiny island outpost into one of the wealthiest and least corrupt countries in Asia, died on Monday morning. He was 91.

His son and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement that appeared on his official web site, "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."

Yew was prime minister of Singapore from 1959, when Singapore gained full self-government from the British, until 1990, when he stepped down.

He, however, continued to remain a dominant personality and driving force in what he called a First World oasis in a Third World region.

The nation reflected the man: efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking and pragmatic.

His leadership was sometimes criticized for suppressing freedom, but the formula succeeded. Singapore became an international business and financial center admired for its efficiency and low level of corruption.

An election in 2011 marked the end of the Lee Kuan Yew era, with a voter revolt against the ruling People's Action Party. Lee resigned from the specially created post of minister mentor and stepped into the background as the nation began exploring the possibilities of a more engaged and less autocratic government.

Yew who was also known by his English name, Harry Lee, was born in Singapore on September 16, 1923, to a fourth-generation, middle-class Chinese family.

He worked as a translator and engaged in black market trading during the Japanese occupation in World War II, then went to Britain, where he earned a law degree in 1949 from Cambridge University. In 1950 he married Kwa Geok Choo, a fellow law student from Singapore. She died in 2010.

After serving as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, Lee was followed by two handpicked successors, Goh Chok Tong and Lee's eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong, who, groomed for the job, has been prime minister since 2004.

Besides the prime minister, Lee is survived by his younger son, Lee Hsien Yang, who is the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore; a daughter, Dr. Lee Wei Ling, who runs the Neuroscience Institute; a younger brother, Suan Yew; and a younger sister, Monica.

Ho Ching, the wife of the prime minister, is executive director and chief executive of Temasek Holdings, a government holding company.

First Published: Mon, March 23 2015. 12:36 IST