Tears and tributes for founding father of Singapore

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Singaporeans wept and world leaders paid tribute as the city-state mourned the death of its founding father Lee Kuan Yew.

The government announced that Mr Lee, 91, “passed away peacefully” several hours before dawn at Singapore General Hospital.

An increasingly frail Mr Lee was admitted to hospital early last month February with severe pneumonia.

State television broke away from regular programming with a hagiographic tribute to Mr Lee. In a live broadcast, one of its reporters called the death the “awful and dreaded” news.

Mr Lee commanded immense respect, and sometimes fear, from Singaporeans.

He led multiracial Singapore with an iron grip for more than three decades until 1990, and is credited with transforming the resource-poor island into a wealthy, bustling financial hub with low crime and almost zero corruption.

His son, the current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, struggled to hold back tears in a televised address to the nation.

The prime minister said Mr Lee built a nation and gave Singaporeans a proud national identity. “We won’t see another man like him. To many Singaporeans, and indeed others too, Lee Kuan Yew was Singapore,” he said.

US president Barack Obama called Mr Lee a “visionary” who helped build one of the most prosperous countries in the world. In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei described him as “an Asian politician with unique influence as well as a strategist imbued with eastern values and an international perspective”.