Founding Father of Singapore Dead at 91

Authoritarian Lee Kuan Yew was feared and respected
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 22, 2015 4:24 PM CDT
Updated Mar 22, 2015 4:30 PM CDT
Founding Father of Singapore Dead at 91
Well wishers place flowers, messages of support, and prayers for Lee Kuan Yew at Singapore General Hospital where he has been warded for the last 6 weeks on March 22, 2015 in Singapore.   (Joseph Nair)

Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore who helped transform the sleepy port into one of the world's richest nations, died today, the government says. He was 91. Lee was admitted to Singapore General Hospital on Feb. 5 for severe pneumonia and was later put on life support. The Prime Minister's Office says in a statement on its website that Lee "passed away peacefully" at 3:18am. Lee was feared for his authoritarian tactics but insisted that strict limits on speech and public protest were necessary to maintain stability in the multiethnic and multi-religious country. He guided Singapore for 31 years until 1990, making it into a global trade and finance center.

Lee's legacy includes an efficient government with little corruption, low tax rates to attract foreign investment, excellent schools, and safe streets. He has faced criticism, though, for using tough tactics to consolidate power. Lee jailed some political rivals without trial for decades and brought defamation lawsuits against journalists and opposition politicians. Lee commanded immense respect among Singaporeans, who this year will celebrate the country's 50th independence anniversary. The Prime Minister's Office said arrangements for the public to pay respects and funeral arrangements will be announced later. (More Singapore stories.)

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