March 17, 2015
By Bhavan Jaipragas
THE 91-year-old former prime minister -- widely credited with transforming Singapore from an economic backwater to one of Asia's
wealthiest economies -- has been in Singapore General Hospital since February 5, on life support at the intensive care unit and receiving treatment for severe pneumonia.
"Mr Lee Kuan Yew's condition has worsened due to an infection. He is on antibiotics. The doctors are closely monitoring his condition," said a statement from the office of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The government said on February 21 that Lee was stable but breathing with the help of "mechanical ventilation", a form of life support.
The elder Lee modernised the economy but rights advocates have criticised the British-trained lawyer for his iron-fisted rule,
which has seen political opponents jailed or driven to bankruptcy through costly libel suits.
He served as prime minister from 1959, when Singapore gained self-rule from Britain before a brief and stormy union with Malaysia, until he stepped down in 1990 in favour of his deputy
Goh Chok Tong. Goh in turn handed the reins to Lee Hsien Loong in 2004.
The People's Action Party (PAP), which was co-founded by the elder Lee, has been returned to power in every election since 1959 and
currently holds 80 of the 87 seats in parliament.
In a book published in 2013, the Asian statesman said he feels weaker by the day and wants a quick death.
The longtime fitness buff has visibly slowed since his wife of 63 years Kwa Geok Choo died in 2010.
In a newspaper column in 2011, Lee's physician daughter Lee Wei Ling revealed that he had been battling a neurological disease
that makes it difficult for him to walk.
Lee's last high-profile public appearance was in November, when despite requiring assistance to walk and stand, he momentarily stood to receive a standing ovation at the 60th
anniversary of the founding of the PAP.
He is still an MP for the port district of Tanjong Pagar but retired from advisory roles in government in 2011.
He held the special cabinet positions of senior minister and later "minister mentor" after stepping down as premier.
Despite being largely out of the public eye in recent years, Lee remains revered by many Singaporeans.
Many took to social media in recent weeks to voice messages of support.
On February 25 government officials and state-linked media were forced to quash late-night rumours that he had died.
Lee's health worsened as Singapore ramped up preparations for a grand celebration of its 50th anniversary of independence from Malaysia on August 9, 1965.
On Tuesday nearly 1600 people wrote messages of support on Lee Hsien Loong's Facebook page after he posted the latest statement on his father's condition.
"Be strong and hope you can recover from your illness Mr Lee Kuan Yew. SG50 will be pitiful if you aren't there with us," wrote Muhammad Zhafran, referring to the independence day celebrations.
Others wished Lee well, with the hashtag #GetwellsoonLKY, referring to his initials.
In a Facebook post on March 13, Lee Hsien Loong said "my family and I are deeply touched" by the messages of support.
Some had sent the elder Lee paintings and cards wishing him well.
"We've arranged the cards in his office, to welcome him back when he's better," the younger Lee said.
Lee Hsien Loong, 63, was himself discharged from hospital on
February 18 after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer. His doctor has said he should make a full recovery.