Lee Kuan Yew, the 'founding father of Singapore', has died

Lee Kuan Yew in 2013. Photo: Getty / File

Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister and the man widely seen as the island nation’s founding father, has died aged 91.

Lee’s son, current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, announced his father’s death in a statement, saying he was “deeply grieved to announce the passing”.

Lee died in Singapore General Hospital after an illness. As his condition deteriorated over the past week Singaporeans have been massing at the hospital to pay tribute.

Lee ruled Singapore for three decades until 1990, but continued to work in government circles until recently. The country became famous under his rule for its tough criminal laws, which include a ban on chewing gum and tough penalties for jaywalking. In recent years the country has become more liberal but still exercises strong press controls and runs a capital punishment regime for some crimes.

Under Lee’s rule Singapore split from Malaysia and transformed from a small port city into one of the world’s wealthiest and most strategically important trade hubs, with its GDP per capita outstripping that of Japan over the past decade.

Singapore celebrates 50 years of independence this year.

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