On 5 February 2015, Lee was hospitalised with "severe pneumonia" and was put on a ventilator at the intensive care unit of Singapore General Hospital, although his condition was reported as "stable".A 26 February update stated that he was again being given antibiotics, while being sedated and still under mechanical ventilation.
From 17 to 22 March, Lee continued weakening as he suffered an infection while on life support, and he was described as "critically ill".
He died at 3:18 a.m. Monday at Singapore General Hospital, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office. He entered the hospital on Feb. 5 for pneumonia.
Well-wishers lay flowers and cards outside Singapore General Hospital after he became critically ill
Between 1959 and 1990, Lee steered the city through crises in relations with neighbors Indonesia and Malaysia, clamped down on instability at home and became a strong ally of the U.S. Economic growth turned Singapore into the world’s largest container port, as well as the biggest producer of oil rigs. Lee's elder son, Lee Hsien Loong, has been prime minister since 2004, and said in the statement he’s “deeply grieved.”
“Mr. Lee almost single-handedly built up Singapore into one of the most astonishing economic success stories of our times, and he did so in the face of constant threats to his tiny state’s security and indeed existence,” former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said in “Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World,” her 2002 book.
She said Lee became “the most trenchant, convincing and courageous opponent of left-wing Third World nonsense” in the 53 nations that comprise the Commonwealth, an organization with roots in the British Empire.
Lee ran a tightly controlled state with an economy based on private enterprise, encouraging foreign investment and emphasizing discipline, efficiency, cleanliness, correct public behavior and interracial harmony. Singapore is the only country in Asia with triple-A ratings from Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings.
Lee retreated from politics after the People’s Action Party that he co-founded won elections in May 2011 with the smallest margin of the popular vote since independence in 1965. He stepped down from his cabinet position of Minister Mentor a week after the elections and resigned from the party’s top decision-making body in October 2011.
After stepping down as prime minister in 1990, Lee remained prominent in politics and said he would be prepared to speak up on concerns about the direction the city-state is taking.
“Even from my sick bed, even if you are going to lower me into the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up,” the Straits Times cited him as saying at the National Day Rally speech in 1988. “Those who believe that after I have left the government as prime minister, I will go into a permanent retirement, really should have their heads examined.”
When Lee was 86, he was diagnosed with sensory peripheral neuropathy, which impaired feeling in his legs, his daughter Lee Wei Ling, a former director at the National Neuroscience Institute in Singapore, wrote in a column in the Sunday Times in November 2011.
Critics accused Lee of being overly authoritarian, especially for imposing instant fines for misdemeanors and the death penalty for serious crimes.
Many of the policies remained after Lee stepped down and occasionally led to disputes with other countries. Singapore caned U.S. citizen Michael Fay in 1994 after he was convicted of vandalizing cars, rejecting a request by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton for clemency. In December 2005, Singapore executed Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van after former Australian Prime Minister John Howard sought to have the sentence commuted to a prison term.
Foreign correspondents in Singapore ridiculed the government’s efforts to shape the country and its people by calling it a “nanny state,” Lee wrote in his book, “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story, 1965-2000.” Those efforts made Singapore a better place to live in and if that made it a “nanny state,” then he was “proud to have fostered one,” he said.
Singapore ranked 153 out of 180 countries in a 2015 press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, one spot behind Russia and nine after Myanmar.
“He had no overt, effective opposition, not only because he has seen to it that there is none, but also because no rival can match his political skill,” Henry Vincent Hodson, the late editor of the U.K.’s Sunday Times, wrote in his autobiography. In addition, Lee “has presided over an immense expansion of Singapore’s economy, which is what matters most to nine-tenths of its citizens.”
Singapore ranked as the world’s most competitive economy after the U.S. and Switzerland, according to the World Competitive Yearbook for 2014 published by the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was also the easiest place to do business based on the World Bank’s 2015 ranking.
Lee’s influence as a statesman extended beyond Singapore, as he cultivated ties with Asian and world heads of state, including former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and former Taiwanese President Chiang Ching-kuo. Lee helped mediate the first-ever talks between China and Taiwan in 1993.
“Lee Kuan Yew is of course by origin Chinese himself: I used to tell him that in many ways I wished he had stayed at home,” Thatcher wrote in her book “The Downing Street Years.” “That way China might have found its way to capitalism 20 years earlier.”
Lee was also critical of what he saw as other countries’ failings. In 2005, amid widespread anger at Japan’s account of its wartime activities in its history textbooks, he said Japan should come to terms with its past.
After stepping down as prime minister, Lee remained an influential cabinet member and roving envoy for Singapore in his role as the nation’s first senior minister. His successor, Goh Chok Tong, stepped down in favor of Lee’s son in August 2004. Goh became the senior minister and the elder Lee assumed the new cabinet position of minister mentor.
Goh stepped down from his roles in the cabinet and on the People’s Action Party central executive committee at the same time as Lee.
In 2005, Lee endorsed his son’s most controversial decision: to allow the licensing of two casinos. The gaming resorts opened in 2010 and have contributed to a surge in to