Singapore heaves huge sigh of relief at Lee Kuan Yew's NDP appearance

Lee Kuan Yew is alive and well, and for a moment during Thursday's National Day Parade, one could hear Singapore as a whole heave an almost audible sigh of relief.

The elder statesman's grand entrance at the NDP ceremony held at Marina Bay sparked thunderous applause from the 26,000 spectators in attendance, and quite possibly from the hundreds of thousands also watching on television.

[Slideshow: Singapore's National Day Parade]

More importantly, it finally put to bed week-long rumours surrounding the health and condition of the 88-year-old.

A post on Yahoo! Singapore's Facebook wall with a screengrab of a smiling Lee dressed in a red Team Singapore polo shirt sparked an outpouring of emotion, relief and happiness.

As of 1:30pm on Friday, the post had garnered more than 10,400 “likes” and over 700 comments.

Wrote Sandra Tan, “So happy to see [former] Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew looking good at the NDP! The cheer and applause when he emerged at theNDP is undeniable".

Another Facebook user, Marcus Goh agreed and wrote that “Seeing [Lee] makes me shed tears of happiness”.

In the past week, rumours swirled online and offline that the former Singapore Prime Minister's health was fading quickly. Day by day, the speculation grew stronger and wilder.

It's not certain how the rumours started but one of the first tweets referring to Lee's health was a tweet on Aug 7th from a user called @izreloaded, who claimed "high-level" sources had told him Lee's health was "critical" and that "several government agencies had been put on standby".

A compilation of @izreloaded's tweets. (Screengrab from Twitter)

When contacted by Yahoo! Singapore, @izreloaded repeated his claim that his "credible" sources told him Lee was "alive but critical".

Although a quick check by Yahoo! at Lee's Oxley Road house on Wednesday showed nothing out of the ordinary, rumours continued to grow online and offline.

Soon, the health of Lee became a topic of national debate and the "will he or won't he appear at NDP?" question grew into a audible chorus ahead of National Day.

Even members of the media were not immune to the frenzy.

The Straits Times' political journalist Tessa Wong addressed the rumours on Twitter, dismissing claims of a cover-up and that Lee was alive and well.

Channel NewsAsia editor and presenter Glenda Chong also stepped up to clear the rumours on her Facebook wall on Wednesday.

Without mentioning names, she wrote, "So a lot of people have been asking me a question! He’s alive and please watch NDP tomorrow… Trust me he’s alive, otherwise I will be extremely busy!” 

[Slideshow: Lee Kuan Yew through the years]

In recent years, Lee’s failing health has seen him being treated for a number of conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, a condition that results in damage to the nervous system and involuntary twitching of the muscles.

In 2008, he was also successfully treated for an abnormal heart rhythm at the Singapore General Hospital.

Up until last year, Lee had held the post of Minister Mentor in Singapore’s Cabinet.

He stepped down after the May elections, capping a 50-year political career that saw him hold a succession of ministerial positions, including Prime Minister from 1965 to 1990.

One of Asia’s, if not the world’s, most respected politicians, Lee was the guiding force behind efforts to transform the Republic from being an underdeveloped colonial outpost to becoming a first-world nation boasting one of the highest per-capita economies in the world.

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