Singapore founding PM Lee Kuan Yew in ICU but 'stable'

Bhavan Jaipragas
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Singapore's founding PM Lee Kuan Yew, 91, is on mechanical ventilation in an intensive care unit but his condition is stable

Singapore's founding PM Lee Kuan Yew, 91, is on mechanical ventilation in an intensive care unit but his condition is stable (AFP Photo/Mohd Fyrol)

Singapore's founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, credited with transforming the city-state to one of Asia's wealthiest economies, is in hospital breathing with the help of a machine but in stable condition, the government said Saturday.

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said the 91-year-old was admitted to Singapore General Hospital on February 5 to be treated for severe pneumonia.

"His condition has stabilised and he remains on mechanical ventilation in the ICU (intensive care unit)," the statement said, using a term to refer to machine-assisted breathing.

"He is conscious and lightly sedated," it added.

"His doctors are continuing to monitor his condition."

Lee, the father of current prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, is widely credited with transforming Singapore from an economic backwater to a rich economy in just over three decades.

He served as prime minister from 1959, when Singapore gained self-rule from colonial ruler Britain, until he stepped down in 1990 in favour of his deputy Goh Chok Tong, who in turn handed power to Lee Hsien Loong in 2004.

Lee Hsien Loong, 63, was himself discharged from hospital Wednesday after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer and his doctor has said he should make a full recovery.

The People's Action Party, which was co-founded by the elder Lee, has been returned to power in every election since independence 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.

Lee said that he had signed an Advance Medical Directive, a legal document informing doctors that a patient does not want the use of any life-sustaining treatment to prolong his life in the event he becomes terminally ill and unconscious and where death is imminent.

"If I have to be fed by a tube, and it is unlikely that I would ever be able to recover and walk about, my doctors are to remove the tube and allow me to make a quick exit," he wrote.

The government announcement of the senior Lee's latest hospitalisation comes on the third day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, a festival widely celebrated in the majority-Chinese city-state.

"Visited my father in hospital this morning. Did not see him on the first day of the New Year, on the advice of doctors," Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post.

"So we wished him Happy New Year today, and a smooth recovery," the younger Lee wrote.

Lee Kuan Yew was also hospitalised in February last year due to an infection.

The British-trained lawyer, a longtime fitness buff, has visibly slowed since his wife of 63 years Kwa Geok Choo died in 2010 and has been in frail health.

He is still an MP for the port district of Tanjong Pagar but retired from advisory roles in government in 2011.

He had held the cabinet positions of senior minister and later "minister mentor" after stepping down as premier in 1990.