Empty seat a reminder to continue to take S'pore forward
Teo Ser Luck reminisces about taking wefie with Mr Lee Kuan Yew at last year's parade
As the Padang went quiet on Sunday (Aug 9) in remembrance of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, some in the crowd felt the loss more keenly than others.
Among them was Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck who, along with several other MPs, had taken a wefie with Mr Lee at last year's National Day Parade.
Press cameras caught them taking the picture and that image went viral, garnering some 170,000 "likes" on The Straits Times' Facebook page.
Mr Teo's photograph was the last picture they took together before Mr Lee died on March 23.
Speaking to The New Paper, Mr Teo revealed that he had not intended to put up the picture on social media but had simply wanted something to remember the day by.
In August last year, there were concerns about Mr Lee's health after he had not been seen in public for several months.
So when he arrived at the floating platform with the other Members of Parliament, the crowd went wild, said Mr Teo.
"A lot of people were clapping and cheering because they were very happy to see him. But after that, I saw that he was just sitting there by himself," Mr Teo added.
"I think many people wanted to talk to him but they all felt so respectful."
Mr Teo had met Mr Lee many times, including for several meals where Mr Lee, who was then Minister Mentor, would ask the new MPs for their views on a wide range of topics.
"I didn't want him to feel lonely, so I just went over to say hi and talk for a while," Mr Teo said of Mr Lee at last year's National Day Parade.
He also asked Mr Lee if he could take a picture.
"I didn't use the word 'selfie' and all that. My intention was to take a picture with him. He said 'sure' and smiled very nicely," said Mr Teo.
"A few of the other MPs were looking on, so I asked them to join in."
He added that he did not intend to put the picture on social media but had sent it to fellow MPs who were in the picture - Dr Amy Khor, Mr Heng Chee How and Ms Indranee Rajah.
Ms Indranee's post of the picture on Facebook drew nearly 5,600 "likes".
It was only after Mr Lee died that Mr Teo posted the picture. He also recalled Mr Lee asking him about his body mass index (BMI).
"I remember the short and personal chat at the gym where he asked about my BMI. Then there's the selfie that Mr Lee graciously allowed us to take," he wrote.
At Sunday's parade, an empty seat was left beside former Cabinet members Ong Pang Boon, Othman Wok and Jek Yeun Thong, the surviving signatories of the Independence of Singapore Agreement.
In Mr Lee's place was a sprig of yellow orchids.
Mr Teo said: "In past years, there was always an anticipation for when Mr Lee would appear. But this year, looking at the flowers on the seat, you feel a difference.
"We must continue to take Singapore forward because that's what Mr Lee would have wanted."
MP Heng Chee How, who was also in last year's selfie, said: "The empty seat must not only remind us of the absence of Mr Lee but spur us to continue in the spirit and purpose that he devoted his entire life to - building an ever better Singapore for all Singaporeans."
In past years, there was always an anticipation for when Mr Lee would appear. But this year, looking at the flowers on the seat, you feel a difference.
- Minister of State for Trade and Industry Teo Ser Luck