Mon Mar 23, 2015 1:19PM
People pay their respects at the tribute area of Singapore General Hospital following the death of former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (©AFP)
People pay their respects at the tribute area of Singapore General Hospital following the death of former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (©AFP)

The Singapore administration has indefinitely banned protest rallies and public meetings at the country's sole free-speech park, following the death of the founding father, Lee Kuan Yew.

In a surprise move hours after Lee’s death, the National Parks Board declared Speakers' Corner, an area located within Hong Lim Park, as one of the designated community centers for remembering and honoring the late former prime minister.

"As such, we will not be able to accept any applications to use Speakers’ Corner during this time," said the board, which also manages the site, in a statement on its website.

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Teo Chee Hean revoked a legal provision allowing public gatherings and protests at the site.

The zone, located in the heart of Singapore’s central business district, opened in 2000 and is modeled on the free-speech area of London’s famous Hyde Park.

Only Singapore citizens and permanent residents and citizens are allowed to take part in protest gatherings in the area without police permits. Speakers must avoid inciting religious or racial hatred.

Policemen watch as people queue up to pay tribute with messages and flowers at the entrance to the Istana presidential palace following the death of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015.(AFP photo)

 

Lee, the city-state's prime minister from 1959 to 1990, who transformed Singapore from a small port city into a wealthy global hub, died at the age of 91 early Monday.

Singapore has declared seven days of national mourning following the death.

Lee's body is to lie in state at parliament from Wednesday to Saturday and the period of national mourning will culminate in a state funeral next Sunday.


People gather to pay tribute to former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (AFP photo)

 

The former prime minister is widely respected as the architect of Singapore's prosperity. However, Lee was criticized for his tough stance on dissidents and political factions opposed to his People’s Action Party.

Critics say freedom of speech was tightly restricted and political opponents were targeted by the courts during his three-decade long rule.

JR/KA/SS