In remembrance of a Singapore Patriot – Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam (1926 – 2008)

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Death of a grand old man

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 1, 2008

I am saddened by the news that JB Jeyaretnam died of heart failure at the age of 82 yesterday. Whatever his politics, no one can deny his courage and self-sacrifice. Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam could have made a fortune as a lawyer. Instead, “he fought a long and lonely campaign for greater political freedom in the tightly governed city state” of Singapore, reports AFP.

Dubbed the Grand Old Man of Singapore opposition politics, according to the BBC, he did not give up his struggle even after being bankrupted by costly defamation suits brought by members of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP).

He represented not just a different viewpoint in politics but set a different example in his personal life as well.

While Singapore’s ministers are paid million-dollar salaries on the grounds that top money has to be paid to top talent to attract them to public service, JBJ, as he was fondly known, a British-trained lawyer, remained in politics despite the high price he paid for it.

It shows his indomitable spirit that, just cleared from bankruptcy last year, he was still working as a lawyer, and had a business meeting the day before he died.

We will never know if he had succeeded in politics, Singapore would have enjoyed the peace, prosperity and stability it has come to enjoy under PAP rule, which has made it one of the richest countries in Asia. But it’s impossible not to feel at least a grudging admiration for a man who had to:

  • sell his house in Singapore
  • pay more than $900,000 in damages and court costs according to news services
  • leave the opposition Workers Party he had once led
  • and yet returned to politics, forming the small Reform Party earlier this year with plans to fight the next election in 2011

Source: Blowing in the Wind

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