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

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JBJ – Portrait of courage and sacrifice…

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 1, 2008

 

When I was in secondary school, I took up a suggestion from my English teacher to visit the parliament to see our politicians in action. All you needed to go in and watch the proceedings was to show your IC. In those days there was no “Today in Parliament” on TV and there was so little interest in politics among Singaporeans, the only people in the viewing gallery were reporters. I remember that day very well because it was the first time I saw JBJ “in action”. He moved a motion to seek fairer compensation for Singaporeans under the Land Acquisition Act. He argued that it was unfair for the govt to take land from ordinary Singaporeans and pay a pittance when it can afford to pay the current market price for land. A minister stood up to say that all this is for the greater good of Singaporeans, by paying 1970s prices for acquired land, the govt is able to save millions in development costs. Of course, even as a secondary school kid, I found it strange that the govt is talking about the “greater good” when it sells land for the building of HDB flats at market price – something has to be wrong with the logic of taking land from Singaporeans at a deep discount for public development and selling land to Singaporeans for HDB flats close to the market price. JBJ was there to point all that out – he was fighting for justice and fighting for ordinary Singaporeans and he was fearless and unrelenting.

The last time I saw JBJ in person was about 2 decades later when he was selling his book “The hatchet man of Singapore” on the street. He had been made a bankrupt, jailed and lost everything but not his spirit and dignity he was still fighting for Singaporeans – fearless as ever. In June 2008, JBJ at the age of 82 formed the Reform Party. Even in his eighties, he never gave up the fight.

JBJ fought for everything our society needs today – human rights, justice, freedom, equality and democracy and the men who did not want to give us all that fought back. They used everything in their power to fix him but it was they who were afraid not him. They feared the loss of power, change and they feared the empowerment of people they controlled. JBJ was fearless because he was right as defended he ideals of our society – what our flag symbolised and the values in our pledge – from men who did not believe them. He fought with the integrity and passion throughout his life motivated by what is right and his dream of making our society better for all. When he broke the PAP’s monopoly on power in 1981, he brought hope to many for a more democratic society. However, the response of those in power was to use politically motivated charges to bring him down and disbar him from future elections. They brought him down and along with that the hopes of many Singaporeans for a better society. JBJ may not have been able to take us where we were suppose to go, but his heroic efforts won the hearts and minds of many – he never gave up and we should never give up.

At a time when our nation is made to pay million dollar salaries for our ministers who claimed they have made a “painful sacrifice”, JBJ gave everything he had to serve the people of Singapore. His fight for human rights, justice, democracy and freedom of speech is as relevant today as it was in 1981. JBJ may not be with us today but his spirit will continue to live on and inspire those who continue the fight.

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“Come, walk with me, let us walk together, hand in hand…for peace, justice, truth … fearing no one except God”, JBJ, Jul 2008
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