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

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Singapore’s veteran opposition leader dead at 82

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 1, 2008

SINGAPORE (AFP) ā€” The grand old man of Singapore’s tiny political opposition, J. B. Jeyaretnam, died early Tuesday just days before a constitutional challenge he hoped would propel him back into parliament, his family said.

Jeyaretnam, 82, died from a heart attack in Singapore, a relative told AFP from the family home in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Singapore’s pro-government media flashed news of the veteran politician’s death. There was no immediate reaction from government leaders.

Jeyaretnam, one of the rare few to speak out against the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament, dominated by the PAP since 1959.

He was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay libel damages to members of the PAP, including a former prime minister.

Last year Jeyaretnam, a lawyer, cleared the bankruptcy status which had prevented him from running for political office, and then formed the new Reform Party, saying Singapore had been “enslaved” by its rulers.

The opposition plays only a marginal role in Singapore, where it complains of limited access to the pro-government mainstream media and restrictions on public assemblies.

Jeyaretnam was to appear in the High Court on October 15 to seek an order that a by-election be held for a seat that is currently vacant.

G. K. Pamela, another of Jeyaretnam’s relatives, said the court challenge was related to Jeyaretnam’s desire to enter parliament again.

“That was his wish,” she told AFP in tears. “Such a good man. Why did God take him?”

Besides Jeyaretnam, the most vocal opposition to the PAP has come from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

SDP activist Chee Siok Chin said she was shocked at the veteran opposition figure’s death.

“There’s no doubt about it. Mr. Jeyaretnam has been the icon of the opposition here and it’s a great loss,” she said.

Jeyaretnam’s niece, who gave her name only as Kavinia, said he had not been feeling well for the past three weeks.

But as recently as July, when he hosted a dinner to launch his new party, Jeyaretnam still appeared strong.

Sporting his usual lamb-chop style sideburns, Jeyaretnam stood before the crowd and, in typical style, spoke for almost an hour.

“Come, walk with me, let us walk together… for peace, justice, truth… fearing no one except God,” he urged the gathering.

Source: AFP

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