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

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What PM and SM told JBJ’s sons

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 1, 2008

IN 1993, Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam wrote toMr Goh Chok Tong, who was then Prime Minister, to say that employers in Singapore were reluctant to offer him a job.

Mr J B Jeyaretnam’s elder son, who had been working in the finance industry in Tokyo, suggested that employers felt the authorities would not welcome his employment because of his name.

But for all the political battles betweenMr J B Jeyaretnam and the leadership of the People’s Action Party, their differences were not personal, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Both Mr Lee, in his condolence letter to Mr Jeyaretnam’s two sons, and Senior Minister Goh, who replied to media queries, recounted the incident after the Opposition veteran’s death.

“I was sad to learn that your father,Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, has passed away,” wrote Mr Lee.

“Mr J B Jeyaretnam was a Member ofParliament for Anson constituency from 1981 till 1986, and a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament from 1997 till 2001. He used to engage in heated debates in the House. Perhaps it was because he and the PAP never saw eye to eye on any major political issue and he sought by all means to demolish the PAP and our system of government. Unfortunately, this helped neither to build up a constructive opposition nor our Parliamentary tradition. Nevertheless, one had to respect Mr J B Jeyaretnam’s dogged tenacity to be active in politics at his age.”

Mr Jeyaretnam’s death came as a surprise to Mr Goh, who pointed to his formation of the Reform Party and interest in contesting in the next General Election.

“My first encounter with Mr Jeyaretnam was in the 1981 Anson by-election, which he won. I was then the PAP’s Organising Secretary. His victory showed that it was possible for opposition MPs to be elected into Parliament,” he wrote.

“We had many more encounters later, in Parliament, during elections and in the Courts. Politically, we were on different sides of the fence. I did not believe his brand of politics was good for Singapore. PAP leaders and he had many heated exchanges. But despite this, we kept up our personal relationship.”

Singapore also needed every talented person it could find, which is why Mr Goh replied to Kenneth with a letter which could be shown to prospective employers to say that the Government did not hold anything against him, recounted Mr Lee.

The letter asked employers to “evaluate you fairly on your own merits, like any other candidate”, Mr Lee added. Prior to that,Mr Goh had invited Philip to lunch to tell him the same thing.

“I am therefore happy that both of you have established yourselves in Singapore. Please accept my deepest condolences,” wrote Mr Lee.

And what does Mr Goh remember orrespect most about Mr Jeyaretnam? “Even though I did not agree with his political cause, I respect his fighting spirit to advance it and his willingness to pay a price for it,” wrote the Senior Minister.

 

Source: TODAY

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