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

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A young man recalls

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 2, 2008

leong wee keat
weekeat@mediacorp.com.sg

MY FIRST personal encounter with Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was outside City Hall MRT station in 2002. I was 22 and an undergraduate.He was alone, peddling his book and a newsletter to the public.

In the 20 minutes I spent waiting for a friend, a stoic Mr Jeyaretnam did not say much, though he attracted many stares from passers-by.Only a few spoke to him. Younger Singaporeans – including myself – wondered who this man was, and about the apparent madness in his method.

Living next to Cheng San GRC, which he contested in 1997, I held on to my impression that he was a fanatic. When my friend arrived, we left, while Mr Jeyaretnam stayed on, holding onto his book and his views, even though most of Singapore passed him by.

The next time we crossed paths was on Sept 19, last year: I was a young reporter, while he was 81 but possessed more enthusiasm than me.

Mr Jeyaretnam had just been reinstated as an attorney and journalists had gathered at his small, sparsely-furnished office in Chinatown.

Would he be difficult, fiery and fiesty? I wondered. Contrary to thestubborn anti-establishment image I had of him, he wore a toothy grin and was obliging as he fielded questions on whether he could pay his rent and last a lengthy trial.

I asked him about the kind of cases he would handle and whether his clients might include another Opposition party and its supporters.

“Anybody who wants me to defend him or take up his case, I would certainly consider,’’ he replied.

When the news conference ended 30 minutes later, I asked if we could take photographs of him.

He led me outside his new office and pointed to a sign: He had brought it along with him, from his previous firm at the old Colombo Court.

We took another 20 minutes but he showed no signs of irritation. I then asked what was next for him.

He replied with a laugh: “Take a trip to Mars.”

Over the next few months, when I bumped into him in court, the toothy grin was in evidence and there was a bounce in his step.

Life, it was clear, was just beginning for him. But it all ended on Tuesday.

 

Source: TODAY

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