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

Just another weblog

Chiam says farewell

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 2, 2008

By Ansley Ng


FOR years, they were the only two Opposition figures in the House. Yesterday, all eyes were on Mr J B Jeyaretnam’s old colleague Mr Chiam See Tong, who in a poignant setting, paid his respects to the man who was elected to Parliament three years before him.

The 73-year-old Singapore Democratic Alliance chairman arrived at Mount Vernon’s funeral parlour 1, with wife Lena and several party members, at about 8pm.

Moving slowly because of a stroke he suffered in February, Mr Chiam was greeted by the late Mr Jeyaretnam’s sons, Kenneth and Philip, then made his way to the open casket with his wife’s support.

For a full minute, the Potong Pasir MP stood staring at the body of the man whom he had fought alongside since the mid-1980s. Mr Jeyaretnam died of a heart attack on Tuesday morning.

Later, his condition forcing him to slouch uncomfortably in a chair, Mr Chiam read out a statement to the media.

“He made great sacrifices — he suffered imprisonment, paid fines, lost personal finances but most of all, Mr Jeyaretnam taught the Opposition that it cannot win the battle against the mighty PAP monolith single-handedly or with a small party,” he said. “The Opposition must change its strategy, that is, to unite and contest the PAP with a bigger force.”

Asked about earlier reported plans for some Opposition parties to merge, Mr Chiam said they were talking about it but “the details are very troublesome”.

He was “shocked” to hear of the death of Mr Jeyaretnam, whom he saw recently at a dinner by the latter’s newly-formed Reform Party. “He was ready for a lot of work to come … He was still eager, willing and able to continue.”

Asked about his own health, Mr Chiam, who now speaks with a slur, said he hasbeen going for acupuncture twice a week and speech therapy classes. “It’s curing very fast.”

Describing Mr Jeyaretnam’s ideals as perhaps “ahead of the times”,Mr Chiam was asked to compare himself with Mr Jeyaretnam, who became the first Opposition man voted into Parliamentsince indepedence, in the 1981 Ansonby-election.

“I only do something which is possible,” was Mr Chiam’s reply. “If I am a high-jumper and I know my highest is six feet, I won’t want to go and try 8 feet … If you know the other fella is Mike Tyson and you try Thai boxing, the first round you will get knocked out.”

Yesterday, Singaporeans from all walks of life — cleaners, retirees, PAP MP Indranee Rajah, even two Supreme Court justices — turned up to bid Mr Jeyaretnam farewell.

Court of Appeal judge Chao Hick Tin and High Court Justice Kan Ting Chiu chatted with Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, a senior counsel. Both judges had worked withMr Jeyaretnam when he was a career legal officer; indeed, the latter had argued his last case before Justice Kan, hours before collapsing at home.

At the wake was also cleaning executive Madam Ling YM, whose younger brother was arrested for heroin possession in the ’70s. Their desperate mother, a washerwoman with eight children, had sought Mr Jeyaretnam’s help.

He charged her only a small “document processing” fee, and the son got a five-year sentence instead of a lengthier term. Said Mdm Ling, 52: “Mr Jeyaretnam was famous for being generous and helpful, especially to those who needed help,”

Decades later, Mdm Ling managed to return that act of kindness. She saw the veteran lawyer pedalling books outside MRT stations to raise money to strike off his bankruptcy status. “I bought a copy and he autographed it,” she said. “We were always grateful and will never forget that he had helped us long ago.”

Tributes have also gone online with a Facebook group set up, reported Channel NewsAsia. Some 700 people have signed up, most saying they admired Mr Jeyaretnam’s fighting spirit and tenacity.
Source: TODAY


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