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

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The day JBJ made me cry: Photos of JBJ’s wake on 3 October 2008

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 3, 2008

Article and Photos by Fang Zhi Yuan

I drove straight to Mount Vernon after picking little Marcus up from the nursery together with my wife. As I turned into Mount Vernon, we were greeted by a huge banner of condolence to the family of JBJ. My wife, being wife, was still nagging me for making a long detour instead of returning home.

JBJvernon00.jpg JBJ wake at Mount Vernon, 3 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

“I still don’t understand why you are so free to come and pay respects to a man we have never met”

Who says so ? We did meet him a few years ago, remember ?” I snapped.

Well, it’s not exactly a meeting. I first saw JBJ selling his books outside Orchard MRT with my girlfriend (now wife) during my undergraduate days. I had wanted to walk up and talk to him, but my wife pleaded with me not to jeopardize our future by being seen together with this opposition icon.

I still recall her rather silly words till today: “What if somebody take a photo of us and send it to the government ? Then we will never be able to find work in the civil service and even in Singapore you know ?”  Perhaps not so silly after all if we realize quite a significant portion of Singaporeans actually share her irrational fears.

The road leading up the parlors are lined completely with cars and I have to park further up. Of course, my wife kept grumbling all the way as we walked down towards funeral parlor 1 where JBJ’s wake is held.

JBJvernon01.jpg JBJ wake at Mount Vernon, 3 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

The entire compound was filled with wreaths from JBJ’s relatives, friends, supporters and well-wishers that we almost mistook it to be the Botanical Gardens.

JBJvernon02.jpg JBJ wake at Mount Vernon, 3 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

 

JBJvernon03.jpg JBJ wake at Mount Vernon, 3 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

Eugene and Siew Peng, who came before me had told me about the huge support shown by Singaporeans. It was not reported by the mainstream media at all and I wouldn’t have believed it had I not seen it with very my own eyes.

There was a gigantic wreath embodied with the Chinese characters “Heavenly Kingdom” presented by WP’s Secretary General Low Thia Kiang. Though I may disagree with Mr Low on his methods and style in politics, I genuinely believe that in spite of the differences he had with JBJ when he was still alive, there was never any bad blood between the two men.

JBJvernon04.jpg JBJ wake at Mount Vernon, 3 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

We went into the Chapel and said a silent prayer in respect of JBJ. His embalmed body lying serenely in the coffin, bereft of the passion which has driven him to devote his entire life in the service of Singapore. How I hate myself (and my wife) for not plucking the courage to listen to his words of wisdom when I had the chance to !

It was 6pm and the crowd started to swell. Singaporeans from all races, religions and walks of life lined up orderly and quietly to sign JBJ’s condolence book – a testimony of JBJ’s enduring charm and stature in the hearts of Singaporeans.

JBJvernon05.jpg JBJ wake at Mount Vernon, 3 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

As I was carrying Marcus in one arm, my hands are quivering as I wrote my condolence message in the half-filled book (in fact the 4th): “Dear JBJ, you are truly a hero for Singaporeans. Rest in peace !”

JBJvernon06.jpg JBJ wake at Mount Vernon, 3 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

I went over to the booth to buy JBJ’s book “Make it right for Singapore”. I enquired about the price and was pleasantly surprised to be told that the amount to pay is entirely voluntary and the proceeds will go to the Reform Party founded by JBJ in July this year.

I took out a hundred dollar note and before I could put it into the donation box, my wife hit me hard on the wrist.

“You crazy is it ? Got money to donate to political party, no money to bring the family out for a tour ??”

Are Singaporeans as pragmatic as my wife ?

Certainly not JBJ who paid a huge price to fight for the rights of Singaporeans.

For once in my life, I felt proud to be a Singaporean because of a fellow Singaporean named JBJ who walked tall amongst us.

 As I flipped through his book, my tears start to flow uncontrollaby as I read his anthem for Singapore – ”Make it right for Singapore” which ends with the following stanza:

“Singapore, Oh Singapore, how I love you my Singapore

How I love my Singapore, Singapore, Singapore”

I am so sorry, JBJ !!

In spite of all the tribulations, torture and agony you have been put through by your adversaries, you had never stop loving Singapore !!”

 You are not paid a million dollars of annual salary to serve Singaporeans, in fact you were just discharged from bankruptcy at the age of 81. Yet, you feel so much for us to continue to labor on at a age when most people would have retired.

Had I known how much you love Singapore when I saw you on that fateful day, I would have rushed forward and HUG you !

My dear JBJ, though you may have disappeared from my life forever, because of your love for Singapore, I will stay on to spread my love for my fellow citizens.

Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”

Corinthians 13:4-7

 

Source: Wayang Party Club

 

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