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

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JBJ, History will be a lot kinder to you

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

By Tan Wee Cheng

I attended the ceremony today October 4, at the historic St Andrew’s Cathedral. I have never completely agreed with all his ideas when I first listened to his debates in Parliament in the 1980’s. But over the years, frequent travel as well as years living overseas have opened my mind and allowed me to critically examine life and politics in this country.

In my opinion, JBJ is an extraordinary son of Singapore, who had undertaken enormous courage to confront a system that is so overwhelmingly crushing and harsh, in order to defend his belief in fundamental democracy and freedom. For his perseverence, he had suffered greatly and yet remained unmoved, even forming a new political party at the age of 82. Irrespective of whether you believe he had succeeded or not or whether you even agree with his ideas, I believe that, all Singaporeans owe him a salute, at least for the sacrifice he had made for all of us.

[Funeral Service of J.B. Jeyaretnam at St Andrew’s Cathedral (4 October 2008)]-More Pics

The funeral service at St Andrew’s Cathedral began at 2pm and was attended by more than 1000 people including Singaporeans of all races and walks of life, as well as a few in wheelchairs – such is the support of JBJ among ordinary Singaporeans. The entire main nave of the cathedral was full and chambers on the second floor as well as tentage in the cathedral compound were set up, equipped with huge screens of the proceedings.

Moving eulogies of this great hero of Singapore were delivered by his sons and multi-ethnic daughters-in-law. Tears flowed among the many people who came to pay tribute to him. The service ended at 3:30pm thereupon the entourage set off for Mandai for the cremation.

Mr. JB Jeyaretnam, Rest in Peace. History, I believe, will be a lot kinder to you.

[Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was born January 5, 1926, is of Sri Lankan descent and was raised partly in what is now Malaysia – This tribute By Tan Wee Cheng first appeared in his blog Nomadic Republic. JB Jeyaretnam passed away on September 30, 2008]

 

Source: http://tamilweek.com/news-features/archives/1436

 

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Hundreds pay final respects to Singapore opposition leader

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

Hundreds of people paid their last respects Saturday at the funeral of Singapore opposition leader J.B. Jeyaretnam, who faced jail and libel suits in a long fight for greater political freedoms in the affluent city-state.

People from different age groups, social backgrounds and races packed the steepled, English Gothic Saint Andrew’s Cathedral in the business district for an Anglican church service.

The remains of Jeyaretnam, who died of heart failure Tuesday aged 82, were to be cremated later Saturday.

Dubbed the grand old man of the opposition, Jeyaretnam was one of the rare few to speak out against the People’s Action Party (PAP), which has ruled Singapore since 1959.

He made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament, espousing causes such as human rights and greater political freedoms in the strict city-state.

Jeyaretnam faced jail and defamation lawsuits filed by PAP members. He was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay libel damages which prevented him from running for political office.

He cleared the bankruptcy status last year and formed the Reform Party in a bid to return to politics.

In a eulogy, Jeyaretam’s eldest son Kenneth compared his father to a raging bull who, despite the blows he received, remained “undefeated and unbowed”.

Another son, Philip, a prominent lawyer, said his father’s principle of “giving voice to the silent” led him to enter politics.

Despite his defeats, his father was the “epitome of grace”, he said, recalling that taxi drivers would refuse payment off Jeyaretnam out of respect.

“I am here because I respect him a lot. He taught us the meaning of courage,” a 35-year-old businessman said.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International, in an “open letter” to the family, praised Jeyaretnam as an “unflinching campaigner for the rule of law and for the whole spectrum of human rights — regardless of the personal costs he paid”.

Malaysian opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim told AFP Jeyaretnam had “consistently been the voice for democracy” and lauded his passion for freedom and human rights.

“His small but audible voice had attracted a lot of international support,” Anwar said.

Singapore’s leaders have said the defamation suits against political opponents are necessary to protect their reputation and tough laws on public assembly are needed to maintain law and order.

They have defended their public record, citing surveys ranking Singapore highly for its low crime rate, the ease of doing business, top quality schools and hospitals and an intolerance of corruption.

Singapore is among Asia’s wealthiest and safest states but critics have urged the government to loosen up on some political and social controls.

 

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Open letter to the family of J B Jeyaretnam from Amnesty International

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
International Secretariat
Peter Benenson House, 1 Easton Street,
London WC1X ODW, United Kingdom

 

Kenneth Jeyaretnam
Philip Jeyaretnam
Singapore

 

3 October 2008

 

Dear Kenneth and Philip,

An Open Letter to the family of J B Jeyaretnam

Amnesty International wishes to express its sympathy and condolences at the death of your father, J B Jeyaretnam, whom the organizations regarded as an unflinching campaigner for the rule of law and for the whole spectrum of human rights – regardless of the personal costs he paid. It was often the organization’s privilege to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him in the struggle for a Singapore that would move to promote and protect fundamental rights.

As you know, Amnesty International monitored and was active on developments following his election to Parliament in 1981, including the ruinous civil defamation suits launched against him by the ruling party’s leadership, his expulsion from Parliament, imprisonment and bankruptcy. But he refused to be deterred by legal moves designed to intimidate Singaporeans and silence those holding dissenting views. To the end, he was fighting for his right to re-enter Parliament as a representative of his recently formed Reform Party. Amnesty International shared with him the recognition that the campaign for human rights must continue – even against obstacles such as those he faced – and that restrictions on freedom of expression guaranteed under international standards cannot be justified.

Amnesty International respected J B Jeyaretnam in his lifetime as a human rights defender. We believe his memory is best honoured by continuing to campaign against repression and for fundamental human rights for the citizens of the country he loved.

 

Yours sincerely,

Signed

Sam Zarifi
Director, Asia Pacific Program

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OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND HIS CABINET

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

30 September 2008

Dear Prime Minister & Cabinet Members

By all accounts, we have lost a figure of uncommon strength and conviction in Mr JB Jeyaretnam.

No matter which side of the political fence we stand, it is undeniable that Mr JBJ, as he will be fondly remembered, has fought long and hard for what he believed was good for Singapore and, good for Singaporeans.

Mr JBJ did all he could with all he could. In staying the course, he has undoubtedly performed a public duty as a citizen of Singapore and, amply demonstrated the public spirit, the commitment to country and, the “nation before self” maxim that the government has sought to propagate.

As Singaporeans we are proud that such a man as Mr JBJ walked among us. We appreciate the sacrifices Mr JBJ has made for his beliefs in serving the people of Singapore . We are equally proud that the government, in spite of its political differences, has acknowledged the same resilience and service to nation in Mr JBJ.

Mr JBJ is an icon – an individual who stood up to serve the country and who stood tall for his beliefs and principles. As citizens of Singapore , we hope that Mr JBJ’s public spiritedness and love of the law can be preserved in the following manner:

1)    a professorial chair in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam be created in the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore and,

2)    A scholarship fund in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam for graduate studies in political science and/or constitutional law and/or civil society studies.

We also humbly ask the government to further demonstrate its commitment to public spiritedness and active citizenry by taking the lead to provide the seed fund for the above honours for others to follow.

We look forward to your encouragement as we mourn the loss of one of Singapore’s better sons.

Yours in good faith,

Dana Lam Yoke Kiew (SXXXXXXXH)
Braema Mathi (SXXXXXXXG)
Siew Kum Hong (SXXXXXXXE)
Au Wai Pang (SXXXXXXXJ)
Manohar P Sabnani (SXXXXXXXA)
Teri Teo Shiwen (SXXXXXXXI)
Constance Singam (SXXXXXXXE)
Cheng U Wen, Lena (SXXXXXXXD)
Lim Siew Wai, William (SXXXXXXXD)
Benedict Jacob-Thambiah (SXXXXXXXI)
T Sasitharan (SXXXXXXXZ)
Stephanie Chok (SXXXXXXXB)
Heng Hiang Khng (SXXXXXXXE)
Jacqueline Tan (SXXXXXXXC)
Serene Yap (SXXXXXXXG)

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JBJ’s Parliamentary speech, 1997

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

“Mr Speaker, Sir, in 1954 when political parties that were then in existence went to London for the All-Party Conference to write a new Constitution for this country of ours, they were all unanimous in one thing, and that is, that our system of government should be a Parliamentary democracy. And what that means is that Parliament is supreme, that Government should be made accountable to the people through Parliament. And it is Parliament that should be asked to vote on all matters that concern the people at large.

In my first speech in this Parliament Mr Speaker, Sir, I spoke about this being the House of the people. That was not rhetoric, Mr Speaker, Sir. This is the House of the people. That was not rhetori, Mr Speaker, Sir. This is the House of the people. It is the House that the people will look to, as I said then, for the airing of their views, for their views to be heard and given adequate consideration. We pay lip service to the fact that SIngapore is a democracy. But it is forgotten that if we are a democracy, then it is the people who are the masters, and the House of the people (Parliament), as the agents of the people, should exercise the power of the people. They should, on behalf of the people, question all decisions of the Government, particularly decisions that affect and concern them very deeply.”

– Parliamentary all-party committee to monitor University fees and public utilities charges

 

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JBJ at Reform Party inauguration dinner, July 2008

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

“Come walk with me, for peace, justice and truth, fearing no one else but God”

– JBJ at Reform Party inauguration dinner, July 2008

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JBJ in an interview with the Malaysian daily, The Star, July 2008

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

“No government, anywhere in the world, can be so good that there is no need for an opposition. It is only in dictatorships where one man rules the country without an opposition”

 

– JBJ in an interview with the Malaysian daily, The Star, July 2008

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Photos of JBJ’s funeral and cremation at Mandai Crematorium, 4 October 2008

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

Field report and photos by Eugene Yeo

A picture speaks a thousand words – A silent tribute to JBJ at Mandai Crematorium

Arrival 

 JBJmandai01.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai Crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

 

JBJmandai02.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai Crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

 

JBJmandai03.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai Crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

 

JBJmandai04.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

 

JBJmandai06.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

Prayer

JBJmandai09.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai10.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai12.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai13.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai15.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai16.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai17.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai19.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

 Paying last respect

JBJmandai21.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai26.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai27.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai29.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai30.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

 

JBJmandai31.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai33.jpg JBJ's funeral service at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai35.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

Final farewell

JBJmandai36.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai43.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai42.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai38.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai40.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

JBJmandai44.jpg JBJ's funeral at Mandai crematorium picture by wayangparty

 

 Some Singaporeans I spoke to at the reception after the cremation:

Desmond Tan, 19: JBJ is an inspiring figure. It is a pity that I do not have the chance to meet him when he is still alive.

Yong C L, 44: JBJ has done a lot for Singaporeans when he was a MP during the 1980s. The PAP borrowed many of his ideas such as the Town Councils we have today, do you know that ?

Kumathy, 23: There is only one JBJ. After him, I do not think there will anybody who is passionate enough to sacrifice so much for his beliefs. God bless his soul !

Mohammad Khari, 40: He was always seen in the ward (Anson) even during the weekends. Though he is a lawyer, he never carry any airs about him. He is truly a MP of the rakyat.

Gan S E, 60: We all know Cheng San was fixed. The PAP cannot afford to lose a GRC. It was very real then as many of us are damned pissed with the (PAP) MPs. They are really a useless bunch, jiak liao bee ! When the results are announced, we couldn’t believe it ! Every one of our neighbors say they will vote for JBJ.

Christina Lee, 36: JBJ has given his best for Singapore. We don’t deserve his love…….(burst into tears)

 

Source: Wayangparty Club

 

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Photos and videos of JBJ’s Funeral service at Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, 4 October 2008, 2.30 – 3.30pm

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 5, 2008

Field report and photos by Cheng Siew Peng

Blessed is the man who perserves under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

James 1: 12

 jbjcat01.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2pm: St Andrew’s Cathedral in the heart of SIngapore’s Central Business District

 

jbjcat02.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2.10pm: Singapore girls shopping at the Bata shop opposite the Cathedral. Are they aware of JBJ’s funeral service today ?

 

jbjcat03.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2.15pm: Where are the guys ? Are they here at Funan ?

 

jbjcat04.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2.25pm: The road leading to St Andrew’s Cathedral.

 

jbjcat05.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2.30pm: Singing of hymns at the tentage erected outside the Cathedral which is completely filled up.

 

jbjcat06.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2.35pm: Singaporeans from different races and religions mourns the demise of JBJ.

 

jbjcat08.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2.40pm: Inside the Cathedral.

 

jbjcat07.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

2.40pm: Philip Jeyaretnam, JBJ’s younger son, giving an eulogy of his father.

 

jbjcat09.jpg JBJ's funeral at St Andrew's Cathedral, 4 Oct 2008 picture by wayangparty

3.30pm: Rest in peace, JBJ, you have served Singaporeans well, it is time to take a good rest with the Lord.

 

Source: Wayangparty Club

 

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JBJ – A man of honour and integrity

Posted by jbjmemorial on October 4, 2008

Today Sinaporeans will bid farewell to an iconic symbol of a fighting spirit that had stood up for democracy and human rights, paying every price that was extracted from him!

We were saddensed to learn of JB Jeyaretnam’s demise in the early hours of the morning on Tuesday, 30 September 2008. JBJ, as he was fondly referred to, succumbed to a heart attack bringing to an end a life that reflected an indomitable spirit and a formidable fortitude that helped him to stay the course.

He gave up what could have been a successful career on the bench to enter the rough-and-tumble of Singapore’s political life with zeal and energy.. Right to the end he remained a fighter, a great warrior for democracy and human rights. He embodied valour and virtue in fighting for a cause he believed in passionately.

He stood proudly and bravely with the ordinary men championing their cause and on many occasions representing their interest without payment. He was there for them – all the time.

The picture that remains in my mind goes back to 27 years ago towards the end of 1981 when he won the Anson by-election. The Anson seat was vacated by C V Devan Nair who subsequently went on to become the President of Singapore. That history-making victory broke the stranglehold of the PAP on Singapore’s politics.

When the results were announced that night, a visibly emotional JBJ hugged his son and whispered, “We did it, son.” It was a poignant moment that he would have very much wanted to share with his wife, Margaret. Unfortunately she passed away the previous year without being part of the victory though she she had been very much part of his struggle.

He was a consummate politician who had to go through so many political hurdles during the many years when he waged a long and lonely battle against the PAP to secure the space for democracy and human rights. The mighty PAP gave him one hell of a struggle. They bankrupted him with many defamation suits which they won with hefty awards crippling him financially.

He lost his property, he lost his legal practice and he lost his wealth. But he never lost his sanity or his fighting spirit. That was the measure of this great man.

All he had was his unbending will and a determination to stand up for what he believed in. Any lesser man would have thrown in the towel – but not JBJ!

He peddled his party organ, The Hammer, and his books on street corners to raise funds to free himself from bankruptcy. Many, out of fear, avoided him on the streets. Even the bookshops dared not stock his books for sale. It was such a pity that he had to struggle against all odds and all alone.
We are happy that he finally cleared himself from bankruptcy in July 2007 – in spite of strenuous opposition to block him – and died as an honourable man.

When he launched his new party, the Reform Party, in July 2008, he remarked, “I’m not being dramatic but I haven’t got many more years.” Little did he know that he barely had three months of his life left!

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

We may not be able to walk with him but we can certainly walk in his path and keep his spirit alive.
Farewell, JBJ. May your great soul rest in peace.

 

P Ramakrishna
President
Aliran (Malaysia)
4 October 2008

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