Tuesday, September 30, 2008

In Memoriam: Photos of JBJ

This is for a great man, and a friend, for whom i have tremendous respect for. JBJ passed away early today morning. I will miss you JB sir. (Note: First two photos from here and here. Rest from this report)

Singapore's veteran opposition leader dead at 82

SINGAPORE, Sept 30, 2008 (AFP) - The grand old man of Singapore's tiny political opposition, J. B. Jeyaretnam, died early Tuesday just days before a constitutional challenge he hoped would propel him back into parliament, his family said.

Jeyaretnam, 82, suffered a heart attack in Singapore, a relative told AFP from the family home in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

His funeral is to be held Saturday.

Singapore's pro-government media flashed news of the veteran politician's death but there was no immediate reaction from government leaders.

Jeyaretnam, one of the rare few to speak out against the ruling People's Action Party (PAP), made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament, dominated by the PAP since 1959.

He was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay libel damages to members of the PAP, including a former prime minister.

Last year Jeyaretnam, a lawyer, cleared the bankruptcy status which had prevented him from running for political office, and formed the Reform Party, saying Singapore had been "enslaved" by its rulers.

The opposition plays only a marginal role in Singapore, where it complains of limited access to the pro-government mainstream media and restrictions on public assemblies.

Jeyaretnam was to appear in the High Court on October 15 to seek an order that a by-election be held for a vacant seat.

G. K. Pamela, another of Jeyaretnam's relatives, said the court challenge was related to Jeyaretnam's desire to enter parliament again.

"That was his wish," she told AFP in tears. "Such a good man. Why did God take him?"

Jeyaretnam's long-time ally and Reform Party executive, Ng Teck Siong, said it would be "very hard to find another man to fill his shoes".

He was the country's "venerable lion", said Sinapan Samydorai, president of local non-governmental organisation the Think Centre.

"In his strong beliefs, stubborn resilience and heart for the people of Singapore we shall find the beacon and courage to continue working for a more caring and sharing society," Samydorai wrote on his group's website.

Besides Jeyaretnam, the most vocal opposition to the PAP has come from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

SDP activist Chee Siok Chin said she was shocked at his death.

"There's no doubt about it. Mr. Jeyaretnam has been the icon of the opposition here and it's a great loss," she said.

Jeyaretnam's niece, who gave her name only as Kavinia, said he had not been feeling well for the past three weeks.

But as recently as July, when he hosted a dinner to launch his new party, Jeyaretnam still appeared strong.

Sporting his usual lamb-chop style sideburns, Jeyaretnam stood before the crowd and, in typical style, spoke for almost an hour.

"Come, walk with me, let us walk together... for peace, justice, truth... fearing no one except God," he urged the gathering.

Veteran Singapore opposition politician dies

By Koh Gui Qing

SINGAPORE, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Singapore veteran opposition politician J.B. Jeyaretnam died early on Tuesday after a heart failure, removing one of the most colourful and dogged characters from the country's often staid politics.

In 1981, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, popularly known as JBJ, was the first opposition politician to break Singapore's ruling party's monopoly in parliament.

He died at a local hospital, aged 82, his son Kenneth Jeyaretnam said.

Jeyaretnam, an acerbic critic of the ruling People's Action Party , was repeatedly sued by senior PAP members over his 37-year career for making comments the PAP said were libelous.

He was sporadically bankrupted, a status that barred him from standing for parliament.

In June this year, he won approval to set up the Reform Party after paying off S$265,000 in defamation damages.

Jeyaretnam said he was "over the moon" with the new party, which would "reform the system of government, all sectors of society".

"He believed what was right and wrong for Singapore and he wanted to bring change. He never gave up," said Ng Peck Siong, chairman of the Reform Party, who has known JBJ for over a decade.

The PAP has ruled Singapore since independence in 1965.

Over the years, Jeyaretnam paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in defamation damages to PAP leaders. Critics say PAP politicians use legal action to crush opposition, but party leaders say libel suits are necessary to protect their reputations.

Jeyaretnam jousted with the PAP's founder and Singapore's most powerful politician Lee Kuan Yew in parliament in the 1980s.

"Aren't you a bit annoyed because I don't crawl to you?" he asked Lee during a parliamentary committee meeting in 1985.

Lee in turn in his memoirs called Jeyaretnam a "sparring partner" who was "all sound and fury".

Born in Sri Lanka and trained as a lawyer in London, Jeyaretnam championed more freedom for ordinary Singaporeans, and wanted the Southeast Asian country to have a Western-style democracy.

His repeated run-ins with the government alienated him from many Singaporeans, but he still pursued his cause and in recent years was regularly seen at the entrances of shopping malls selling his books to raise funds.

"The PAP would like to let it be known that Jeyaretnam wants to destroy everything we've got here," he told the Straits Times newspaper in January.

"All I want to do is to give the people a chance to live their own lives ... and not have everything dictated to them." (Reporting by Koh Gui Qing and Saeed Azhar; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Jerry Norton)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Like you, I was in shocked too when I received the news..

Went on a wild goose chase from Tan Tock Seng - SGH - S'pore Casket..

He will be fondly remember by us as a true opposition fighter for SG.

R.I.P. Mr JBJ..