Condolence:Singapore’s celebrated hero, people’s leader JB Jeyaretnam passed away

Condolence:Singapore’s celebrated hero, people’s leader JB Jeyaretnam passed away

 

Singapore’s celebrated former opposition leader JB Jeyaretnam died early this morning of heart failure. He was 82. 

Singapore-based Chann

jb jeyaretnamel News Asia quoted Jeyaretnam’s son Kenneth as confirming the news.

Kenneth said that his father, a former secretary-general of the Workers’ Party, had complained of breathing difficulties at about 1.30am on Tuesday.

He was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital but doctors were unable to revive him. He died of heart failure with both his sons, Kenneth and Philip, by his side, added the news report.

Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was the man who finally broke the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) 16-year monopoly in the Singaporean Parliament in 1981.

He was credited for building the Workers’ Party into the island republic’s leading opposition party.

In 2001, he lost his parliamentary seat after being declared a bankrupt for failing to pay the massive damages awarded to PAP members in a series of defamation suits.

A lawyer, Jeyaretnam believed the defamation suits against him were politically motivated to remove him from Parliament.

As a result, he was barred from standing in future elections, and was also unable to practise law.

Later, in October 2001 he left the Workers’ Party he had led since 1971.

After he was discharged as a bankrupt in 2008, he formed the Reform Party in July.

Light dinner with son

The family later said in a statement that they were overwhelmed with grief.

According to the statement by his sons, Jeyaretnam had spent his last hours at Kenneth’s Evelyn Road apartment.

“Earlier this evening he and I had enjoyed a light dinner and chatted and then he sat out on the balcony for a while before retiring,” said Kenneth in the statement, as reported byChannel News Asia.

The statement went on to say that the family was woken up at about 1.30am by Jeyaretnam who was “obviously in distress” and was rushed to hospital.

“But unfortunately the medical team working on him were unable to revive him despite their lengthy and strenuous attempts.

“My brother Philip joined me at the hospital and we were then informed by the doctor in charge of his care that he had passed away.”

In his book ‘The Hatchet Man of Singapore’, Jeyaretnam spoke in detail of the attempts by Singaporean leader and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew to destroy the political careers of key Singaporean opposition leaders, including Jeyaretnam.

Source Malaysiakini

  UPDATED

SINGAPORE, Sept 30 — Joshua B. Jeyaretnam, Singapore’s best known and most dogged opposition leader who fought a lone battle against the powerful ruling establishment despite being driven to bankruptcy, died today. He was 82.

Jeyaretnam, often referred to as J.B.J, died at a local hospital of heart failure, his assistant Ng Teck Sion told The Associated Press.

“It’s a great loss for the country. He really believed in democracy and never stopped fighting for Singapore,” he said.

In recent years, Jeyaretnam — once a wealthy, flamboyant and high-profile lawyer — had stood on street corners and outside subway stations to pedal his own books about Singapore politics because no retailer would stock them.

Jeyaretnam’s one-man street sales were a striking commentary on the iron-fisted control that the ruling People’s Action Party wields over Singapore.

The book sales were also meant to raise money to help pay off damages stemming from defamation suits Jeyaretnam lost to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Lee’s father and Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, former Prime ministers Goh Chok Tong, and others.

“It’s a very heavy price I have paid” for taking on the government, Jeyaretnam, the first opposition member to be elected to Parliament, told The Associated Press recently.

The government did not immediately respond to Jeyaretnam’s death.

Jeyaretnam served as a MP from 1981 to 1986 and from 1997 to 2001 for the Workers’ Party, which he founded. He left the party in 2001 and helped form the Reform Party this year. He was planning to run in the next parliamentary election, due by 2011.

Jeyaretnam, whose thick white whiskers and misty eyes made him instantly recognisable, often faced jeers and catcalls in Parliament from the ruling People’s Action Party, whose members have always vastly outnumbered the opposition.

At present, the opposition holds two out of 84 elected seats in Parliament.

The PAP has ruled Singapore since independence from Malaysia in 1965. Although it has provided a high standard of living and prosperity to Singapore’s 4.5 million people, the government is often accused of stifling civil liberties, freedom of speech and political space.

A socialist at heart, Jeyaretnam contended that the government’s economic policies created a wealthy upper class and an underbelly of poor citizens who have to work twice as hard to survive. He also often railed against what he called the “Lee dynasty,” a reference to Lee Kuan Yew and his prime minister son.

Jeyaretnam’s views inevitably got him into trouble with the Lees and other government leaders who frequently sued him for defamation. He said he had lost count of how many times he had been sued — and lost.

He estimated that he paid out more than S$1.6 million (RM3.8 million) in damages and court costs over the years.

After losing the last defamation case, Jeyaretnam declared bankruptcy in 2001, unable to pay the fine of about US$367,000 (RM1.2 million) in damages stemming from defamation lawsuits brought by the two Lees and Goh.

He was found guilty of defaming them at a 1997 election rally, when he said a colleague had filed a police report accusing the ruling party leaders of defamation. Jeyaretnam emerged from bankruptcy last year.

“Outside of Singapore … Jeyaretnam’s allegedly defamatory words would not have excited comment — let alone prompted actions of this kind,” Amnesty International said at the time.

The government argues that such defamation suits are necessary to uphold the integrity of its leaders, saying any aspersions on their character would reduce the respect they command and hence compromise their ability to govern the fragile multiracial society properly.

An Anglican Christian of Sri Lankan Tamil decent, Jeyaretnam attended Saint Andrew’s School in Singapore and University College London where he earned a bachelor’s degree in law.

His wife Margaret, whom he had met when they were law students in Britain, died of breast cancer a year before he was elected to Parliament in 1981.

Jeyaretnam is survived by two sons, Kenneth and Philip. The funeral will be held later today. — APM

Source Malaysian Insider

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