The following is the full text of the eulogy delivered by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the funeral of the late Dr Toh Chin Chye on 7 Feb, 2012.
Family members of the late Dr Toh Chin Chye, President Tony Tan and Mrs Tony Tan, Colleagues, Friends and Fellow Singaporeans
1. We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to the late Dr Toh Chin Chye. Over the last five days, many Singaporeans have done the same. They have paid many tributes to Dr Toh, who belonged to the founding generation of leaders who created today’s Singa¬pore. Without Dr Toh and his fellow Old Guard, this modern, prosperous metropolis that we now take for normal would not exist.
2. It is fitting that our national flag is draped around Dr Toh’s coffin. In 1959, Singapore’s status changed, from being a British colony to becoming a self-governing though not yet independent state. The PAP won the general elections in May that year, and formed the government of the new state. Dr Toh was appointed Deputy Prime Minister. One of his first tasks was to chair the committee to design the state flag. This was not merely an issue of aesthetics; our flag had to embody the values, aspirations, spirit and pride of our nascent nation, and over time, win the affection and loyalty of the citizens. Dr Toh and his committee came up with the red and white flag, with the crescent and five stars representing democracy, justice, peace, progress and equality. These were values that Dr Toh himself embraced and fought for all his life.
3. Dr Toh was born into a humble family in Taiping, Perak. He worked hard, excelled academically, and won scholarships to study in Raffles College in Singapore, and then the University of London. While in London, he chaired the Malayan Forum, which brought together students who were concerned about the future of Malaya and Singapore. London was also where Dr Toh met Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the late-Dr Goh Keng Swee, and forged friendships that would change the course of Singapore’s history.
4. Dr Toh continued to be involved in politics after returning to Singapore. He fought for independence from the British colonial government, and was a member of the group who met regularly in the basement of 38 Oxley Road, Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s home, to plan to fight for independence. Dr Toh pushed for the group to form a political party, to enter the political fray. When the PAP was formed in 1954, he became its founding Chairman.
5. Dr Toh’s 27 years as Party Chairman included the tumultuous period of struggle, between those who fought for a non-Communist, democratic Singa¬pore, against the Communists and their left-wing supporters. This life and death struggle carried on first within the PAP, and then later between the PAP and the Barisan Sosialis, after the pro-Communists split off from the PAP and formed their own opposition party. The outcome of this struggle was far from certain at the time, but Dr Toh’s resolute, uncompromising stand as Party Chairman helped the non-Communists prevail.
6. When Singapore was part of Malaysia, Dr Toh fought for a Malaysian Malaysia, against the ultras and communalists. As Mr Lee Kuan Yew has written, Dr Toh was a redoubtable fighter for equality of all peoples, regardless of race, language or religion. He campaigned relentlessly for this multi-racial ideal, and with Mr S Rajaratnam established the Malaysian Solidarity Convention. In Dr Toh’s own words, the aim was to “preach the gospel of a Malaysian Malaysia, not a Malay Malaysia, not a Chinese Malaysia, not an Indian Malaysia, not a Dayak Malaysia and so on”, but a Malaysian Malaysia. Following on this, Dr Toh and Mr Rajaratnam decided that the PAP should contest federal and state elections in Malaysia, in the Peninsula, and take the fight beyond Singa¬pore to all the states of Malaysia.
7. Dr Toh’s bold moves and fierce determination led to many consequences, culminating in Singa¬pore’s expulsion from Malaysia. But Dr Toh was opposed to Separation. His goal was not two countries, but one country that upheld the ideals of equality and multi-racialism. Unfortunately this was an impossible dream, and eventually Dr Toh was persuaded that there was no other way. He was one of the last Singa¬pore Ministers to sign the Separation Agreement.
8. After Independence, Dr Toh was a key member of the team that transformed Singapore from Third World to First. He dedicated himself to nation-building, and made significant contributions in his various portfolios. As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Singapore, Dr Toh re-oriented the institution to become a national university, free of its colonial past and ready to support the needs of our nation-building, and our education and development goals. As Minister of Health, Dr Toh strengthened our primary care sector by integrating the Outpatient, Maternal and Child Health and School Health Services, and established the Home Nursing Foundation to provide better healthcare for the poor and needy. He believed that healthcare was a basic right and that the State had to play its role in ensuring good healthcare for all the population.
9. Dr Toh retired from Cabinet in 1981, but remained an MP for two more terms. As a backbencher, he held his views as firmly as ever, and was often sharply critical of Government policies. From time to time, Dr Toh would clash with Ministers. The Ministers could not always accept his point of view, but they always took his criticisms seriously.
10. Throughout his political career, Dr Toh took good care of his constituents. For instance, he set up an old folks’ home at the void deck of Rochor Centre so his elderly residents could age peacefully in the community. It is a testament to his dedicated service that the Rochor Citizens Consultative Committee established the Toh Chin Chye Benevolent Fund for the Aged after Dr Toh retired as an MP.
11. I first knew Dr Toh as a young boy. Dr Toh would visit Oxley Road, and my parents would also bring me and my siblings along when they visited Dr Toh where he lived. His home was a flat at the university quarters at Nassim Road. It is gone now. He was not yet married, and had no children of his own, but was always generous and kind to us.
12. Later, as a young officer in the SAF, I had an opportunity to work with Dr Toh. My formation, the Artillery, was organising a decentralised National Day Parade in Jalan Besar Stadium, where Dr Toh would be the reviewing officer. I accompanied the Chief of Artillery to brief Dr Toh on the plan several times, at his office which was then at King Edward Road. He was meticulous and insistent on doing things the way he wanted, down to the last detail. Fortunately, the parade went off smoothly, and Dr Toh was satisfied.
13. When I entered politics, Dr Toh was a still an MP. I remember one of our Parliamentary exchanges vividly. This was in 1985, when I was a new Minister of State in MTI, participating in my first Budget Debate. Dr Toh argued passionately that the CPF rate was too high at 50 per cent, and was a heavy burden to employers and employees. He proposed lowering the CPF rate to 40 per cent. This was completely contrary to our official dogma then. I rebutted him equally stoutly, presenting the government’s view that the CPF was not an additional business cost because it was part of workers’ salaries. I thought at the time that I had won the argument. But events proved Dr Toh right: shortly afterwards the economy went into a deep recession, and by the end of the year the Government had decided to cut CPF contributions from 50 per cent to 35 per cent, even more than Dr Toh had proposed.
14. After his retirement from politics in 1988, I would meet Dr Toh from time to time, often at gatherings of retired MPs. He was the same old Dr Toh, but the years gradually took their toll on him – on his health, and on his memory. Dr Toh’s passing is another sign that our founding generation, both leaders and ordinary citizens, are gradually fading away. Singa¬pore is well into a post-independence era.
15. The present generation has benefitted tremendously from what the founding generation did, but without the personal experience of how we got here – the battles and blows, the excitements and disappointments, the unforgettable memories and indelible lessons that those critical years in our history impressed on the people fortunate enough to live through them. Dr Toh’s passing reminds us of how we got here, how much we owe to him and his generation, and how heavy a responsibility we have to carry their vision, and ours, forward and take Singa¬pore higher and further into a brighter future.
16. May Dr Toh Chin Chye rest in peace.