Dr Toh made “great contributions” to S’pore: Lee Kuan Yew




Dr Toh Chin Chye was among the founding members of the PAP and the party's Chairman.


SINGAPORE: Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew has described the death of Dr Toh Chin Chye as the passing of an old guard.

In his condolence letter, Mr Lee said Dr Toh had made great contributions to Singapore.

He said both he and Dr Toh were comrades for many years, from their student days at the Malayan Forum in London in 1950, till Dr Toh’s retirement in 1981.

Describing Dr Toh as a man of strong character, Mr Lee said he was a redoubtable fighter for equality for all peoples, regardless of race, language or religion.

Brought up in Taiping, Malaysia, he was determined that there should be no discrimination against anyone because of his or her race.

Dr Toh was also tenacious in his beliefs. Mr Lee highlighted that once his honour was challenged, Dr Toh was like a bulldog, never letting go of the offender.

With his passing, Mr Lee said Singapore has lost a historic figure in the country’s fight for justice and independence.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who remembers his first meeting with Dr Toh in 1976 during the former’s selection interview, said Dr Toh had some reservations about the way the People’s Action Party (PAP) carried out its political self-renewal.

He felt the Party should recruit candidates from its branches, instead of parachuting technocrats into government positions.

Mr Goh believed Dr Toh was more against the pace of appointing newly-elected technocrats without political experience into Ministerial positions, than the principle of self-renewal itself.

Today, besides identifying candidates from the public and private sectors, the PAP makes it a point to actively recruit candidates from its branches.

Mr Goh said: “I respected Dr Toh Chin Chye as a key member of a small group of founding fathers of independent Singapore. We refer to this group as the Old Guard. His historical contribution as the PAP’s founder chairman and his leadership of the Party for 27 years, during a trying period when the party had to battle enemies within and outside its ranks, is well-acknowledged.”

Mr Goh stressed that Dr Toh gave the best years of his life to Singapore, serving in several Cabinet positions and as deputy prime minister.

He retired from active politics in 1988 and has been out of the limelight for more than two decades.

Mr Goh said he still saw Dr Toh from time to time at dinner functions and made it a point to keep track of his well-being.

Robin Lim, a former grassroots leader in Rochor, described Dr Toh as “very direct and straightforward”.

He said: “Dr Toh is very much a very direct and straightforward person. He does not take nonsense. In spite of that, he’s very willing to correct you.

“He’ll correct you if you’re deviating from the point. When he listens to you, he will know that you’re going out of the point so he would always bring you back to the question he was asking you.

“Sometimes the way he does it, he will get irritated and he will sometimes lose his temper. But we understand that because he has such a sharp and analytical mind that sometimes he can see that you’re talking nonsense, which sometimes we agree.”

Dr Toh retired from politics in 1988. A year later, the Rochor Citizens Consultative Committee set up the Toh Chin Chye Benevolent Fund for the Aged, in appreciation of his 29 years of service as its MP.

John Teo, chairman of the Toh Chin Chye Benevolent Fund for the Aged, said: “The late Dr Toh had a special interest in elderly residents in the constituency. Over the years, we have continued with many programmes, initiatives targeted at this special group and we have been doing this even till today.”

Tay Kerk Khong, a grassroots leader in the Kampong Glam division, said: “I was born in the Rochor area and in 1982, when we were told to volunteer as an RC member to set up the Rochor Centre Resident Committee, we come forward to volunteer.

“Our main aim at that time was to give the feedback on government policies from the ground and also to help facilitate the link between the government and residents… Dr Toh is very caring to our residents and he has set up a Rochor Kongsi in Rochor Centre to take care of the sick and old residents who need help and need medical care.”


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