MP SPEAKS | Reminiscing my father’s storied life history on his 80th birthday is no easy task and is perhaps best left to historians adopting a trenchant and rigorous perspective. However, this huge family event cannot be celebrated without some reference to his work, family life, and personal philosophy.
My earliest memory of him is one of fear and respect for his outstanding achievements, inability to live up to his expectations, and the burden of living under a banyan tree as his eldest child. My siblings and I were told by my grandmother of his prodigious academic ability in school, one of the top students in the state of Johor.
We witnessed first-hand not just his cutting intellect, but his self-taught ability to master Pitman’s shorthand, speed typewriting, and mastery of languages including Jawi.
Who can forget the machine gun staccato of the typewriter ringing through the late of the night, pouring out reams of press statements and speeches? And of course, obtaining his law degree with flying colours whilst under detention under the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA).
My grandmother naturally doted on her precocious youngest child. She was a remarkable lady in her own right, an illiterate woman who taught herself to read. He was her favourite child because he was a rebel at heart like her, refusing to be beaten down by circumstances.
He did not allow grinding poverty to prevent him from bettering himself. Marrying young, he ventured out first as a teacher then as a journalist to the Straits Times in Singapore. He was the youngest Secretary-General of the Singapore National Union of Journalists at 22. Whilst providing for his family, he yearned to...