Monday, September 10, 2007

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew

a. The birth and growing up of years
· Family Background
Lee Kuan Yew was born in Singapore on September 16th 1923 in a wealthy and rich Chinese family. He was a fourth-generation Chinese Singaporean. His Hakka great-grandfather, Lee Bok Boon (born 1846), emigrated from the Dapu county of Guangdong province to the Straits Settlements in 1862.
The eldest child of Lee Chin Koon and Chua Jim Neo was Lee Kuan Yew who was born at 92 Kampong Java Road in Singapore, in a large and airy bungalow. As a child, he was strongly influenced by British culture because of his grandfather, Lee Hoon Leong, who had given his sons an English education. His grandfather then gave him the name of "Harry" in addition to his Chinese name (given by his father) Kuan Yew. Thus Lee Kuan Yew is known informally as "Harry" to his close friends and family and his name is sometimes called as Harry Lee Kuan Yew, although this first name is never used in official settings.
Lee Kuan Yew and his wife Kwa Geok Choo were married on September 30, 1950. They have two sons, Lee Hsien Loong, a prime minister of Singapore since 2004 and Lee Hsien Yang, a former Brigadier-General, was the President and Chief Executive Officer of SingTel, a pan-Asian telecommunications giant and Singapore's largest company by market capitalisation (listed on the Singapore Exchange, SGX) as well as one daughter, Lee Wei Ling who is still unmarried. His wife, Kwa Geok Choo, used to be a partners of the prominent legal firm Lee & Lee

Several members of Lee's family hold prominent positions in Singaporean society, and his sons and daughter hold high government and government-linked posts. His younger brothers, Dennis, Freddy, and Suan Yew were partners of the same firm. He also has a younger sister, Monica.
Lee has consistently denied charges of nepotism, arguing that his family members' privileged positions are based on personal merit. However, these charges have persisted and international publications such as The Economist, International Herald Tribune and the Far Eastern Economic Review have been threatened, sued or banned in Singapore for implying the existence of nepotism.

· Early child hood years
Lee Kuan Yew was educated at Telok Kurau Primary School, Raffles Institution, and Raffles College. His university education was delayed by World War II which occurs from the 1942 to 1945 Japanese occupation of Singapore. During the occupation, he operated a successful black market business selling tapioca-based glue called Stikfas. Having taken Chinese and Japanese lessons since 1942, he was able to collaborate as a transcriber of Allied wire reports for the Japanese, as well as being the English-language editor on the Japanese Hodobu from 1943 to 1944.[2][3]
After the war, he studied law at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge in the united Kingdom, of which he became an honorary fellow, graduating with Double Starred First Class honours, and briefly attended the London School of Economics. He returned to Singapore in 1949 and work as a lawyer in Laycock and Ong, the legal practice of John Laycock, a pioneer of multiracialism who, together with A.P. Rajah and C.C. Tan, had founded Singapore's first multiracial club open to Asians.

b. Contribution to Singapore

Formation of PAP
Fifty years ago on 21 November 1954, a group of young men and women launched the PAP at the Victoria Memorial Hall. They had a clear mission: to fight for independence and build a multi-racial Singapore based on justice, equality and democracy.
Six months later, the PAP fought its first elections. It won three of the four seats it contested. Four years later, it won the 1959 General Elections to form the Government. The PAP has won every general election since then and the person who set up PAP is Lee Kuan Yew

Contribution to Singapore(with and without the PAP)
1. He built a building of Singapore which one of the world wealthiest building, despite the current economic turmoil. However, historically, Singapore always had good infrastructure; as a crown colony and an entrepot, it had a head start. Lee merely pushed this city state to its full potential.

2. Lee Kuan Yew was the president of a one-party system (PAP), and worked hard to keep it going on. So in a sense, he fought against democracy, since he effectively disallowed opposition parties. On the other hand, he had successfully converted Singapore from a third world country to a prosperous international place. That's the dilemma of his rule.

Lee Kuan yew fought for independence from the British so that Singapore will no longer be controlled by a British and be a independent country.

Lee Kuan yew introduced the CPF (Central Provident Fund) for those that had retired from their job and they could still get an amount of money every month for survival.

His Thoughts and His words
He said although Singapore is small in size but we shouldn’t bow our heads to those bigger-sized countries. For example, we have a better army.
“To remind a new generation of Singaporeans that being small does not mean that we must be compliant to bigger neighbours”
He also said that to transform Singapore to what we are today, we need a strong government and their loyal government offices.
“To make the transformation from what we were in 1959 or 1965, to what we are requires an extraordinary government with extraordinary government officers to support it.”
He was very sad when Singapore separated as he believed that Malaysia and Singapore are connected. Therefore should merge.
“For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories."
“On our island of 224 square miles were two million people. We inherited what was the capital of the British Empire in Southeast Asia, but dismembered from the hinterland which was the empire. The question was how to make a living? How to survive? This was not a theoretical problem in the economics of development. It was a matter of life and death for two million people. The realities of the world of 1965 had to be faced. The sole objective was survival. How this was to be achieved, by socialism or free enterprise, was a secondary matter. The answer turned out to be free enterprise, tempered with the socialist philosophy of equal opportunities for education, jobs, health, housing.”
He means that although our island is only a small dot, we can still survive.

What did he do after becoming Prime Minister
He was the prime minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990. During his long rule, Singapore became the most prosperous nation in Southeast Asia.

1. Kuan+Yew.html

C. Later years

Lee kuan yew was now the minister mentor of Singapore ever since 12th August 2004 when Goh Gok Tong stepped down into Senior Minister and his elder son Lee Hsian Loong took over the place of Prime Minister. However his words now still carry much weight with the public and the cabinet and is always ready in use . Alhough his position is different now but he is still treat with respect and admiration.


Done by: Chan Yun Xin, Ng You Pin, Yap Hui Shan

2 Faith

Monday, September 3, 2007

Hajja fatimah was a malaccan born tradeswomen. Her family was very well-known amongst Singaporeans in those days. She got married to a Bugis prince who was from the Celebes. She was so wealthy that she would be, at times, called Sultana of Gowa.
Unfortunately, her husband had died when she was very young age.
Therefore, she had to continue her husband’s business alone. She had a large trade and owned many vessels and perahus. She also knew many Rajas from the homeland of her husband. This gave her a chance to make more money. And thus, the business flourished.
Hajja Fatimah had built her home at java road in kampong glam. This was a place where many glam trees grew. Those trees produced medicinal oil which had been used for several purposes.
Her house had been ransacked twice and burnt on the second. This was very common in that period of time. She then decided to abandon her house and donate her money to build a mosque and several houses for the poor on the same land instead.
The construction of the mosque took place from 1845 to 1846. She had by then, moved to a new place where she built a new home for her family.
Hajjah Fatimah, who was away when the arson attack occurred, was so relieved to have been spared any injury that she used the piece of land for a mosque.
She had also built some houses for the poor.
Her daughter, Raja Siti had been married off to Syed Ahmad Bin Abdul Rahman Alsagoff who was the son of an Arab merchant.
Syed Ahmad was a rich and wealthy trader.
The mosque represented a mix of local Islamic and European architecture having been design

The Hajah Fatimah Mosque in Singapore is named after the philanthropist Hajjah Fatimah who built houses and mosques for the needy and the destitute in Singapore. The Hajah Fatimah Mosque is situated at 4001 Beach Road. The Hajah Fatimah Mosque was constructed in the year 1846. The Hajah Fatimah Mosque distinctively exhibits a British architectural style.History of the Hajah Fatimah MosqueHajah Fatimah was a philanthropist of Singapore. She made grants and donations to the needy and the poor with the aim of alleviating their dire straits. She set up shelters and constructed mosques for the destitute and the under-privileged people. She contributed immensely for the benefit and welfare of the less fortunate people as well as for the Muslim community in Singapore as a whole. The mosque is named Hajah Fatimah Mosque to honor the generous and great soul, Hajah Fatima. She originally hailed from the state of Malacca in Malaysia. Hajah Fatima was married to an affluent Bugis Sultan.Architecture of the Hajah Fatimah MosqueThe Hajah Fatimah Mosque is a pretty unusual mosque. The architecture of the Hajah Fatimah Mosque does not follow the Middle Eastern pattern but distinctively exhibits a British architectural style. The Hajah Fatimah Mosque was built in the year 1846 and is dedicated to the great and generous lady, Hajah Fatimah. Photo exhibition at the front of the mosque showcases a glimpse of the development of Singapore recalled by the snaps of the Hajah Fatimah mosque and pictures of the neighboring areas of the mosque as well.Hajjah Fatimah mosque was built in 1986 which was named after Hajjah Fatimah herself, to commemorate her contributions to the community, of architectural influences from British as well& has the flavour of British in the mosque. Fatimah contributed to the making of Singapore as she had donated generously to the poor and needy in Singapore. She had also built mosques and houses to shelter the poor and needy. It was designed by a colonial architect John Turnbull Thomson. Through his knowledge of Hindustani and Malay, and designed a theory of racial diffusion based on philological evidence.He is also the arichitect and builder for horsburgh lighthouse,first bridge that was built across kallang river also known as thomson’s bridge,etc etc

. Hajja fatimah passed away at the old age of 98. She is buried behind the mosque in a private enclosure. The body of her daughter and her husband has been buried together with her behind the mosque also.
Masjid Hajjah Fatimah was gazetted as a National Monument on 6 July, 1973.
Today the mosque is owned by MUIS (Majilis Ugamg Islam Singapura).
Ii’m sure Hajjah Fatimah has had lived her life to the fullest, helping everyone she could. She would certainly be remembered for the generations to come.


Percentage contributed
Responsible for:
Clare chia pei xuan
Sourcing for information
Chua sok kuang
Searching for pictures
Khatijah begum
Writing and compilation

2faith: clare chia, chua sok kuang, khatijah begum

Masjid Hajjah Fatimah

The minaret tower (centre) stands between the inam's residence (left) and the main entrance (right).

The mosque's onion dome.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Biography of : Othman Wok

Birth and Growing Up Years
Born in 1924, Mr. Othman Wok describes himself as an
" Orang Laut "(literally, "man of the sea"), a descendant of one of a few hundred or so Malay families who lived in Singapore when Sir Stamford Raffles landed here in 1819.
He grew up in Telok Blangah where Malays, Indian and Chinese
children played together.
Information Adapted from:

Mr. Othman's father, who was a Malay teacher, enrolled him in English-language schools, beginning in Radin Mas and then Raffles Institution. He then furthered his studies in England.
First published in The Straits Times, Jan 25, 1997
Article adapted from:

His Career:
His passion was journalism, but being inclined in politics, he became an active trade unionist. Upon joining the People's Action Party in 1954, a period when Singapore was being separated by communalists and communists, and politics was a matter of life and death; he was editor of a Malay-language newspaper, Utusan Melayu.
Upon winning a Parliamentary seat on his second try, he became the Member for Pasir Panjang in the General Election of 1963. Thereafter, he was the Minister for Social Affairs, stepping down in 1977 to become Ambassador to Indonesia for the subsequent three years.
First published in: The Straits Times, Jan 25, 1997
Article adapted from:

After the Japanese occupation, he began working for Utusan Melayu in 1946 and became an editor. His political profession began when he met Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. He was convinced of the call for multi racial viewpoints in Singapore. In due course he joined the PAP. He fielded as a PAP candidate in 1959 in the Malay-majority, UMNO - controlled ward of kampong kembangan. Some Malays accused him of being a conspirator and was a target of ill treatment. However he did not lose heart. He was the Minister of Social Affairs from October 1963 to June 1977.

As PAP's first candidate for UMNO stronghold Kampong Kembangan in 1959, Mr. Wok lost to the UMNO candidate but so won the hearts of the citizens that in 1963 the new PAP candidate thrashed UMNO by more than 90 percent.
Later Years:
Following retirement from active politics in March 1981, he was Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia in addition to serving on the panel of the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board (STPB) and Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC).
Information adapted from:

One of his duties as a board member included being a special guide for VIPs by escorting them around places in Singapore. While being with SDC, he was usually involved with Malaysia or Muslim nations in promotions in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. As a member of the Administration and Finance Committees, he interviewed candidates applying for higher-ranking posts in the STPB. While serving with STPB, he was also a director of Overseas Investment Pte Ltd. Now, he is a director of a few private organizations, namely Lion AsiaPac Ltd, Mindsets Pte Ltd and Utasan Melayu (Singapore) Pte Ltd.
Information adapted from biography book: Never In My Wildest Dreams
Call Number in Library: 324.25

The Singapore President recognized his political, economic and community contributions to the state development of Singapore, by awarding him with the Order of Nila Utama (2nd Class) in 1983.

Information adapted from:

He still lives life energetically nowadays and is in the midst of writing his third volume of Malayan horror stories.
Information adapted from:

His first volume, Malayan horror, was the bestseller in Singapore and Malaysia when it was first sold in 1991. His second book, Cerita-cerita Seram was published in 1995.
Information adapted from:

Done by: Gloria Tay,Heng Hui Yun and Sheryl Kiang

Class: 2 Faith

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dr Albert Winsemius


He was a Dutch Economist who was Singapore's long-time economic advisor for his invaluable contribution to its development. He was a foreigner, who had faith in Singapore and believed strongly in the fact that it had a future, at a time when not many people did.
Dr Winsemius' first impression was anything but hopeful. "It was bewildering," he remembers. "There were strikes about nothing. There were communist-inspired riots almost every day and everywhere. In the beginning one has to very careful about passing any judgement - one does not know the country, one does not know the people, one does not know the men and women who are trying to steer this rudderless ship. But after a couple of months the pessimism within our commission reached appalling heights. We saw how a country can be demolished by unreal antitheses. The general opinion was: Singapore is going down the drain, it is a poor little market in a dark corner of Asia."
Within a year, on 13 June 1961, the Winsemius team offered Singapore a development plan. The final assessment was written by Winsemius personally: 'Expectations and Reality' was his motto. This was permeated with an emotional appeal for unity, a passionate warning that time was running out if Singapore was not to sink away into the mud. The gloom was not completely unrelieved, there was one bright spot on the horizon: "In our opinion", wrote Winsemius, "Singapore has the basic assets for industrialization. Her greatest asset is the high aptitude of her people to work in manufacturing industries. They can be ranked among the best factory workers in the world."

a) During his younger days

He had been a cheese salesman in his younger days and understood the importance of salesmanship and marketing strategy.

b) Contributions to Singapore

He firstly wanted to create jobs and attract foreign investment. Labour intensive industries, such as the production of men’s and women’s wear, were expanded. He encouraged the large-scale public housing programme, as he strongly believed that it would boost the country's image, thus attracting investors. He advised that the Sir Stamford Raffles statue should not be removed, as it was a sign of the British heritage. With his help, big oil companies such as Esso and Shell set up their refineries here in Singapore.

From 1961 to 1984, as a Chief Economic Advisor, Dr Winsemius worked closely with Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and Goh Chok Tong by visiting the country two to three times a year to check on the economic performance indicators and to discuss macro-economic strategies with the government planners. During the 1970s, Singapore was upgrading its industrial potential to use higher technological methods, including electronics. He personally persuaded Dutch electronics companies such as Philips to set up plants in Singapore. He also considered the fact that Singapore could be developed as a financial and an international centre for air traffic and sea transport. He managed to fulfill those dreams of his, over the next 20 years.


The Separation in 1965 marked the beginning of the second phase. The Housing and Development Board (HDB) started with an enormous building programme, under the leadership of Mr. Howe Yoon Chong. "This was very inspiring, people could see what was being achieved.

On Sundays fathers and mothers showed their children in what kind of new dwellings they would live presently. In that same period the government succeeded in interesting, just as had happened in Holland fifteen years earlier, big oil companies like Shell and Esso in establishing refineries in Singapore.
The third phase was that they started as soon as possible with the upgrading. Singapore became very active in promoting education for technical jobs, especially for the electronics industry. In the beginning it was quite a difficult job for me to convince people at the top of the big Dutch electronics company Philips to set up production plants in Singapore. Doctor Winsemius went to Eindhoven, where the headquarters of Philips are situated, to warn them: you have to hurry, I told them, otherwise there is a very real danger you will be too late and then you will be sure to miss the boat in the growing market of Southeast Asia.
The result is that Philips is now one of the big investors in Singapore and is doing a very fine job here.
The fourth phase was to make Singapore an international financial centre. Formerly the young state was bound to the English pound sterling. I knew a Dutchman who had lived and worked in Singapore; he was an employee of the Bank of America in London at that time. I visited him and told him we wished to transform Singapore into a financial centre for Southeast Asia within ten years. He told me it could be done in three or four years. He took a globe and showed me a gap in the financial market of the world. Trading, he explained, starts at nine o'clock in the morning in Zurich in Switzerland. An hour later London opens. When London closes, New York is already open. After closing time on Wall Street, San Francisco on the American west coast is still active. But as soon as San Francisco closes, there is a gap of a couple of hours. This gap can be filled by Singapore, should the government not shun taking some drastic measures - such as cutting its links with the British pound.

Shaping Singapore

He helped shape Singapore to move away from Entrepot trade into manufacturing and industrialisation, to attain full employment, higher standards of living and to transform itself into a financial centre for Southeast Asia.He also aided Singapore to become an international centre for air traffic and sea transport. And his plans were fulfilled within 20 years.

His later years

Dr. Winsemius was awarded the Distinguished service medal in 1967. In 1970, he was given an honorary degree by the University of Singapore. In 1976, he received the National Trades Union Congress' May Day Gold Medal of Honour.
He retired at the age of 74 in 1983 shedding a few tears, as he regarded Singapore as his own home. He passed away at his home in Holland on 4 December 1996

His Accomplishments

1967- He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal President by Yusof Ishak.

1970 - He was conferred an honorary degree by the University of Singapore.

1976 - He received the National Trades Union Congress' May Day Gold Medal of Honour.

His Retirement

Dr Winsemius passed away in December 1983, at the age of 74.

This is what he said when he left.

"I leave with a saddened heart. It (Singapore) has become part of my life, more or less. It can do without me. It can do without me years ago. But it became part of my life. So I will shed a few tears, imaginary tears.“
He regarded Singapore as his own home.


Information extracted from these following sources:

Done By: Gaayathri Devi.R(28), K.Loshana(31), Kalpana D/O Sivan(32)
Class: 2 Diligence

The birth and growing up years of John Crawfurd. (1783-1868)
John Crawfurd was born in Scotland to physician John Coutts Antrobus and Fanny Swetenhem, studied at Edinburgh University and appointed Assistant Surgeon in the medical service of the EIC in 1806. Posted to Penang two years later, participated the Java Expedition. Held senior posts including that of Resident of Yogyakarta. An avid collector of Indonesia antiques and manuscripts, later sold to the British museum. The first president of the Straits Settlements Association formed in London, in 1861, Died in the same year. As 2nd Resident from 1823-1826.

Contributions to Singapore
A medical doctor by training, Crawfurd came to this part of the world in in 1808 under the banner of the East India Company(EIC). Like Farquhar, Crawfurd was no stranger to the political environment of the region, having mastered the Malay language and also learnt about the customs and traditions of the Malay aristocracy.
The importance of cross-cultural competence in his work was highlighted after he became Resident in 1823, when he helped secure complete EIC sovereignty over the island. Singapore had up till then only been leased to the company by the Malay rulers who were here before 1819. His agreement with the Sultan and the Temenggong gave the company full nights to ownership of the island, and paved the way for development on an even larger scale.
It was not Raffles but Crawfurd who made Singapore a British possesion. The new Resident received the necessary authorization from British India in early March 1824. His task was facilitated by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty Of London (17 March 1824), which among other things recognized the British position at Singapore. Crawfurd’s treaty with the Malay rajas was finalized on 2 August 1824, and secured the session at Singapore in full sovereignty and property to the East India Company, its heirs and successors.
Crawfurd faced several challenges to his administration during his term of office. First, Raffles felt let down because Crawfurd did not appear to comply with his instructions for the island’s development. For example, Crawfurd legalized gambling and opium farms as a way of earning revenue. This infuriated Raffles, who had opposed a similar move by Farquhar.
Another incident that put his abilities into question occurred in 1824, when cultivators of crops for sale in Singapore. Crawfurd felt that commercial farming was less reliable than the development of Singapore as a trading hub. It was only later, after much wasted resources and time, that he was proven right.
In addition, some people felt that Crawfurd was not very approachable, as he was known for his impatience and outbursts of anger. A comparison made by the early settlers with his more popular predecessor would naturally make him more unpopular.
Crawfurd had to deal with the fact that, till then, there was an absence at legally constituted counts in Singapore. The EIC was unable to create these counts because of two main reasons. First, the rights of sovereignty had not been obtained with respect to Singapore although Raffles’ 1823 Convention came close to that. Secondly, even after these rights were obtained by the Anglo-Dutch Treaty and the Treaty of Cession, the latter was satisfied by the British Parliament till 1826. It was only after such ratification that the British monarch could issue charters or letters patent to set up the judicial establishment.
Till the arrival of the second charter of justice, Crawfurd’s administration of justice on the island was strictly speaking, illegal. He was compelled to assume an authority which he did not possess and his decisions were not legally binding; indeed, they left him open to prosecution in the Indian Courts in cases where punishment was inflicted. Crawfurd abolished the Magistrate’s Courts established by Raffles and replaced them with the Recorder at Penang on the legality of Raffles’ 1823 Regulations. The court of Requests was a small debts court presided over by the Assistant Resident, and the Resident’s Court decided all civil and criminal cases ‘on general principles of English law’. So far as local conditions and the ‘character and manners of the different classes of inhabitants’ permitted. Crawfurd wrote to the supreme Government about defiant and troublesome Europeans but received little help. They simply advised him to banish them. These conditions remained unaltered until the establishment of the Recorder’s Court in 1827 and in 1826, leading merchants as well as government officials were appointed Justices of the Peace, empowered to try civil and criminal cases.
One of his main contributions to Singapore was in bringing about the transfer of the Straits Settlements from the EIC Office in India to the Colonial Office in London. If the Straits Settlements had remained under the direct jurisdiction of the office in India, progress might have been slower. The eventual transfer from India to London in 1867 greatly increased the prestige and attention given Singapore.
It is through knowing these perceptions that we see how Crawfurd was someone who possessed a mind of his own. Not easily swayed by other people’s opinions, this quality of his proved essential when it came to bettering the fortunes of the new colony.
Crawfurd is recognized for his outstanding administrative capabilities, without which Singapore might not have progress as far as it did then. He was actively involved in even the minute details in the island. It has suggested that his measures made Singapore a free port in the truest term, having abolished all charges and taxes for the use of the port.

Later years
John Crawfurd died on 11 May 1868 aged 85 in South Kensington, London. After studying at Edinburgh; he became a surgeon in the East India Company’s service. After that, he resided at Penang for some time. His Local knowledge made him invaluable to the government of Java during the British occupation. John Crawfurd served as an envoy to Siam and Cochin-China. He also became the governor of Singapore in 1823. He was also elected president of the Ethnological Society. John Crawfurd wrote History of the Indian Archipelago(1820), Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries(1856), Journal of an Embassy to the court of Ava in 1827(1829), Journal of an Embassy to the courts of Siam and Cochin-China, exhibiting a view of the actual State of there Kingdoms(1850), Inquiry into the System of Taxation in India, Letter on the Interior of India, an attack on the newspaper stamp-tax and the duty on the paper entitled Taxes Knowledge(1836), and lastly a Malay grammar and dictionary(1852). Although Crawfurd was unsuccessful in several attempts to enter the British Parliament in the 1830s buut had the honor of being the first president of the Straits Settlements Association (founded in 1868),which was formed to protect the Coloney's interest stood as a testimony to his contributions toward Singapore’s early growth.Beyond Singapore, Crawfurd is remembered in the world of scholarship for his works on the region, based on his diplomatic missions and personal researches. Like Raffles, he was a Fellow of the Royal Society. In addition, he was also elected Fellow of the Linnean Society and Fellow of the Geographical Society, reflecting his wide interests in both the humanities and the sciences. In many respects, Dr John Crawfurd is a worthy model for later scholar-administrators of Singapore.

Done by: Geraldine Neo Poh Yan, Lim Celine and Michelle Tang 2diligence!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fong Swee Suan

An Introduction of Fong Swee Suan

Fong Swee Suan, 76, is a legendary figure among workers in Singapore from the 1950s to the 1960s era. He played an important leading role in the trade union movement and the anticolonial struggle in Singapore, earning him the enmity of the British colonial regime and its supporters.

Fong Swee Suan was the Secretary General of the Singapore Bus Workers Union, which explains how he became involved in the Hock Lee Bus Riots in 1955, where workers demanded better working conditions.

Together with Lim Chin Siong and other trade union leaders in Singapore, Fong Swee Suan was among the members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1954 and also helped to mobilize workers’ support for the PAP. He was educated in Chinese in the Chinese High School in Singapore.

The birth and growing up years

Fong Swee Suan was born on 27th October 1931. His grandparents came from China and had migrated to Singapore in hope of having a better life here. Life in China was hard and his grandparents were poor and had to live in poor living conditions with poor sanitation. Food was also a problem. His grandparents then heard that coming to Singapore would get a better life. For the sake of the later generations, his grandparents then decided to leave their homeland.

His Father and elder brother opened a laundry shop to earn a living. The business flourished. Many of the customers were mostly Malays. His mother, on the other hand, bought a piece of land to grow fruit trees and plants as cash crops, so that the family could earn a bit more money from the produce. This resulted in causing the family to live separately. To him, his mother was a big influence to him as she had taught him right values and good character.

Although he did not come from a wealthy family, he studied hard and did not give up. Unfortunately, he was halfway through his education when the World War II started. When World War II ended, he continued his education in primary school, studying in Primary Four. However, he was much older than his classmates who were studying in that level. He continued to pursue his studies and graduated in 1948.

In 1949, he left home to further his studies in Chinese High School but transferred to another school in Singapore to continue his classes. He was admitted to the second year and went into a class with Lim Chin Siong. He was already 20 years old that year. Swee Suan participated in many strikes including an examination strike. When he proceeded to study in his third year, he was expelled from school because he joined many of the student strikes.

His Contribution to Singapore

After he left school in 1950, he became a Secretary in the Singapore Bus Workers’ Union. He was then promoted to a higher position in April 1953. He met Lee Kuan Yew for the first time in 1954, through a friend.

On 21st November 1954, PAP was officially opened. Fong Swee Suan was also elected as a committee member.

In May 1955, he initiated and lead in the Hock Lee Bus Riot. The services of bus transport were severely disrupted paralyzed as buses were prevented from leaving as the strikers formed human barriers by sitting on the ground. It was on the 23rd of April when the workers of the Hock Lee Amalgated bus Co, who were members of the pro-communist Singapore Bus Workers’ Union [SBWU] went on strike. The head of the SBWU, Fong Swee Suan declared an official strike, urging all bus companies to stage a sympathy strike if the dispute was not settled. The dispute escalated when the Hock Lee Bus Company retaliated by dismissing 229 workers, belonging to Fong Swee Suan’s Union. Strikers went on hunger strike and picketed the depot. On April 23, 1955, workers from the Hock Lee Amalgamated Bus Company and some Chinese students began to go on strike. They were members of the Singapore Bus Workers' Union (SBWU) and were protesting against poor working conditions, long work hours and low pay. They also felt threatened by a rival union which was supported by the bus company to counter any labour action by SBWU.

The strike was rumored to be instigated by pro-communists. However, it was more likely to have been fanned by anti-colonial sentiments. Singapore had just held a Legislative Assembly Election on April, and the Labour Front led by David Marshall formed a minority government after winning a narrow victory. Fong Swee Suan and Lim Chin Siong, two anti-colonial leaders of SBWU, felt that the labour front was still controlled by the British. Violent as it was, the riots were an opportunity to fight for independence and self government. Fong Swee Suan later made a public apology to express the regret for the violence which got out of hand. 'We express our deep distress at the violence used against the buses of the Hock Lee Bus Company and the police.'

The strikers stopped the buses from leaving the depots and crippled the country's entire transport system. In a show of support, students from the Chinese Middle schools came in busloads to join the strikers. They organized donation drives, brought food and money, and even entertained the workers with songs and dances. Other workers also expressed support.

The police attempted to disperse the picketers many times. On April 27, 1955, police tried to break up the strikers and injured 15 people. This gained more public sympathy and support for the strikers.

On 11th June 1955, he was arrested with the rest of the leaders who lead in the riot. They were accused to have started the main strike. They were in detention for a total of 15 days. Many people objected and were then released.

In 21st September 1956, he was appointed as the vice-chairman of the Association of Workers’ Singapore Industry. This Association was set up on the 22nd May 1954. in 21st September 1956, he led a seven member representative group to see a minister, Lim Yew Hock, to discuss about the matter where the chairman of the Industry Association, Lim Zhen Guo, was arrested.

On 27th October 1956, Lim Yew Hock, decided to arrested all the people involved in all the strikes as there were too many strikes, thus resulting in another arrest of Fong Swee Suan. Arrested together with him were 200 other communists such as Lim Chin Siong, Chengara Veetil Devan Nair. Lim Yew Hock also destroyed the Middle Road Union Workers’ Party. Students involved were also dispersed.

In 1957, at Changi Detention Centre, Lim Chin Siong and other communists signed a treaty written by Chengara Veetil Devan Nair. 4th June 1959, the communists were released from the detention centre. After they were released, the held a conference with reporters and answered the reporters’ questions. They also spoke of a new strategy after Singapore’s independence, which included Singapore’s responsibility and policy. After expressing their views on this issue, they became very popular amongst the people. In 1959, he was appointed as the government secretary of the ministry of manpower and the dispute secretary of National Trades Union Congress of Singapore (NTUC).

On the 18th June 1960, Wang Yong Yuan challenged to be a leader of a party. So Fong Swee Suan, together with other communist parties, supported the Central party.

After Fong Swee Suan criticized the manpower policy in PAP, he was transferred to become a politic secretary of the deputy prime minister’s office.

July 1961, he objected to the idea of merger with Malaya. He broke off from PAP because of this1 objection. September 1961, he was appointed as the Singapore Socialism. At the same time, he was also the advisor of many other parties.

On 2nd Februry 1963, he was arrested for the third time. He was being brought to Malaya, with a short detention in Kuala Lumpur and then transferred to another detention centre in Muar. He was there for 4 years and 6 months. On 25th August 1967, he was released before the 10th anniversary of Malaya’s independence. He received his O’level and A’level certificates during his detention period. In 1968, he became the Administrative Assistant of the Kuala Lumpur central sugar factory.

On 1970, he moved to Johor and became a branch manager of De Cheng Machinery Pte Ltd. On 1976, he set up You Lian Machinery Pte Ltd. The business involved heavy machinery and estate investments. On 1991, he got his Bachelor of Arts from Kensington University.

He retired on 1996 and continued on an arts research and got an MBA and a PhD degree from another university. He has three children, his eldest daughter, Xiu Min is an architect. His eldest son, Fang Yong Jin, is a mechanical engineer. His youngest son, Fang Yong Zheng, is an electrical engineer.

Black Thursday

On 12th May 1955, later known as "Black Thursday", a major riot broke out in the streets of Alexandra Road and Tiong Bahru. The police tried to break up the 2,000 students and strikers using water cannon and tear gas, but the crowd retaliated by stoning the policemen and buses. In total, two police officers, a student and an American press correspondent, died and many more were seriously injured.

The police managed to stop the violence by the next morning. Later, Hock Lee Bus Company and the SBWU signed a ruling issued by the Court of Inquiry. The strikers' jobs and pay were restored and they declared victory for their action. However, because of the unexpected violence, public opinion became more critical towards the rioters. The Chief Minister of Singapore, David Marshall, took action. He expelled student leaders involved in the rioting and closed down two schools where the most students had been involved.

However, the students were defiant. On 16 May 1955, about two thousand students forced their way into the two schools. Anxious parents, friends and supporters came daily to give students food, clothing and money.

Marshall had no choice but to give in. He re-opened the two schools and allowed the expelled student leaders to return to school. He also blamed the pro-communists for the unrest saying, "The patterns of action of the demonstrators conform to Communist techniques." The British authorities were critical of Marshall for not taking tougher actions towards the rioters and strikers. They would later reject his proposal for independence in 1956, claiming that the local government was not able to manage internal security.

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William A. Pickering


William A. Pickering was the first Protector (one who protects) appointed by the British government to administer the Chinese Protectorate (an administrative body responsible for the well-being of the Chinese residents during the territory's British colonial period.) in colonial Singapore.

He was the first European official in Singapore who could speak fluent Mandarin and Hokkien. He had gained the trust of many Singapore Chinese. His efforts went a long way towards controlling the problems posed by the secret societies then. Pickering Street in Singapore's Chinatown is named after him.

Before being appointed as the Chinese Protector, he had served a 10-year term in Hong Kong's Chinese Maritime Customs Service. Therefore, he could speak many Chinese dialects such as Cantonese, Hakka, Hokkien, Foochew, Teochew and Mandarin itself.

Singapore's Governor, Sir Harry Ord, came across William Pickering in 1871 when he was back in London on leave. Ord was taken aback by Pickering's fluency in Chinese dialects. At the same time, the British Government in Singapore had difficulties communicating with the Chinese as most officials were ignorant of Chinese culture and language. This had caused many Chinese to join secret societies resulting in turf wars and other disturbances that threatened the stability of the settlement. With all these, Ord hired Pickering on the spot. Thus, Pickering departed for Singapore in January 1872.

When he had arrive in Singapore, he was shocked by how the Chinese there refered the British judges as 'devils', police as 'big dogs' and Eurapeans in general as 'red-haired barbarians'. Also, there was a 'post-office riots' between the Hokkiens and Teochews over who had the right to send money and letters back to China. He used an unusual technique to quell the riots, which was to walk up and down the streets playing his bagpipes. This often attract the Chinese onlookers attention, causing the riots to subside. He would then help to sort out the differences with his command of dialects.

He also played a part in putting an end to the incessant troubles between the Ghee Hin and Hai San who had engaged in open warfare over the tin fields at Larut since 1861. When Sir Andrew Clarke (a governor of Straits Settlement) wished to gather the two heads of both societies for a peace conference, he first sent Pickering to Penang. The seeds of peace thus informally sowed.

However, his dealings in quelling the riots upset some of the secret societies. In 1887, he was attacked by a Teochew carpenter, Chua Ah Siok, who was sent by one of the secret societies, the Ghee Hok Society, to kill him in retaliation for Pickering's constant meddling in business. The end of the axe blade struck Pickering on the forehead, causing serious injury. However, Pickering survived.

He also wrote an account of his time in Taiwan called the Pioneering in Formosa. He was also sent to Sungai Ujong, Negeri Sembilan by the British in Malacca to aid a British ally. He successfully commanded 160 troops in 1874 to remove possible resistance leader in Sungai Ujong.

In 1889, Pickering retired as Protector in 1889 due to complications from the attack by Chua. He died on 26 January 1907.

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