Edmund William Barker: Statesman, Scholar, Sportsman:
Edmund William Barker (b. 1 December 1920, Singapore - d. 12 April 2001, Singapore), a.k.a. E. W. Barker, was a prominent local politician.
Edmund (Eddie) William Barker was born on the 1st of December, 1920. He was educated at Serangoon English School and Raffles Institution. There, he contributed much. School captain, head prefect, and champion athlete in 1938. He represented the school in cricket, hockey, athletics and badminton, and later in Raffles College, he added rugby to the collection. Outside school, E.W. Barker played sports like cricket and hockey for the Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) between 1934 to 1941, when the SRC was almost the strongest team in Singapore. As a hockey player, young Edmund Barker, along with Reggie Thoy, were one of the first schoolboys to be chosen to play on a national level.
Achievements: Not only establishing himself as both sportsman and leader in his schooling days, but also much of scholar. Being awarded the prestigious Queen's Scholarship in 1946 a testament to his skill. Two years later, he graduated with honours in law at St. Catherine's College, Cambridge University. And if the demanding law degree was not enough, Edmund Barker still played sport at the university, winning the badminton blue at Cambridge.
Mr Barker returned to Singapore and practiced law from 1952 to 1964. He was elected as the MP for Tanglin in 1963– a post he held firmly until 1988, returning without opposition in recurring general elections. That same year, he was also serving as the speaker of the Singapore Legislative Assembly. Being a politician, he was committed wholly to the people of Singapore and its progress, being a notable leader of the House for around 15 years. His political portfolios include being Minister for Labour, National Development, Science and Technology, and Law. He was one of the longest serving of the Law Ministers in the Commonwealth.
After separation, he took on the additional portfolio consisting of National Development. He is considered as one of the Old Guard leaders, and left office in 1988, after 25 years of service.
In between the years of 1970 to 1990, he held other positions, like the first President of the Singapore National Olympic Council, President of the South-East Asia Peninsular Games Federation Council, Chairman of Bukit Turf Club, and Chairman of the Singapore Stock Exchange.
His appointments in Parliament consist of: Speaker, Minister for Law, Minister for Law and National Development, Minister for Law, Home Affairs and National Development, Minister for Law and National Development, Minister for Law and Environment, Minister for Law, the Environment and Science and Technology, Minister for Law and Science and Technology, Minister for Law,
Minister for Law and Labour, Minister for Law.
After retiring himself from the world of politics, Mr Baker remained an active citizen, serving on boards of several public and private corporations.
But sports were still very much the first love of his, and rightfully so, the sporting fraternity fondly remembers him. Being a dedicated team player in his competitive days, he was a sport administrator and leader. He also served as the president of the Singapore National Olympic Council for two decades since 1970, and being active in the organizing committee in Singapore's successful hosting of the 12th and 17th South East Asia Games.
Mr Barker was an honorary member of the SEA Games Federation. He was also responsible for the building of the National Stadium in Kallang, seeing as he persuaded the government to allocate the land and financial resources for it. In respect to his contributions to the development of sport in Singapore, Mr Barker was presented the Olympic Order (Silver) by the International Olympic Committee in 1985, and the Distinguished Service Award of the USA Sports Academy in 1983.
Barker was the son of Clarence Barker and Dorothy Evelyne Paterson. He was married to Gloria Hyacinth Quintal and had four children. He was in good health until April 2000 when he was hit by a series of medical problems. He died on 12 April 2001 at 12:40 pm at the National University Hospital, after two months of intensive care following an emergency colon surgery in February 2001.
Legacies:Mr E W Barker, former Minister for Law and President of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), was awarded the Olympic Order (Silver) for his outstanding merit in the cause of world sport and faithfulness to the Olympic ideal in 1986. His was the first award given to a Singaporean.
In honour of E. W Barker, Ken Jalleh the sports writer wrote these words:
"These are Singaporeans content to play, happy to be good enough to be selected for a Raffles side, a SRC team, and better still, the state eleven. To this army of sportsmen, the satisfaction comes in the playing or in the service they can give to club, association or country.
If in playing their best, the applause came, they took it like bonuses freely given. The bonuses were many for young Eddie in the days of his prime."
In remembrance of Mr E. W Barker, and his contributions as statesman, scholar, sportsman and supporter of sports, it was proposed that a professorship and scholarship be named in his honour. The professorship and scholarship seeks to continue Mr. Barker's legacy and involvement in sport and physical activity.
Mr Barker was, and had always been, in the driving seat promoting and nurturing the sport scene in Singapore. In the several reports on sports in Singapore that were made, including the recent CoSS report, recommendations for the need to nurture effective sporting bodies, building a sports industry, promoting sport for all, and developing sporting excellence have been made. Much needs to be done in each of these areas, and research, understanding and development of best-practices in these areas are clearly essential.
Singapore has a number of people who have contributed to it’s progress. E.W. Barker is one of them. He comes across as an extremely passionate man, contributing endlessly to the progress and development of our nation, our youths, and inspired the common citizen. He was able to achieve much during his youth, of which, we think, reflect his already apparent passion and indifference to ordinary limits. Nothing hindered his achieving, and it is apparent that we should follow his spirit of perseverance.
Even after retirement, he continued to contribute, to causes that he had the foresight to see were necessary. It is probably a hope of those who had known him, heard of him or have been inspired by him, that future generations will channel the very same spirit of passion and achievement, for the sake of furthering society’s progress, and that of the nation. And it is obvious that E.W. Barker’s founding of the further development of the areas which inspired him will see to this.
Whos who in Malaysia and guide to Singapore. Kuala Lumpur: V. V. Morais.
(Call no.: R 920.0595 WWM)
Old guard Stalwart Eddie Barker dies. (2001, April 13). The Straits Times, p. 1.
The reluctant politician. (2001, April 13). The Straits Times, Home, p. 2.
Kind, friendly and a real gentleman. (2001, April 13). The Straits Times, Home, p. 3.
Breadwinner. (1970, May 8). The Straits Times, p. 6.
Done By: Courtney Sim(6)
Ham Shi Ying(8)