Sunday, October 19, 2008

Service For Persons Seeking Legal Representation


There have been a number of instances, where a person needs legal advice and is unable to find a suitable lawyer to represent him or her. This does not paint a helpful picture of the legal profession.

I would like to suggest that either the Law Society of Singapore or Singapore Academy of Law consider setting up a section on its website for persons requiring legal representation. The information about such persons should be retained on that section so long as the person requires legal representation and is unable to secure such representation.

Lawyers can be frequently encouraged to visit this section of the website or to receive by e-mail information updates on the website. Using information available on the website, they can contact persons, whose cases they may be interested to take up.

For this service, the relevant operator can charge a nominal fee of $1 - $10. The amount collected from such fees can be used to offset the cost of running this service.

I hope the Law Society of Singapore or Singapore Academy of Law can consider providing this service.

It is in the interest of the legal fraternity to facilitate access to justice in Singapore.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Interview on Tan Kin Lian


In your dealings with him, what kind of person does Mr Tan strike you as?

I worked with Tan Kin Lian since 15 August 2003 until his retirement on 1 April 2007. I did not report directly to him. I reported to the present general counsel of NTUC Income, Vincent Yeo.

Tan has often believed in doing what is right and in helping those that really do need help. In doing these things, he is pragmatic and he takes calculated risks. He also has this remarkable ability to simplify matters. I guess these qualities come from his background as an actuary.

I remember, when I first joined NTUC Income, a manager had put forward a proposal to Tan. The manager painted a very rosy picture and provided enticing figures to support that image. Tan replied, "Our goal as a cooperative is not make too much money. We only need to make a reasonable amount of money. Our goal should also be to help people and to create jobs so that they can help others."

Were you surprised that he would turn out to be such a vocal activist after leaving NTUC Income? Did you expect him to do so?

No, Tan has always been vocal about issues of the day, especially matters that he is concerned or passionate about, even if the issue involved regulators or others with influence. When I joined NTUC Income, my mentor told me, "Tan Kin Lian is one person who will stand up for what he thinks is right. And he is the one person who will let you do the same. So the opportunity to work with him is an honour."

Mr Tan's actions are rare in Singapore. We hardly ever see ex-CEOs or ex-politicans publicly taking on a contrarian position to the authorities and rallying people to the cause. So far, Mr Tan's efforts have been quite positive, in terms of creating awareness and getting people's support. What do you think are the reasons why he has been successful in doing so?

Perhaps, most of these ex-CEOs or ex-politicians have other priorities. Nevertheless, Tan Kin Lian is not in unchartered territory. For example, before him, we had Ngiam Tong Dow and the late S Rajaratnam. Of course, Tan has the benefit of blogging technology, which his predecessors did not have the luxury of exploiting.

I am hopeful we will see more ex-CEOs or ex-politicians publicly taking on a contrarian position to the authorities and rallying people to the cause. We already see hints of such will in current leaders such as Lee Wei Ling, Liew Mun Leong and Ho Kwon Ping.

I am presently training to be a trial lawyer. One of the things that is impressed upon you as a trainee advocate is how much your credibility before the Court is very important. The more credible you are, the more the Court is likely you to find you believable. Of course, it is also important to have good knowledge of the law. Tan has been successful simply because, firstly, he knows what he is talking about and, secondly, he has built up enough credibility to be believed. My sense is that both the authorities and the people he has rallied trust him to do what is right and to act within the law.

For many, it's about time that someone spoke up loudly on consumer rights. Do you see this as boding well for the future of Singapore? What could be some of the pitfalls that you think Mr Tan have to watch out for, to avoid the fate of other prominent political/civil activists?

Traditionally, labour and consumer rights have been championed by the National Trades Union Congress. As Chief Executive Officer of NTUC Income, Tan was a pioneer in backing consumer-centric initiatives. Tan is thus keeping to the NTUC agenda by speaking up loudly on consumer rights in the financial sector.

I have always held the view that an active citizenry bodes well for the future of Singapore. It is an indication of how much people care about their country. In being active, citizens should check their facts and stay within the parameters of what is legal. As long as citizens watch out for these things, they can avoid the unfortunate actions other prominent political or civil activists have had to face.

Does Mr Tan come across to you as someone with an axe to grind?

Exemplary leaders have only one loyalty: their cause.

In staying true to his cause, Lee Kuan Yew bowled over the communists and many others that came in his way. Does that mean Lee had an axe to grind? If yes, the same can be said of Tan.

I would prefer to think Tan is staying true to his cause.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Singapore Wonder

Seen on the outer walls of the current Supreme Court of Singapore building.

Art or anatomy?

Tasteful or downright vulgar?

No wonder the honourable Former Speaker of Parliament Tan Soo Khoon had no qualms referring to this Supreme Court building as one of the "Seven Wonders of Singapore".

One wonders indeed.

Thank you for permitting me to use this photograph, Puja V.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Replies: Banned JBJ Film

I sent a request to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), Media Development Authority (MDA) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) to release and screen a banned JBJ film. MICA sent an initial reply and I sent a follow-up.

Further replies came from both MICA and NP. As a matter of public interest, these are made available below after my afterthoughts on this issue. The replies are self-explanatory.


1. I am now looking forward to the Films Act amendments, which the Prime Minister should be commended for raising.

2. I thank NP for correcting the impression that their film equipment and tapes were confiscated by our censors. In fact, they do not own the film. They also had no equipment confiscated. I only wish NP had provided this information much earlier. It would have reduced hassle and saved both NP and me some time.

3. Nevertheless, it is regretful that NP does not wish to consider making a comprehensive documentary. They did not provide reasons so one can only speculate. Perhaps, their student newspaper may investigate this aspect further.

4. I hope someone will bring this exchange to the attention of the film-makers, who are really in a better position to pursue this matter with the relevant bodies. It is clearly in Singapore's interest to have this film retrieved and preserved for purposes of history.


I refer to your follow-up queries.

MDA will fund and support film projects based on a careful assessment of their merit and contribution to the Singapore film industry. Pending the amendment of the Films Act, it is premature to speculate on what kind of political documentary will be supported by MDA.

K Bhavani
Press Secretary To Minister and
Director, Corporate Communications Department


Thank you. I look forward to the public consultation on amendments to be made to the Films Act. I request that Secretary Chan exercise his discretion to forward the proposed amendments to the Law Society of Singapore for feedback before they are placed before Parliament.

In the meantime, I shall await the response from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Dharmendra Yadav


I refer to your email to Ms Bhavani which was copied to my Principal.

Thank you for your feedback.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic has no plans to pursue the matter further.

May Goh
Deputy Director
Corporate Communications Office


...Having taken 5 days to digest your reply, I do not understand your reply. Which matter are you referring to since the e-mails do raise a number of matters?

For purposes of comprehension, let me set out the matters I raised again here.

With the proposed amendments to the Films Act, I hope:
a. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can request Media Development Authority to return its confiscated film equipment.
b. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can request Media Development Authority to release its tapes.
c. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can arrange for a screening of the film after the tapes are released.
d. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can produce a more comprehensive documentary about the late J B Jeyaratnam.
e. Ngee Ann Polytechnic can arrange for the full stories of the film-makers of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's banned film to be told.

Thank you.

Dharmendra Yadav


We have no plans to pursue any of the matters you have listed.

Thank you.

May Goh
Deputy Director
Corporate Communications Office


Since Ngee Ann Polytechnic has no plans to pursue any of the matters listed, please:

a. Allow me to put on record that the confiscated film equipment were bought using funds of the polytechnic. These resources are financed at the end of the day by funds raised through fees paid by students and/or government subsidies funded by ordinary taxpayers. Your plans not to pursue this matter - where the Prime Minister has indicated a green light - does not appear to be in the interests of financial prudence that the public bodies such as yours should be held up to. The irony of the situation is unmissable. Ngee Ann Polytechnic was able to conjure plans and commit resources to break the law. But given the opportunity to uphold its legal rights, it has no plans to pursue a matter permitted by the law. This is an unfortunate reflection of the management of Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

b. Give me your permission to request MDA to release the tapes to Singapore's national archives. It is clearly in the national interest to have these tapes preserved for purposes of history.

Dharmendra Yadav


I wish to clarify that the film referred to was not commissioned by the polytechnic. The polytechnic did not 'conjure plans and commit resources' to make the film, nor did we have any film equipment confiscated. Point (b) is moot since the film does not belong to the polytechnic.

As mentioned in my earlier email, we have no plans to pursue any of the matters listed. With this clarification, we will not enter into further correspondence on the subject matter.

Thank you.

May Goh
Deputy Director
Corporate Communications Office


...Your response is adequately appreciated.

Please be aware that one source notes:
"Apr 2001: Government officers raided Ngee Ann Polytechnic and confiscated film equipment and tapes after three lecturers had made a documentary about JB Jeyaratnam. The three were told that they could be charged in court if they went ahead with a planned screening of the film at the Singapore International Film Festival. They submitted written apologies for making the film and withdrew it from the Festival."

Having read your final reply, I now wish you had clarified earlier that the polytechnic neither commissioned the film, owns the tapes nor had property confiscated. It would not have led to my negative impression of your organisation, which was motivated by the initial reply from your good office. Had I got the information that you have just provided earlier, I would also have been more than happy to drop this matter.

Taking your lead, I too "will not enter into further correspondence on the subject matter" with you or Principal Chia. I may write to the then Ngee Ann Polytechnic female lecturers - Christina Mok, Mirabelle Ang and Tan Kai Syng - to request them to pursue this matter with the relevant authorities.

Have a great week!

Dharmendra Yadav

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why Kindness Exists

A diabetic orphan aged 12 was featured on television earlier today. His mother died of tuberculosis many years ago. He too had tuberculosis but has now recovered. His father abandoned his sister and him. The responsibility of caring for them fell on his grandmother. Unfortunately, she had to leave them in an orphanage and died some years later.

The feature saddened me. I asked a friend, "Why is God not good to everyone?"

My friend replied, "Because if he's good to everyone, then kindness can't exist."

Many of my friends and I are blessed. We lead happy and healthy lives. We have had a good education and are now sowing its benefits. All in all, the world has given us a lot that we can be grateful for.

Yet, I am surprised by some who feel that what they have received is not enough. They are bent on chalking up more of the material deliverables that society has to offer. Nothing wrong with that. But I hope they can give as they take.

I think it is important that we should be kind to others, especially those in need.

Two of my former bosses did not fail to share an important lesson with me. They said in quite similar terms that it is important to give, give and give. Their rationale being that the more you give, the more you will get back.

In the years that have passed, I have had many opportunities to help others. I have found those opportunities highly rewarding as much as the rewards cannot be defined materially. Nonetheless, I can add that these opportunities have taken me to new highs on my personal satisfaction index.

Kindness exists because some are more blessed than others. Kindness exists when we share and be good to others. Go on then, be good!

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Handling Queue-Jumpers


Last weekend, I attended a community event. At the event, each attendee was entitled to a complimentary serving of food.

Naturally, it being dinner time, there was a long queue for the food. While my friend and I were waiting in line, an ageing buxom lady (who I shall call Mrs Buxom India) and her slimmer friend appeared in front of us and started having a chat.

After a while, my friend and I realised that they were not there to simply chat. They had, in fact, queue-jumped.

I confronted the two ladies. I asked, "Excuse me, are you here to just chat or to collect your meal?"

Mrs Buxom India replied that they were waiting in line to collect their food. As much as I appreciated her shameless honesty, I had to tick her off. I said pointing to the end of the line behind me, "Then, we were here before you and the line actually begins over there."

By that time, Mrs Buxom India's slimmer friend had disappeared to join the end of the queue. Mrs Buxom India insisted, "Well, if you need to go first, you can go before me."

I shot back, "It's not a question of just me going first. It's a question of all those before you going first."

Mrs Buxom India then left the line.

I am reminded of a similar event I went through as a university student. Some years ago, after leaving a disco, I was waiting for a taxi. Someone appeared in front of me and tried to flag a cab. As he was about to get into the taxi, I went up to him and said, "Excuse me, I think your friend over there is looking for you and calling out your name."

As he sought to look for the friend apparently calling him, I got into the cab and told the driver to head to the destination I wanted to.

We should not condone queue-jumping. Of course, if one is elderly, pregnant, handicapped or needy in any other manner, an exception can be made to help them.

We should not hesitate to stand up for what is the right thing to do.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Decline to Return Used Crockery & Trays


Since the Prime Minister's National Day Rally this year, there has been a concerted effort to get people to clean up after they finish eating at our coffee-shops. This usually involves returning the used crockery and trays you use to designated areas. I am not in support of this initiative.

Returning used crockery and trays is not difficult for my generation of Singaporeans, who had to do the same when we were in school or in national service. In fact, I used to do so judiciously until some 5 years ago.

Then, I had recently returned from England to take up a job in Singapore with a cooperative of the National Trades Union Congress. A new colleague invited me out to lunch.

After lunch, I cleaned up the table and was about to return the tray I had used.

My colleague yelled, "No, don't do that!"

I asked her, "Why? What's wrong?"

She then pointed to an elderly lady who was going round the eatery clearing the tables. She suggested, "If you do this, old people like her will lose their jobs. There'll be less for them to do and therefore less incentive for owners of such eateries to keep them employed."

I questioned my colleague, "Am I not help helping her by doing this?"

She said, "If you really want to help her, clean up the table and place all the things that you need to return or throw away on the tray. But let her take the tray from the table to where it should go. She will be more grateful to you as a person for helping her to do that."

Since that incident, I have followed my colleague's advice. The smile I get from elderly cleaners when I do as advised is an experience to be cherished.

The National Environment Agency, with food court owners and cleaning agencies, has now come out to argue that returning the crockery and cutlery one uses to designated areas will not affect the jobs of such elderly, since they will have other things do do.

Like many other diners and cleaners, I do not buy the NEA's argument.

A table that has not been cleared away leaves the greatest impact on the consumer. Many owners of eateries know this. They therefore undertake great efforts to ensure tables remain clear. It is not unusual for them to employ more than the usual number of cleaners during peak periods so that more consumers will patronise their eateries.

I agree that cleaners have other things to do but these other things can be done by employing more cleaners or getting the same cleaners to do the same during non-peak periods.

It is important here to also note how The Straits Times reported NEA's position on 7 October 2008: "The NEA, foodcourt owners and cleaning agencies have come out to assure cleaners - some of whom are elderly - that they will not lose their sources of livelihoods. The NEA, for example, says hawker centres will always require cleaners, so they will be redeployed to wherever they are needed, if necessary." (emphasis added)

Firstly, I noted, in particular, the absence of any indication of NTUC involvement or support to this initiative. Secondly, the key words in the above paragraph are "if necessary". Need I say more?

If you really wish to help a cleaner, do clean up the table you use and place all the things that you need to return or throw away on a tray. Let the cleaner clear the tray. When the cleaner comes to get your tray, thank the cleaner for doing so and watch out for that appreciative smile from him or her.

By doing so, you will not only be helping eateries to remain clean but also helping cleaners to retain their jobs. This way, we build not just a gracious society but a society that looks out for its needy.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Engaging the Nay-sayer

Ten years ago, student journalists in the National University of Singapore published uncut an interview with a leader of an opposition party. The publication of the article did not come easily for these students. It involved a lot of negotiation with the then university administrators.

This year, student journalists in the Nanyang Technological University tried to publish a sanitised news report of an opposition party leader's unsolicited visit. It is unfortunate that the students failed to publish the story. This non-publication is also a reflection of the state of mind of the person who made the decision to kill the news report.

Today, in Singapore, we have a team of persons in leadership positions, who were brought up on a culture of fear. To them, when unsure, the natural answer should be no. They have been tamed to simply avoid taking risks, if given a choice.

Former diplomat Vergese Matthews wrote about such persons in his story, Speaking Up For Singapore, in the book, The Little Red Dot, Reflections by Singapore's Diplomats: "I fear that there has been a perceptible deterioration in... the civil service as a whole where this culture of speaking up and/or offering views at variance with those held by the leadership has dissipated...One possible reason is that there has been a national tendency to favour "safe hands" that would not rock the proverbial boat and that had the additional uncanny ability to second-guess what the Ministers were thinking."

Without engaging these persons through confidence building measures, nothing will be achieved. It will require a lot of time and a great deal of patience to get them to trust you. It can be a very frustrating process.

As a result, many choose to simply give in to their demands. Others make a quick exit from the organisations these persons run, so as not to be led by such persons.

I have found it more rewarding to engage these persons and win them over. I have found that, once you have their trust, they do all they can to get you what you want. They will also stick their necks out for you, should you get into trouble.

It was therefore a shame that, instead of continuing to engage their university administrators and exhausting the highest channels of appeal available to them internally, the student journalists chose to bring their battle out into the public sphere.

It has damaged the reputation of their university. It will do little to help them achieve what they want, that is have the news report published in the university publication.

Of course, I am not saying one should not take out one's gloves. There are some battles worth fighting in the open. This just does not appear to be one of them.

Dharmendra Yadav

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Preserving JBJ Name

A reader of this blog, Lin Yu, shared the following poem about Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam earlier today:

You could have made it big, you could have been very rich
But you gave it all up for what is your belief.

You could have given in to all the troubles and you could have given up the fights
But for the love of your country, it is a thought you neither haboured nor took flight.

Alas, a son of Singapore has left us with honour and dignity
But his name and his spirit will always be in our history.


1. Lin Yu, thank you for sharing your poem. The poem has been edited for grammatical accuracy.

2. Some persons have recently initiated a petition to the Prime Minister to get the Government to preserve JBJ's "public spiritedness and love of the law". First, they desire "a professorial chair in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam be created in the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore". Second, they desire "a scholarship fund in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam for graduate studies in political science and/or constitutional law and/or civil society studies".

3. Personally, it is not in the interest of a Government controlled by the People's Action Party to do so. It will be a miracle if the Government responds positively to such an effort. Of course, it is possible, if enough backers of the Government write in to them to do so, the Government may be prompted to react in some manner. But if you know some of these backers, they will probably tell you that they have better things to do.

3. My own sense from the Cabinet's neutered response to JBJ's death is that there is a conscious lack of interest or desire to give JBJ's expiry more attention than he deserved during his lifetime. This conclusion can be drawn particularly from the condolence letter that the Prime Minister sent to JBJ's family.

4. As much as I laud the efforts of those petitioning the Prime Minister, I think they will need to do more legwork before the Government responds. For example, by raising the seed funds needed to realise what they wish to see for JBJ.

5. Fortunately, the political hero of my generation, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong had the foresight to put in place helpful measures before he stepped down as Prime Minister. He began an ambitious programme to move Singapore's local universities on a path of being self-reliant. The process of giving to our local universities is therefore far more transparent than it used to be.

6. Since the petitioners desire to give to the National University of Singapore, a "professorial chair in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam" in the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore will cost $2,000,000. The "scholarship fund in the name of Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam for graduate studies in political science and/or constitutional law and/or civil society studies" will cost $150,000.

7. A total of $2,150,000 will need to be raised. The Government will respond by matching the gift dollar-for-dollar. Singapore residents who pay taxes and contribute will also enjoy double tax deduction. Those who strongly desire to preserve JBJ's "public spiritedness and love of the law" should consider setting up a fund-raising committee to raise the necessary $2,150,000.

8. Indeed, like many other things in Singapore, we need to help ourselves first before the Government helps. If any response comes, this is probably what the Prime Minister will tell the petitioners.

Dharmendra Yadav

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MICA Reply: Banned JBJ Film

Some days ago, I sent a request to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), Media Development Authority (MDA) and Ngee Ann Polytechnic to release and screen a banned JBJ film. This is MICA's response and my follow-up.


Thank you for your feedback addressed to PS [Permanent Secretary] MICA.

In his National Day Rally speech, the Prime Minister has set the direction for reviewing our current laws on party political films. The Government accepts that our policies must evolve to remain relevant in the current media landscape. It is no longer realistic to disallow all forms of party political films.

In line with this direction, the Films Act is currently being reviewed. The amendments have to be passed by Parliament and the amendments are likely to be tabled early next year.

K Bhavani
Press Secretary To Minister and
Director, Corporate Communications Department


Thank you...

Your reply only addresses one aspect of my query. From your reply, I gather that you are trying to impress upon me that a politician's death does not make a film non-political. Thus, if and when the amendments are passed by Parliament, the banned film about the late J B Jeyaratnam can be released and screened. Correct?

There was one other aspect to my query. Would Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Media Development Authority be willing and able to produce a more comprehensive documentary about the late J B Jeyaratnam?

If Ngee Ann Polytechnic does not wish to undertake this public service, can other film-makers apply for funding from Media Development Authority to make films about the late J B Jeyaratnam? What is the likelihood of MDA approving such a funding request? And how can one increase one's chances of having a funding request for a film about the late J B Jeyaratnam approved?

Dharmendra Yadav

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Test Your MP

Some months ago, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong encouraged residents of Hougang to hold their Member of Parliament (MP) accountable by scrutinising how their constituency is managed. His comments could apply to any MP in a parliamentary democracy.

Indeed, a voter should hold his or her parliamentary representative accountable. This is not only measured by how well the MP manages the constituency. It is also important to follow how effectively an MP will take concerns of his or her constituents to the Legislature.

In the past few months, at least two crises have been experienced by Singaporeans. These involve defective products that have made their way into our consumer sector. As a result, there is now a supermarket sweep taking place for defective China-produced milk or milk-related products. There is also a major damage control effort being undertaken by financial institutions to help investors, since financial products sold to such investors was prima facie unsuitable.

Voters affected by such crises can therefore put their MPs to the test. They can lobby their respective MPs to raise questions about each crisis in Parliament. What kind of questions can an MP raise?

Here are some questions, by way of example, that you can encourage your MP to raise:

1. How come we were initially told that this crisis will not create problems for Singapore and later it created more problems for Singapore than we anticipated?

2. What problems has the crisis created?

3. What is being done to control the crisis?

3. How will the Government help those consumers affected by the crisis?

4. What steps will the Government take to facilitate filing of legal claims by those consumers who suffered losses?

5. What corrective and preventive steps will be taken to prevent such a situation from recurring?

6. Who and how have those responsible been held accountable for this crisis?

Finally, ask your MP this important question: how else can you help me as my MP?

Dharmendra Yadav

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Remembering Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam

5 January 1926 - 30 September 2008

"Lee Kuan Yew thinks he is God," said the legendary David Marshall once.


Like David Marshall, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam (JBJ) showed the people of Singapore why Lee was no God but a mere moveable mortal.

Lee clearly did not feel comfortable with Marshall and JBJ. As such, he let the late Dr S Rajaratnam deal with these opposition politicians.

JBJ's 1981 by-election win at Anson, which made him the first opposition politician in independent Singapore's legislature, shook the People's Action Party (PAP) at its core. Through the remainder of JBJ's life, the PAP remained scarred. It failed to secure absolute control of Parliament.

I first heard of JBJ at a family party in 1984 held to celebrate the first birthdays of two of my siblings. My family also made it a celebration of JBJ's victory.

I grew up in awe of this man, who had dared to take on Lee. For the authoritative awe that both Lee and JBJ evoked, both I feared to ever meet. It was for this reason, as a young person, I found it easier to reach out to Marshall and eventually interview him.

I attended JBJ's election rallies when he stood up for elections with Tang Liang Hong. He had a presence that rocked! It was an unfortunate sight to see him scorched by lawyers representing politicians of the ruling party. But, even then, he did not flinch and held his head up high.


When I was a student, I would also see him hawking his books. Notwithstanding his past status as a established member of the Bar and Bench in Singapore, he saw no shame in doing so. He did this with pride and an unshakeable voice. In fact, there would be many a day where I would see people walk faster to avoid being seen near him or to look another way to deflect eye contact with him.

Initially, I could not muster up the courage to approach him. He would look people straight in the eye and the stare would only provoke a strange uneasiness. When I found the strength to face my fear, I could only go up to him and shake his hands.

As I had a small school allowance then, I could not afford to buy his books. I knew that I would be in a position to buy his books some years later. I eventually did. Unfortunately, I loaned the books to friends, who were keen to read his views. The books never came back.

I hope Singapore's bookshops will now find the courage to carry JBJ's books because it is the right thing to do. The history of independent Singapore is not the history of one man. Many shaped the Singapore we are today, including contrarians like JBJ.


After returning from England, I agreed to be legal counsel of a cooperative of the National Trades Union Congress. The NTUC supports the PAP in many ways. Doing so was part of an important personal challenge I had given myself.

Around the same time, former AWARE President Dana Lam offered me an opportunity to lunch with JBJ. I had personally desired this opportunity for a long time.

Sadly, my duty and loyalty to the NTUC required that I decline to meet him. I regret to this day having had to decline Dana's invitation.

In March this year, I ceased working for the NTUC cooperative. One of the things that I desired to do was to arrange a meal with JBJ. I wanted so much to know what he would have said to young lawyers today. Alas, that meeting will never be.

His fearlessness, tenacity and passion for public service should be an inspiration for a whole generation of Singaporeans. JBJ made it right for Singapore in his own inimitable way.

I will miss JBJ.

Dharmendra Yadav

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