Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Meeting David Marshall In 1994

Many years ago, I made a promise to David Marshall, the first Chief Minister of Singapore and one of Singapore’s finest legal minds.

The promise was to publish in full an interview, which I had with him on 5 May 1994 at the offices of Singapore law firm, Drew & Napier. Today, about 12 years after the interview and as Singaporeans celebrate 41 years of independence, I am pleased to make public this interview in full and keep a promise made.

This interview was part of an assignment for my college newsletter, which I completed with two others. An edited version of this interview was published in my college newsletter that same year.

He died soon after in 1995. I felt privileged to have met David Marshall in his lifetime. It was a dream come true since, from the age of 12, I had always wanted to meet him.

He remains my inspiration in my law career. When I met him, I also returned having learnt the importance of doing something else – giving to the community.

I hope reading his words will inspire you similarly!


The role of youths! Ha!

In my time, I tried to educate our people in an understanding of the dignity of human life and their right as fellow human beings, and youth was not only interested but excited about what I consider things that matter. Things of the spirit; the development of a human being to his true potential in accordance with his own personal genius in the context of equal rights of others.

Today, youth is interested in getting paper qualification and, as soon as possible, shoveling gold into their bank accounts. It’s a different world, even the law.

I am a consultant here [Drew & Napier]. When I left in ’78, there were three partners – it was supposed to be a big firm; two assistants – we were a big firm; 17 staff. This office has four floors. They think that it is a waste of time to use the lift so we have an internal staircase. We have more than 90 lawyers, more than 200 secretaries and I don’t know how many staff.

The law is no longer a vocation, it is a business. Everything is geared to business!

Of course, there is this pragmatic development of our country. Ah, our rising expectations of a pragmatic character! It is a fantastic and almost a miraculous development in my lifetime.

When I was Chief Minister, there were men dying of starvation and because of ‘beri-beri’. I took my PA [personal assistant] and an Inspector of Police for night at midnight. For two hours, we toured Singapore and we estimated there were two ten thousand men sleeping on the pavements. No homes.

Today - no unemployment, no homeless. I started this business of building homes for our people. Compare the puny work I achieved and the fantastic HDB homes that are available today for our people. I am deeply impressed and I take off my hat to this very able honest government. Dedicated!

But I am seen as a critic and I am a critic.

I am frankly terrified by this massive control of the mass media, the press, the radio, television, antennae, [and] public meetings. You can’t write a letter to the Straits Times; if there is a shadow of criticism, it’s not published. And the Chinese press follows suit. It’s a very dangerous position because experience proves that no one group of human beings has got all the wisdom in the world.

I mean… well, two of you are Chinese and one Indian [Ed: actually, the interviewers were one Chinese, one Jew and one Indian]. I don’t know much about Indian history but look at China. You had Confucian authoritarianism for more than 2500 years. What happened to China? She was a fossil. She had to reinvigorate herself with the Western ideology of communism. Another authoritarian ideology! And what was the result?

There must have been a million decent people who were transformed into vipers, vicious obscene vipers. I’m afraid of this control of the mass media.

And are youths the miasma of apathetic subservience to authority? But you say to yourselves, “Well, you know, what do we seek in life? We seek a rice bowl, full!”

It is full and overflowing, in fact. They serve you your rice in a jade bowl with golden chopsticks; not that it makes much difference to the taste of the rice. But you’re empty!

You’ve got technocratic skills and you are seeking more but internally you are empty. Money is your acid test of success.

I’ve got nothing against money. I’d like to have money myself! I’d like to have a house and a garden and dogs and a car and a chauffeur but, look, I’ve got a flat. I’ve got a swimming pool attached to the flat. I’ve not even got a car but I use taxis. I have a dignified way of life without being wealthy.

I don’t see the necessity of owning a Mercedes-Benz and a swimming pool and a couple of mistresses. I think we’ve got our values all wrong.

You know $96,000 a month for a Prime Minister and $60,000 a month for a minister. What the hell do you do with all that money? You can’t eat it! What do you do with it? Your children don’t need all that money.

My children have had the best of education. In fact, I’m very proud of them. One of them is a senior registrar to two major hospitals in Oxford. Another of them is a consultant in European law to the Securities and Investment Board in the United Kingdom. They’ve had their education. There are no complaints.

I never earned $60,000 a month or $90,000 a month. When I was Chief Minister, I earned $8,000 a month. Look, what is happening today is we are encouraged to and are becoming worshippers of the Golden Calf.

We have lost sight of the joy and excitement of public service, helping our fellow men. The joy and excitement of seeking and understanding of the joy of the miracle of the living the duty and the grandeur. We have lost taste for heroic action in the service of our people.

We have become good bourgeois seeking comfort, security. It’s like seeking a crystal coffin and being fed by intravenous injections through pipes in the crystal coffin; crystal coffins stuck with certificates of your pragmatic abilities.

What has changed?

The self-confidence of our people has grown immensely, and that is good to see. Our pragmatic abilities have grown magnificently, and that is good to see. Very good to see!

You are very able. You’re ambitious, and the government has heroic plans for the future. It hasn’t finished.

I take off my hat to the pragmatic ability of our government but there is no soul in our conduct. It is a difficult thing to speak of because it is difficult to put in a computer, and the youth of Singapore is accustomed to computer fault. There is no longer the intellectual ferment, the passionate argument for a better civilisation. The emphasis on the rice bowl!

Tell me I’m wrong, come on.


Our lives are empty. We don’t understand the joy of living is not in the gold coins. It is not in the bank account. The joy of living is in human relations. We are not in appreciation of this miracle of life.

We are giving a lop-sided view, an unfairness to the government! We come out of a morass of imperial subjugation where people were dying of starvation and now?

You know, when I won a case once years ago, I was presented with a lovely porcelain Buddha with a big flowing belly and ears that reached to his shoulders and a chubby face.

I said to my client, “Look, you Chinese got a real feeling for aesthetics. How can you worship something so obscene?”

He said, “Mr Marshall, try and understand. China is a land of starvation where millions of people die for lack of food, and to be able to eat that much, to be that fat, that is heaven!”

Now, that is the attitude of our government: to be able to eat that much, that is heaven and you should be content.

So are youths not content? They are not anti. Our youths frankly, very honestly respect the pragmatic achievements of the government, and I’m grateful, but they feel empty.

There isn’t this joy of living which youth expects and youth needs – to learn the joy of living. How do you teach it?

I think you teach it through respect for the individual. That’s our tragedy. If you want to put it in a nutshell, our tragedy is that we emphasise the primacy of society as against respect for the individual. Mind you, both are right.

I mean both sides have the liberty. Of course, there should be respect for the needs of society over the right of the individual but you must respect the individual too in seeking the expression of the needs of society. Here, we have no respect for the individual.

Cane them! Hang them! There are more than a hundred queuing up to be hanged, you know that?

[Minister For Law] Jayakumar said, “I have plugged the loop-hole whereby they could escape being hanged and just have twenty years of imprisonment!”

Oh, wacko the ducks – you need a monument!

The joy of hanging people; flogging them, every stroke must break the skin. I don’t like it. I don’t believe it is a deterrent. I see no proof. Look, it seems to me logic! If every year we have more death sentences, how can you say death sentence is a deterrent? If it were, there should be less death sentences.

But you know I’m in a minority and my father had one saying which I’d like you to publish. It is a beauty. He was a true democratic heart although he didn’t know it.

He used to say, “David, if ten men tell you your head is not on your shoulders, shake it and make sure. Don’t accept it. Just shake it and make sure!”

Well, I’ve shaken my head again and again and again and I still think I’m right. I know I’m in the dog-house.

The government doesn’t see I do respect them immensely. They don’t see I’m a genuine friend. They only see me as a critic and to be a critic is to be an enemy who must be erased and destroyed. There is no such thing as an honest critic to the PAP. It’s a blasphemy to criticise the emperor, spoilt son of heaven.

[Lee] Kuan Yew says you mustn’t lampoon a Chinese gentleman. Oh, dear me! Ya, what happened? What happened to China?

In Europe, they institutionalised the court jester and the court jester had total immunity against any result from his public criticism of the kings and emperors and the courtyard. Open public criticism – that was his job! They tried to laugh it off but at least there was one person to prick the bubble of their overgrown egoism.

And which civilisation has progressed better for the development of humanity? The Western civilisation or the Chinese civilisation?

You talk of Asian values. I only know two Asian values and, I wish someone would really pinpoint them instead of pontificating ponderously in humbug and hypocrisy.

Family values - I think we have more family cohesion in Asia than in Europe; more family warmth and I like that. I accept that there is a greater tradition of family warmth and family cohesion.

Two, we have a greater passion for education. My secretary – I asked her once what her background is. She said her mother is a washer-woman and, here is this lovely secretary doing a damn good job. She was educated. How her mother could save enough to give her the education?

So these are the only two values I know. Somebody tell me what other values that are Asian, which everybody talks and nobody mentions the exact parameters.

And you know we use this concept of family cohesion to place on our youths the burden of caring for aging and ailing parents and grand-parents.

The young have got their own lives to make. To carry in your own homes aging irritable ailing parents and grandparents can destroy the family life of the young.

But then, the alternative is for the government to pour so much mountains of gold into building homes for the aged. That’s sacrilege – gold is to be gathered and not to be spent.

I want to see more crèches, more homes for the aged.

Our Prime Minister [Goh Chok Tong] talks about gracious living. Where is the gracious living?

So I am a bad boy, I’m ostracised. The Straits Times makes slimy remarks about me.

The [press are] running dogs of the PAP.


Try and understand that the law is a vocation and not a business. Respect your client irrespective of the fees. I used to charge $1 for a murder case if he was Malay because he had no money. I used to charge $1 to trade unions; all Malay unions, I charged $1 a year. And the $1 is simply because, if you do it for nothing, you are not liable in negligence whereas $1 makes a contract and, if you are negligent, they can sue you.

I’d like them to also understand that justice is a meld of law and humanity. Law and humanity; decency in concepts; if we administer law by the soulless logic of the computer, we aren’t on our road to progress.

You’re too young but ask your parents – the Japanese times, their draconian approach to anti-social activities. Ask your parents how they welcomed the returning British soldiers in 1945.

I was stunned when I heard about it; that we a colonial people, a subject people, should welcome rapturously the armed forces of Imperial power. How was that possible?

I learnt that they had a sense of relief to be back in the ambience of British justice; out of darkness, out of the draconian attitudes of the occupying power.

If you want to make money as a lawyer, you can. I see marble palaces. My juniors, ha! Marble palaces, swimming pools, Mercedes-Benz! Oh, bravo!

They work till nine o’clock at night. I don’t know how their children survive. They work very hard, they make a lot of money. Yes, it’s true.

If you are going for corporate law, insurance law and the non-litigant aspects of law, you can make a lot of money.

If you’re a particularly good litigant – our litigation lawyers in civil cases – we’ve got some outstanding local lawyers. Yes, you can make a lot of money.

Don’t go in for crime. The Criminal Bar is a very frustrating Bar today.


And I’m according to Lee Kuan Yew in Parliament when he sought the abolition of the jury, “David Marshall is responsible for 200 murderers walking freely the streets of Singapore.”

I’m proud of that. I told him to put it on my tomb. If there are 200 people walking freely the streets of Singapore, it means they are contributing to Singapore. Singapore would have been poorer by hanging them. I have no compulsion.

Look, the purpose of criminal law is really two-fold: as a deterrent and as a catharsis of society to express its vengeance. If you escape it, you’re no harm to society so long as you maintain a good police force and so long as you maintain a certain human justice in understanding.

For me, the punishment must not fit the crime, the punishment must fit the criminal and the punishment must fit the needs of society.

Recently, I accepted a brief – a Sikh sentenced to death. He was 21 when he was arrested. His appeal came on five years later. It was dismissed.

But during those five years, he studied religious knowledge. He got distinction in the New Testament and he became a Christian.

He’s now 26 or 27. He’s going to be hanged. I like that man. I think he can be a real asset. He is a delightful chap.

I asked his family, his elder brother. I said, “You Sikhs are really close in the family. How did your family take his becoming a Christian?”

He said, “What could we do? The poor man is going to be hanged. How can we be angry?”

There are more than a hundred people queuing to be hanged. There are decent people there.

Look, there’s a lovely phrase – I forgot who coined it – who said, “There but for the grace of God go I, I know no man who stood totally spotless that he can say I committed no anti-social act.”

And so in our criminal code, if some escaped, that’s an asset.

I’m reminded of a lovely story of Sir Walter Raleigh. On the scaffold, he went up and tested the axe with his thumb and turning to the master executioner, he said, “This is the surest cure for all diseases. If you want to eliminate all crime, you got to eliminate all humanity.”

I have absolutely no bad conscience about the men I have helped escape the gallows and escape the prison. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have done that.

I say this, perhaps in conclusion, we have a judiciary of tremendous integrity. I’ve been practising since 1948, except for three and a half years, there isn’t a single case of financial corruption, neither in the High Court nor the magistrates’ courts. It’s wonderful to practice in the ambience of total integrity.


No! I think it was a guardian angel that brought me there.

I suppose you know, you must have read that I wanted to be a psychiatrist. First, when I was young, I wanted to be a doctor. I thought medicine was the greatest profession in the world – helping heal and comfort the sick and the helpless. And as I grew into adolescence, I wanted to be a psychiatrist. Not to practice but to do research: why the goodwill of the young?

All youths no matter what race, no matter what country, goodwill flows from their hearts. They want to help the world, but by the time you reach 30, your goodwill like good wine turns to vinegar – the vinegar of crabbed egoism.

I wanted to study the wise and whether these could be some antidote for this unhappy transformation of the goodwill of youths to the crabbed egoism but I didn’t have the money. Fortunately!

I don’t know if I could have achieved anything that vast. I don’t know whether I have the intellectual ability to do first-class research into the mind and emotions of man.

I fell, by accident, into the right career at the right time and it has been wonderful.

Regret? I’m full of gratitude for having become a lawyer and, especially, a criminal lawyer; for having helped thousands of people terrified, helpless before the silly forces of society. They’ve looked into me as their protector. I have no regrets at all for having helped them; humanity, if you can understand this.

If you ever become a criminal lawyer, never look down upon your client. He may be a murderer or he may be a thief; he is a fellow human being. You must try and respect your client no matter what he has done. It is very important in your own self-respect in your work, and to help who is helpless in seeking help.

Look, at the age of 86, I can say in all earnestness, the thing that matters most in bringing human satisfaction is human relations. To be able to care for your fellow human beings, to be able to give! Never mind about receiving.

Even today, my friends say, “Oh, David, stop it! Why do you have to keep making public noises that annoy the government? Live in dignity and retirement. They’ll respect you and you’ll have the honours.”

Ha, honours! I want to fight till I’m dead!

What matters most in life is the right of human beings to live fully in the context of their own genius. In one word, perhaps, to fight for human justice. I once said humanity’s cry for human justice reverberates down the corridors of the centuries, and it is still crying for human justice.


I was coming. That was the old building and I was coming along the corridor carrying a set of books. It must have been morning and, outside my classroom, there was a Chinese boy much slimmer than you [Dharmendra] with his back to the wall – absolutely pale, full of fear.

And in front of him was my friend, an American boy – same student, same class – and dancing an Indian jig saying, “Chink! Chink! Chinaman!”

Without the slightest warning, I dropped my books and lunged at him [the American boy].


Recognise there is a lot of satisfaction in public service, foreign service, judicial service. A great deal of satisfaction in public service, even honorary public service in committees.

[If] you are totally engrossed in self-promotion, at the end of the day, you’ll find it’s dead seafood.

Try and give up yourselves to others.

I am so alien to this worship of the Golden Calf and the draconian attitude; the brutal attitude towards our fellow citizens. Here I ask people and, no doubt, if I ask you, “We’re all in favour so long as it’s not me having my bottoms cut! Yes, whip ‘em!”

Try to put yourself in the other man’s shoes.

And, of course, what have I got to say?

You, the young – you’ve got a fantastic, absolutely fantastic potential before you; economic expansion, heroic plans that the government has for the future not only the present. You are so lucky! No unemployment! Great potential even beyond your capacity to fulfill.

It’s an exciting country, Singapore. It’s a lovely country. And you have to make your own space for your own spiritual and intellectual needs and have the courage. Have the courage to serve your fellow men with integrity.

I’ll put it in one nutshell: have the courage to live, don’t be afraid!

You know, I’m told I’m fool-hardy and always criticising, although I have such a gracious life. But fool-hardy or no, this is me; I am prepared to take what you give.

Dharmendra Yadav


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Han said...

thank you for sharing this. I am inspired, and grateful for the insight.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is brilliant.

utwt said...

wow, this is awesome!

Anonymous said...

this is great. i wish this would have been read out during the national day rally.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. What wise, wonderful inspiring words. A gracious man indeed - one who never outstayed his welcome as a political leader and one who has put his finger on where the rot has set in.

xing said...

thanks alot for sharing. I link this page on my site, http://xxingg.blogspot.com/ , for others who want to come over to read.

Ampulomet said...

David Marshall was a great man and Singapore is poorer for his loss. Perhaps one day all will know it.

Anonymous said...

Cheers for sharing an inspired piece of writing, mate.

It's good to be reminded of the important things in life rather than blindly adopting the trained mindset that has been thrust upon us.

Majulah Singapura!

Anonymous said...

Very moving... I choked on some parts of the interview.

danyap said...

Thank you for the article.

The quote should read "There but for the grace of God go I". It ends there and the rest are Mr Marshall's own words.

Who among us are inspired enough to "fight until we're dead"? When we have reached our soon-coming 30s, will we still never have taught our nation the joy of living and the value of the love of mankind?

Anonymous said...

Exactly what it means to be Singaporean. Simply Outstanding!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. I had the honour of meeting HE David Marshall. He was truly an inspiring forefather of Singapore and a distinguished human being.

Anonymous said...

He was one that my late father spoke fondly of, not LKY. Truly a great man of wisdom, his words serve as an eye opener to us all or at least most of us who thinks something's gone lopsided politically. There's no avenue to vent our discontent, no room for debate, practically a ground loosing it's foundation... sigh....

tiramisuboy said...

very inspirational...hope that more young people can read this for directions in their lives..

Anonymous said...

I am very glad to have read this. Though i may not agree entirely with Mr David Marshall, I totally agree with his take on the youth and the emptiness. Thanks for sharing this.

todaealas said...

Thank you for sharing. =)

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

It is telling how a (approximately) ten-page interview can lay bare the real dog-eat-dog society we have unwittingly inherited in the last 40+ years. This is something you'd never find anywhere in the SPH-sponsored volumes of LKY's memoirs.

So thank you!.. for salvaging an important take in Singapore's history. It does much to balance things out.

Kao Wen Sheng said...

Let us be human beings, let us have a soul of dignity and helpfulness, may you rest in peace good sir.

Anonymous said...

Way back in 1973, the late Mr. David Marshall, Prof Tommy Koh and I were interviewed separately by New Nation on the issue of capital punishment. Mr. Marshall represented the senior members of the Bar, Prof Koh the academe and I the junior members. We came up with a common vote AGAINST capital punishment for different reasons. I remember reading and appreciating his views then.

Anonymous said...

I do not know much about Marshall other than about him always criticising the government. However, after reading this interview, there is much more about him. I'm gonna read more on him. Happy National Day!

Anonymous said...

May I suggest some footnotes/updates to help those not monitoring, or unfamiliar with, Singapore politics.

For instance, the salaries of the "technocrats" who head Ministries has swelled to even more obscene heights - making the 1994 levels of $96K/60K look paltry in comparison.

Unknown said...

Thanks for posting this - it's was a great and interesting read.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing.

Incommunicado Maxs said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. I do not keep up with politics and current affairs, and the name David Marshall only vaguely rings a bell. But this article has shown me this man was a great thinker, and frankly, i am starting to reconsider my stand for the death penalty. He has put into words a lot of the stuff regarding certain issues that i know i would never be able to articulate well myself.

Indi said...

i am spreading what you wrote the rest of the Universe.

Read here:


Anonymous said...

Wonderful interview, thanks for writing it up. I've linked to your post from my blog to spread the word.

Gilbert Koh aka Mr Wang said...

On my own blog, I have highlighted a contrast between one of Marshall's views (as mentioned in your interview) and something which LKY very recently said. Here.

Anonymous said...

brilliant work Yadav! God bless

Anonymous said...

we dont produce great man like him anymore. even the the 2 founding members of PAP that died this year are sorely missed.

they are a big contrast when compared to our current 'leaders'.

such pity PAP was form for the common good ..... but they have somewhat lost their way now.

Anonymous said...

A great tribute to one of our founding fathers.

Well done!

Anonymous said...

HE David Marshall had truly lived a good life, a life filled with honesty, integrity and compassion! I do not think there would be anyone politician alive today in our country would share the same passion and belief! Thank you for sharing this interview with us. Indeed Singapore has lost a gem not just by his passing, but by him being ostracised and "kicked" out of the country for being out-spoken!

Anonymous said...

This is purely curiosity; what would SGD$8,000 then be worth or equivalent to, today ?

Anonymous said...

Deeply Inspired! What a way to commemorate National Day! Dun get lost in the blind chase.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. This is a very good read.

I'm an undergrad in nus.

Medusa aka expiringpoet said...

Inspiring, to say the least. Ironic that the people in public service have deviated so far from the ideal to become self-serving instead.

Anonymous said...

I honestly can't help wondering what our country would be like today if led by someone such as David Marshall than LKY. For one thing, I think we'd be a much more humanistic people, leading perhaps more fulfilling lives than our current materialistic self-advancing ways. The govt definitely wouldn't be as punitive and restrictive, I think. Sad but true. We had the wrong type of leaders.

Anonymous said...

This is good stuff. Thanks for sharing... I'm going to share this with all my friends as well.

Wormie said...

A man with foresight. He had already realised the value of happiness when everyone else was trying to etch out a living. Only recently, was happiness index created as a measure of human success, away from the usual materialistic gauge.

PanzerGrenadier said...

Mediacorp aired an interview a couple of days after his passing which was done by their journalist with Mr. David Marshall a few years back.

His conviction about helping his fellow man came out very strongly during the interview so did his personal warmth and charm. He was also a feared criminal lawyer and he made no qualms about his cross-examination techniques which left many a prosecution witness shaken because as a criminal lawyer, he was duty bound to put his client's interests first! And his clients included very poor and uneducated people who in today's age would not be able to afford the legal expertise of his calibre.

This brings back memories of that interview that I watched and he was truly one of the great Singaporeans with a soul!

David Marshall had in 1994 already summed up the disquiet and discontent that is uniquely Singaporean and driving many of us into thinking of or actually emigrating. We have become soul-less consumers who exists simply to consume and procreate to keep Singapore Inc. humming along. Human dignity and respect is only available for the elites.

God bless David Marshall.

Anonymous said...

nice to see Mr Marshall's point of view. he certainly has a way with words. i agree with the miscellaneous comments on how we've under-emphasized more spiritually fulfilling needs to fulfil basic materialistic needs and wants. like LKY, however, i do find the act of allowing murderers to escape all forms of punishment (prison, capital) rather terrifying. perhaps i don't have the full context?

Ch'i-Lin said...

Thanks for sharing this - just out of curiosity - why did you wait for 12 years to share this though?

Anonymous said...

10:28 Anon - I do not think there would be anyone politician alive today in our country would share the same passion and belief!

My reply: Don't forget the opposition count as politicians too. Two that came to mind would be JBJ and CSJ.

Happiness said...

Excellent piece of work. I must confess that my knowledge of the founding fathers of Singapore is meagre at best. It was very insightful reading your post.

My favourite part of the interview...

"[If] you are totally engrossed in self-promotion, at the end of the day, you’ll find it’s dead seafood."

Hahaha... Most excellent.

Anonymous said...

A very comprehensive interview of Mr Marshall was conducted by the Oral History Centre and is open for public access, if anyone is interested to find out more. He recounts some very interesting episodes of his political experiences.

Anonymous said...

This interview *is* part of Singapore history. Thanks for sharing it.

footix24 said...

I'd say this is some precious sharing.
Thank you for doing so!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I must say there are still a lot of people in Singapore that is willing to fight for fellow humans. However, they are being clamp down ruthlessly by the government or by fellow Singaporeans. So lend a hand to those people, that are trying to make a difference.

Unknown said...

thank you so much for sharing this. i think singaporeans need to look deeper into our own country's politics. maybe we wouldn't haf advanced so fast economically under david marshall, but i think i can surely say that we would've advanced more humanely and would've been better in the ways that really matter.

once again, thank you. god bless you, god bless david marshall.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing.


Anonymous said...


but just curious, is $8000 in 1957 a lot less than $60 or $90k in '94? somehow i dont think so.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I have been an admirer of David marshall ever since I was in Secondary School. i believe he is was the best criminal lawyer of our time and a honest politician who never soughht that "pot of gold"

Anonymous said...

hi. like many people have thanked u .heres THANK U ONCE AGAIN....
its moving words indeed! i hopethat i remember always: to have the courage to live and not be afraid!

Joe said...

Thank you so much for publishing this again. This time on the net to be shared and read by infinitely more. I am deeply moved and inspired.

Anonymous said...

i quite admire david marshall for many things, including his ideals. and he's spot-on regarding the issues of apathetic youth and materialistic culture (though I would beg to differ, judging from the comments here!).

but i can't help but be disappointed that he polarises asian values against western values; in the end he still engages with the very set of values (propagated by the PAP) that he's against.

i'm also not very impressed by statements like "And which civilisation has progressed better for the development of humanity? The Western civilisation or the Chinese civilisation?", as well as his mild jibes at China - to me those comments and the whole interview smacked of a kind of blind 'West is best' attitude. in fact i felt the whole interview had undertones of racism, covered up by sincere national pride.

i may be wrong, i've never met david marshall of course, it's all my interpretation, but i just wanted to point that out.

Tan[g]kap Accent said...

"human relations"

the point exactly

when these human relations which make up (substantially, at the very least) society are the relations of economic exploitation which the PAP state carefully facilitates, how meaningfully can we lead our lives? we are doomed to live it as a mindless cycle of economic production (employment) and consumption [add random example here].

yet we must not forget that not all of us have become fat. the starving continue to live off the scraps of the fat, and the labour of the former continues to feed the ever-growing appetite of their paymasters. "society" is made up of both groups.

thanks again for sharing.

Anonymous said...


I see nothing racist about the claim that modern-day China is aeons behind the West in terms of humanistic values. Ancient Chinese civilisation has contributed much to the world in terms of scientific, philosophical and cultural development, and I don't think Marshall intends to deny that. He is talking about the totalitarian, inhuman horror that is modern-day China.

Anonymous said...

I was once instrumental in dsigning an election poster for him
and recall siting with him at Tanah Merah,his his home in 1959.
As a suspect then in a homicide, i showed apparent nonchalence and recall him saying "But remember they are courts if law, not courts of justice". Despite his appearance to the contrary, Dabee Marsher, as he waas called by the street kids, was compassionate and
not a little naive. sg

Anonymous said...

I have always admired David Marshall for his keen observation of the society. His thoughts in 1994 are even more valid today. See the Subutex incidences in the press? Why do doctors prescribe freely the drug with no care and regards for their patients? Perhaps the temptation of the golden calf is much too strong to resist.

putitthisway said...

Hi, while I enjoyed the good read this interview provided, I am saddened that the passing of this great man and what a lost it is to us.

I will put a link and on top of which, I will send the interview to those which I feel will enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Let not just admire and mourn, make witty remarks from the sidelines, and applaud, concur and condescend from an aloof safe distance, but BE the David Marshalls of today and tomorrow, in whatever ways, small or great, seen or unseen. If so then the spirit of the man lives on. And thats the greatest tribute you can do for anyone.

16.00hrs said...

he was a nice man. fight to the end.

Anonymous said...

Great read ;-)

I believe that this is a good reminder to public servants that they are paid for *serving the public*, not for justifying every decision they make with 'irrefutable logic'.

joema said...

It is like a story retold of David taking on the modern Goliath from the land of Philistines and Pharisees (PAP)who are zealously guarding their pots of gold and golden calves.

Nod said...

wow, the man is a bomb!

Anonymous said...

Simply wonderful! Amazingly good eye-opener into his views. You'd never get to read this anywhere else, probably. An exclusive! Fantastic. What was this promise that you made? 12 years... That's a pretty long time.

This interview has really made me realise just how great David Marshall was. He stood up for things he believed in and courageously challenged the status quo. A true leader!

I cannot thank you enough for posting and sharing this with the world. It is very informative and moved me to tears not once, but twice. Very insightful read. His passing is undoubtedly a very great and grave loss for Singapore.


Anonymous said...

Hi Yadav, great post! Got your link from the FMS media list.
I believe our students shld have more chance to meet personalities like DM through such interviews. Would like to reproduce the interview in radio form for some students during their lunchtime broadcast.. however some editing will need to be done.. wonder if you have a more school friendly version? imaginetis@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

You should really pass this around to inspire... this is a great man who helped bulid Singapore, but was quickly forgotten due to party politics. A wise man who put his life on the line, so that others can reap the benefits of his movement. A Critic? I'd say a Patriot more likely!

Anonymous said...

wondering how many of you who commented are living in the island, feediing off the infrastructure, knowing full well that your environment is and will probably continue to be safe and pleasant.

i must admit being a 32 yrs old chap living here is not exactly an easy feat, however does none of you that adjusting to one's environment is an integral part of being a living species?!

i am sure most of you have visited countries that are either bigger or smaller, richer or poorer. have you not made a comparison in terms of what you have read of the D M. interviews? if any of you have compared, then i hope you have like what D.M. said of his father's advice, shake your head to make sure it is there, to be fair.

Emothil said...

earlier on someone asked what it would have been like if DM had been at the helm of this country. Well a lecturer of mine actually heard DM's response to such a qn and it goes like this...
"It would have been kinder and gentler, but poorer". Hope you guys glean alot from the man even as he reaches from his grave.

Anonymous said...

this makes me wonder if all the social studies i am studying now at secondary is all a one-sided story of our sucess. I feel like it is all a part of the government`s propanganda to try to brainwash us.

Anonymous said...

Anyone fancy the chances of David Marshall - the man, his life and ideals being a part of this effort to get youths of today to be more familiar with the early years in the struggle for a Modern Singapore?

Otherwise would it not be but another vain attempt of the PAP in social engineering i.e. in glorifying itself, rewriting history in its favour, creating while not a personality cult but a clique cult if successful?


Anonymous said...

Wonderful article about David Marshall.i have read his books before on the court cases he won, am really inspired by Mr.Marshall.

Anonymous said...

It's the 19th of March 2007. I just came across this article. I'm a former Singaporean lawyer now living in Belgium. I had never met David Marshall before but something deep down inside made me go for his funeral in 1995. I guess he somehow touched me with all the things that he had done and for this real honesty within himself - speaking out for the good of the people without regard to any of the consequences which might arise. Thank you, Dharmendra for sharing this with us.

Anonymous said...

30/3/07, my first time reading this excellent interview. Great words that applies today even if they are more than 10 yrs ago..

eXo said...

in light of the ministerial debate and all the so-called "failing of our youths", about being apathetic, being so materialistic, its really inspiring to read such a comment from someone who has so much experience and yet feel the same way as a youth entering uni soon. And to think its been more than 10 years since it was said! Its kinda sad to see that within this decade, the same problems permeate through society and seem to be snowballing into something so much more, and yet little is seen to be done to address this. It seems we've fallen so far from the british justice we welcomed after the Japanese left. But who am i to say? i should be grateful, according to a certain mr Lee. i've never read anything more inspiring than this . ever.

Gaurav said...

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Hey You can view my Blog its also Good

Anonymous said...

Wow DY, thank you for making me read this. maybe if i had read this when i was much younger, i would definitely be a lawyer :)

Anonymous said...

Why David Marshall from Chief Minister became an ambassador for the PAP Govt for so many years in France?
What a waste of his prime time in France far away from taking on the PAP Govt on their own turf?
By becoming the PAP Govt's ambassador, did it not occur to him that he was paid by them, answerable to them, and time accountable to them, to the Masters - the LKYs?
Cannot understand this period of his life in France, like a puppet of the PAP Govt, a mouth piece trumpet blower for the PAP.
Anyone care to comment?

Anonymous said...

Good interview and insight. Thanks for sharing. Even though I am 1 year late. Better late than never. Dave sounds like a real thinker. Currently missing in this pragmatic world....

Ape said...

"Anonymous said...Why David Marshall from Chief Minister became an ambassador for the PAP Govt for so many years in France?"

I think to him, it didn't matter who he was working with, as long as he served the Singaporean. I don't study into the life of David Marshall but I supposed if he could serve Singapore better as an ambassador instead of Chief Minister, the so be it...he would serve Singapore as an ambassador.

Anonymous said...

October 2007. I first ‘discovered’ the legacy of David Marshall when visiting the site of the 1955 Baling talks in Malaysia. As the newly appointed Chief Minister of Singapore, David Marshall was the intellectual driving force behind the 2 day meeting. Although the meeting failed to reach any agreement for the laying down of arms by the insurgent Malaysian Communist Party (MCP), Marshall’s humanitarianism, and social conscience had a profound effect on Chin Peng and arguably prevented the situation escalating into a Vietnam type disaster.

If it seems trite to hear the words: “Try and give up yourselves to others, and have the courage to serve your fellow men with integrity”, then we are all lost! The Lion City may have been founded by Raffles, but its true social conscience lies in the legacy of David Marshall. For every statue of Raffles, add ten to Marshall! Here is the example for your youth to look up to. Hail to the unsung hero.

Anonymous said...

Can't say I agree with him totally, especially the part about letting murderers roam free. Shouldn't it be a life for a life? Didn't he also say that 'the punishment must fit the criminal and the punishment must fit the needs of society'?

I liked the part on respect for the individual though.

By the way, let me guess what the boy in St Andrew's was thinking. Something along the lines of 'Yankee, yankee, yank me.'

Anonymous said...

If only David Marshall instead of LKY had been in charge up to this very day, I believe our Gahmen would definitely be more humane and more accountable.

Definitely not as money-faced as the present leaders that we are facing!

The Pariah said...

Mar 2008 - David Marshall, born Mar 12, 1908. This great guy would have been 100 this year!

Lovely to commemorate this remembrance by reading Dharmendra P Yadav's full transcript of his May 1994 interview with Marshall.

Marshall's memoirs would have been something, ain't it? To cross-read with So-and-So's 3-volumer, ugh?

In the Marshall spirit of making a difference to society as a Singaporean, I run a blog where I hyperventilate when muzzled or muffled.

The Pariah

The Pariah, www.singaporeenbloc.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Marshall, I think, was a decent man manipulated by persons of communitarian ethic.

Anonymous said...

We sure need another David Marshall now. Anyone out there?

Kelvin said...

This is great! David Marshall is a perfect example of all the things I love about Singapore: that we're able to look beyond race (regardless of whatever some may say); that we are, at the end of the day, Singaporean first and everything else after.

Mirin said...

I would have loved to meet him. Can't help but concur with much of what he said.

Thank you for publishing this. His words truly do inspire.

Serene said...

MANY thanks for sharing this precious interview. It would never have published on any media here.

I am spreading this article on my blog if there is no objection.

My salute to David Marshall, the true father of Singapore. Majulah Singapura.

FL said...

The first time I saw Mr David Marshall in person was when I was about 11 years old. I remember he was doing house-to-house visits in my kampong in 1961. That was the year of Anson by-election btw him (WP) and a Malay PAP candidate. As usual, he dressed in his white uniform and carried a hammer on his waist. We, the kampong boys & girls were very curious to see an "ang moh" in our mainly Chinese village, and all us followed him around the village. Being young & innocent then, we were wondering what's he's doing there in our village at Chin Lye Street. This street is no more and my ex-kampong is now part of Tg Pagar container port.

Anonymous said...

Insightful article. thanks.David Teo

islam said...

Thank you for this. What wise, wonderful inspiring words. A gracious man indeed - one who never outstayed his welcome as a political leader and one who has put his finger on where the rot has set in.

Anonymous said...

Count your blessing..
the passing of this great man is not a lost...it is a gain!
let his spirit live in all of you,
to always have the welfare of your fellow countrymen in your heart, seeking to selflessly protect and defend them, when duty calls.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this article.
The timing is good, after reading this we should take stock of what
kind of politics and policies we have now.
Wake up Singapore!

David Marshall we love you and will always remember you.

Anonymous said...

My all loved singaporeans.Dev thks fr revealing nad sharing.
At least with this write up,I can feel how important it is beyond the monetary achievement that we can start filling the future potential emptiness in our lives.We need to restart in building a care society amongst us,immaterial of yr race ,or religion such as respect yr eldest,neighbours and not undermining them.We shld feel happy and not look down fr their failures or mishaps,leading to a discriminatory society causing building conflicts and unhappiness.Another note,By waking up before sunrise for work and returning home after sunset will ruin our lives and society,just for the sake of materials created to motivate,is not right.It is still early,for this young nation to realise before it is difficult to revese.I sincerely hope this can be improved for the sake of all our fellow singaporeans.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing.

the first day of spring said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! Mr Marshall is truly an inspiring man; even on a computer screen, I can somehow feel his words throbbing with his passion. This is what food for thought is.

Also, it's very helpful since I'm currently doing an assignment about Mr Marshall :)

GeraldHeng Sr. said...

The late Chief Minister Ambassador David Marshall will forever be known as a Stellar Criminal Defense Counsel who steadfastly believed in the Golden Thread of the Universe of the Common Law in Criminal Trials,that it is always in Evidence a Burden of Proof for the Prosecution to prove beyond a Reasonable Doubt that the accused is Guilty in the two elements Crime [1] Mens Rea and [2] Acteus Rea. Its perhaps unfortunate that the PAP Lee Kuan Yew Government hasn't reinstated the Jury Trial a Democratic Community Institution even as of today 7/13/2012 in this day and age of educated in English Literacy Singaporeans ! David Marshall will always be remembered as a Human Rights Lawyer who himself embody the Spirit in his Personal & Professional Life of "Vive La Joie De Vivre Libre ! " He enjoyed personal and professional life in Liberty, Joy and Happiness ! His Criticisms of a Soul-less Singaporeans after the Golden Calf and the Lack of Debates about what Life means in Money capitalism pursuits are true and I am sure the Opposition will take up that challenge harking back to the early LKY's Criticism of the British of not giving Singaporeans a "More Equal and Just Society !" With Unresaonable Ministers Pay and perks in unreal proportions we can ask who are the British now in Singapore ?

Gerald Heng Sr.
Metrowest Boston,MA. USA
a Quitter since the Break-Up of Merger across the Straits.

A Wong said...

Greetings. Just a comment on what S$8000 in 1957 is worth now in 2012 . It's probably worth around 50 to 70 thousand dollars today if we exclude private property prices. It's interesting to note that between 1959 and 1974 when salaries[especially ministerial ones] started to rise dramatically , the PM's salary was only S$3500 a month. A minister's salary was only $3000 a month and no bonus and 13 month payment. A perm sec's salary was $2500 a month!
In 1952 u could buy a single storeyed terraced house in serangoon gardens for S12000. only. In 1965 u could buy a 3 room hdb apartment for S$6000 only. Thus with David marshall's salary then before the PAP cut the salaries in 1959/1960, he could buy trwo thirds of such a house in serangoon garden. DM could also buy one and one third of an equivalent HDB 3 room unit with his one month's sal;ary.
Today's monthly salary of the PM can buy two 3 room hdb units in a mature estate with all the grants but can only buy one seventh of the same serangoon gardens terraced house!

GeraldHeng Sr. said...

Allan has put the Inflation over the years and peg the Salary to Property Appreciation but his numbers refer to the PM and Ministers Pay/Perks. Its terrible that the rest of the 95% or 98% Singaporeans can't make the Ministers Pay/Perks to reach the $8000 p.m. David Marshall's Salary as PM in 1957 !It is a correct analysis but the rest of 95% to 98% Singaporeans are unfortunately feel correctly unequal and unjustifiably out ! Gerry

Anonymous said...

So lucky to be able to interview David Marshall! I would give anything to be you.

JFK Miller said...

Thank you so much for posting this. Really inspiring.

singapore forum said...

i agree with what you said. Happiness is the key.

Unknown said...



"SHALOM" to my Brother David Marshall... I'm still feeling so very Blessed to have known of you through my dad since my birth in 1958, also to have met you at our Christian fellowship in Tanglin 1994, but I feel especially honoured that ABBA touched your family for Rabbi Joshua to select me for that ceremonial dropping of the clod of earth into your grave, when you were rested and sent Home to Yeshua in 1995. I'm very thankful for the initiative of this precious interview, which allows me today to still savour this lingering precious essence of your soul, that will surely go on to comfort and redeem many more readers of this blog till the end of days. Even so, may we in SG stay reminded and never forget your Jewish heritage, Spiritual lineage, GOD-fearing foundation and immeasurable Blessed sacrifices and contributions of your lifetime. All which you began and laid, were built upon that prospers us here till today! From my unending heartfelt admiration, appreciation and adoration for you, I praise and thank ABBA in Christ. "HalleluYAH."

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