The passing of J B Jeyaretnam (updates – 4 October)

On 30 September 2008, veteran Singaporean opposition politician Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam passed away. He died of a heart attack and was pronounced dead at Tan Tock Seng Hospital in Singapore in the early morning of Tuesday, 30 September. He is survived, among others, by his sons Philip and Kenneth.

J B Jeyaretnam, or JBJ as he is also affectionately known, was the Member of Parliament of Anson constituency from 1981-1986, and a ‘Non-Constituency MP’ from 1997-2001. His entry into parliament in 1981 marked the first time an opposition politician became a Member of Parliament in independent, post-colonial Singapore. This was no small feat, given the forces of the PAP arrayed against him in a then-one party state.

I never knew him personally, but I admired – and still admire – him for his courage and tenacity in speaking out for justice for all Singaporeans.

The Singapore Democrat Party broke the news first. See their report here.

Here are some simple blog and other online tributes to the man:

Jacob’s Weblog – J B Jeyaretnam has passed away

The Online Citizen – A video tribute to JBJ

Yawning Bread – J B YJeyaretnam passes on

Anil Netto – J B Jeyaretnam 1926-2008: Passing of a legend

Singapore Rebel – JB Jeyaretnam – Singapore’s Martyr

Rachel Absinthe – A Tribute to Mr. J B Jeyaretnam

Siew Kum Hong – RIP JBJ (5 January 1926 – 30 September 2008)

JGNews – Never on a bended knee: a tribute to JBJ

Wendy Neo (YouTube) – 沉痛悼念新加坡爱国英雄惹耶勒南先生 Death of Singaporean Patriot Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam – Singapore lost a great son today! (Part 1 of 2 tribute to JBJ)

You will be fondly remembered, and sorely missed. But you have fought the good fight, and although you have gone to a much better place than a nation that did not seem to have deserved you, you have not gone quietly into the night.

For that I salute you!

Rest in peace, JBJ.

UPDATE 2 October:
In Memoriam. J B Jeyaretnam. Speakers’ Corner. Saturday, 4th October, 6.30pm to 10pm.
Please wear something black if you can.
Bring flowers and candles. No speeches. Bring something to sit on too.A silent mark of gratitude and respect. Please help pass this message on, post on your blog and facebook. Thank you.

UPDATE 3 October:
Funeral service for Mr Jeyaretnam – 2pm at St. Andrew’s Cathedral

Scenes from his wake

UPDATE 4 October:
* Email message from Margaret John, Malaysia-Singapore Coordinator,  Amnesty International (AI) Canada, 1 October. Used with permission.

JBJ: a giant of conscience


Sad news: Singapore longtime human rights defender,  J B Jeyaretnam, has just died in Singapore at the age of 82. Trained as a lawyer, he was appointed a judge, but chose the difficult life of an opposition politician and was the first to break the ruling People’s Action Party’s long monopoly on power when he was elected in 1981.  According to C V Devan Nair,  then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said that he would  make J B Jeyaretnam “crawl on his bended knees and beg for mercy”. Mr Nair (who became President and then a severe critic of Lee Kuan Yew)  later said that Lee Kuan Yew was never able to make Jeyarretnam do so. Instead, JBJ — as he was known — often said that he took his strength from his Christianity.  He also told me that the support of Amnesty International members and other human rights activists across the globe enabled him to go on and that, without it, he would find it difficult to continue.

Amnesty International was active during the years that followed his election:  when J B Jeyaretnam was expelled from Parliament, faced defamation and other law suits, was imprisoned, and was made bankrupt. Canadian Judge Paul Bentley ( a former president of AI Canada) was one ofthe organization’s trial mission observers, on whose reports AI based its concerns and actions.

JBJ was given accolades such as ” the Lion of Singapore”.  For me, he was a giant of conscience.

Margaret John
Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia
Amnesty International Canada

* See also the open letter from the AI International Secretariat to the family of J B Jeyaretnam.


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