Monday, 29 February 2016

Former PAP old guard Lee Khoon Choy dies at 92

By Rachel Au-Yong, The Sunday Times, 28 Feb 2016

Former politician Lee Khoon Choy, a member of the People's Action Party old guard who also served as Singapore's ambassador to Indonesia in the 1970s, died yesterday.

His son, National University Heart Centre deputy director Lee Chuen Neng, said his father "passed away in tranquillity" at the National University Hospital in the morning, after battling pneumonia for two weeks. He was 92.

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean yesterday described Mr Lee as "a giant of our times" for helping to smooth strained relations between Singapore and Indonesia in the 1970s.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, also in a Facebook post, said founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had spoken of the pivotal role Mr Lee played, adding: "It was his deep appreciation of culture and history that gave him that special insight and tact that is so essential in diplomacy."

Mr Lee, whose political career spanned 25 years, was known for his tact, and represented Singapore as a diplomat from 1968 to 1988.

He was appointed ambassador to Indonesia in 1970, shortly after the end of Konfrontasi, a period of hostilities when Indonesia opposed the formation of Malaysia, of which Singapore was a part from 1963 to 1965. Singapore had hanged two Indonesian marines in 1968 for a bombing at MacDonald House which killed three people.

Mr Lee, with his knowledge of Indonesian customs, persuaded Mr Lee Kuan Yew to wear a batik shirt on an official visit to Indonesia in 1973, and to scatter flowers over the graves of the two men. The gesture helped mend ties, and the following year, Indonesia's then President Suharto visited Singapore.

Academic Barry Desker, who was ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1993, said Mr Lee had made a tremendous effort to understand Javanese culture. "He was someone who was prepared to learn about other societies, open to new experiences, and always conscious of new opportunities for Singapore."

Over the years, Mr Lee, who spoke five languages including Arabic, also represented Singapore as a diplomat in other countries such as Egypt and Japan.

Mr Lee, who was born in Penang, had started out as a journalist in Malaya and was a reporter with The Straits Times for two years.

He joined politics in 1959, driven by a desire to gain independence for Singapore and Malaya.

In a 2014 interview with The Straits Times, he described the year as his most eventful and also most painful, as his first wife died of cancer. The same year, his mother and father-in-law also died.

During his years in politics, Mr Lee held several appointments including as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Culture and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. After he stepped down in 1984, he set up his own business consultancy and wrote several books.

Mr Lee was also a man of the arts, and was an accomplished artist who had staged several exhibitions and played three instruments.

In 1990, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order by the Singapore Government for his contributions to the nation.

His son, Professor Lee Chuen Neng, said yesterday: "He was a man of many talents, and we were always proud of him. He was also the best father. He had confidence that we would all do well in the end."

Former senior parliamentary secretary Ho Kah Leong, who was introduced to politics by Mr Lee, said: "He was a good man, always ready to help."

Mr Lee leaves his second wife, Madam Eng Ah Siam, as well as seven children and 11 grandchildren.

His wake will be held at the Mount Vernon Sanctuary tomorrow and on Tuesday.

Our deepest condolences to Mr Lee Khoon Choy's family.Mr Lee Khoon Choy served Singapore since 1959. He retired from...
Posted by People's Action Party on Friday, February 26, 2016

'KC was steadfast and loyal till the end'
PM Lee pays tribute to PAP old guard Lee Khoon Choy in condolence letter to widow
By Pearl Lee, The Straits Times, 29 Feb 2016

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sent a condolence letter to the widow of Mr Lee Khoon Choy yesterday, saying the former People's Action Party (PAP) old guard MP was steadfast and loyal till the end.

He said founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once described Mr Lee as "a man who 'had it', a man of courage who did not melt under pressure".

Mr Lee, aged 92, died last Saturday of pneumonia at the National University Hospital.

In the three-page letter to Madam Eng Ah Siam, PM Lee noted that the late Mr S. Rajaratnam, Singapore's first foreign minister, recruited Mr Lee to join the PAP.

Mr Lee, known as KC to friends, was then a journalist, and had covered major events that affected Singapore and the region, such as the 1956 Merdeka talks in London to discuss self-government in Singapore.

Deeply saddened by the passing of Mr Lee Khoon Choy, a member of the PAP Old Guard, at the ripe old age of 92.Khoon...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday, February 27, 2016

After he joined the PAP in 1959, he was elected the Legislative Assemblyman for Bukit Panjang.

In the 1960s, pro-communist factions in the PAP that later broke away to form Barisan Sosialis tried to woo Mr Lee over, said PM Lee.

When they failed, they sent him a death threat in a letter with a bullet enclosed. In 1961, thousands of Chinese secondary school students also staged sit-ins where they threw rotten apples at him and shouted "Lee Khoon Choy, enter the coffin" in Mandarin.

"But KC did not buckle. He was steadfast and loyal till the end," said PM Lee.

In the 1963 elections, Mr Lee lost his seat. But he won a 1965 by-election in Hong Lim - triggered by the resignation of the PAP's Ong Eng Guan - that decided the future of Singapore, said PM Lee.

Singapore, part of Malaysia then, was campaigning for a Malaysian Malaysia, which was anathema to the federal government in Kuala Lumpur, said PM Lee.

The federal government was testing the PAP's support and the outcome of the "pivotal election" would determine "whether they could take over Singapore or kick us out of Malaysia".

A month after Mr Lee's win, Singapore separated from Malaysia.

As ambassador to Indonesia in the 1970s, Mr Lee also "played a crucial role in thawing relations between Singapore and Indonesia", said PM Lee.

Singapore had hanged two Indonesian commandos who bombed the MacDonald House in Dhoby Ghaut in 1965 and killed three people.

Mr Lee, with his good understanding of the Indonesian psyche, persuaded Mr Lee Kuan Yew to make a conciliatory gesture of scattering flowers at the graves of the two commandos in Jakarta.

"The gesture enabled Mr Lee Kuan Yew to establish a relationship with President Suharto and set Singapore and Indonesia on a path of friendship and cooperation," said PM Lee.

In recognition of his contributions, Mr Lee was awarded the Distinguished Service Order by the Government in 1990.

After retiring from politics, Mr Lee went back to his "first love" of writing and painting, PM Lee said.

One of his books, Golden Dragon And Purple Phoenix, which PM Lee launched in 2013, traced the history and influence of inter-marriages between Chinese immigrants and South-east Asian natives.

PM Lee said Mr Lee had "always been interested in where we come from", and believed that people must know their roots.

"Indeed, as we remember his life, we remember our roots and what our pioneers like him did, to put Singapore on the path it is on today."

Mr Lee is survived by his wife, seven children and 11 grandchildren. His wake will be held at the Mount Vernon Sanctuary today and tomorrow.

My wife and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr Lee Khoon Choy. Mr Lee was a remarkable man who lived...
Posted by Dr Tony Tan on Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lee Khoon Choy's death a loss to nation: President
His diplomacy 'laid foundation for Singapore, Indonesia friendship'; PM also pays respects
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 1 Mar 2016

Tributes continued to pour in yesterday for the late Mr Lee Khoon Choy, a former politician, diplomat and artist, who died last Saturday, aged 92.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had sent a condolence letter to Mr Lee's widow on Sunday, were among top government and bushiness leaders who attended Mr Lee's wake yesterday.

Dr Tan, who went to the Mount Vernon Sanctuary last night with his wife Mary, said the death of Mr Lee was "a great loss to Singapore".

As the country's ambassador to Indonesia in the 1970s, after the end of a period of hostility during Konfrontasi, Mr Lee helped to diffuse the tension between the two countries.

His diplomacy "laid the foundation for friendship between Mr Lee Kuan Yew and (former Indonesian president) Suharto, and that relationship continues till today", Dr Tan said.

"It is a bit difficult to make up (for losing him), but he had made his contributions to Singapore as a prominent member of the pioneer generation," he added.

Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who arrived at the wake shortly after Parliament adjourned in the evening, said she took comfort in the fact that Mr Lee had written several books, and the younger generation would be able to read about his experiences.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing and People's Association (PA) chief executive director Ang Hak Seng led a team of 11 PA staff members to pay their respects.

Mr Lee - known as KC to friends - was deputy chairman of the PA from 1977 to 1984.

Mr Chan, deputy chairman of the statutory board, told The Straits Times that Mr Lee was instrumental in developing PA's community-building role. The initiatives he started included setting up daycare centres in community centres to help working parents.

He had also pushed for leisure activities to be offered at community centres, for people to mingle regardless of race or social class, said the PA in a statement.

Mr Lee, a member of the People's Action Party old guard, died of pneumonia at the National University of Hospital on Saturday.

In a political career spanning 25 years, he held such roles as Minister of State for Culture, and Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. He had been Singapore's ambassador to eight countries.

Mr Lee leaves behind his wife, seven children and 11 grandchildren. He will be cremated at Mandai Crematorium Hall 4 at 5pm tomorrow.

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