Founding Fathers in a Nutshell

Mr Lee Kuan Yew is most well known as Singapore’s first Prime Minister and the man who lead the country to independence. He is also considered the Father of Modern Singapore, and served as  prime minister for over 30 years. But in the early days when Singapore was struggling to gain independence and then to stand on its own as a newly independent country, Mr Lee had a team of brave men to worked alongside him. They are considered the ‘founding fathers’ of Singapore.  Here’s a quick profile of them in a nutshell.

Singapore Founding Fathers LSB - Copy

Toh Chin Chye
As Deputy Prime Minister, he was most well known for being responsible for creating Singapore’s national symbols including the Singapore flag and the Coat of Arms. He later became the Minister for Science & Technology (1968-1975) then the Minister for Health (1975-1981) and retired in 1988. When he passed away in 2012, he was honoured with a state funeral.

Goh Keng Swee
Mr Goh is considered the economic architect of Singapore. As Minister of Finance, he invited many foreign companies to invest in Singapore to set up businesses here, which created jobs for Singaporeans and helped the country industrialise. Later as Minister of Defence, he set up the Singapore Armed Forces and made national service compulsory for all Singaporean men. After being Minister of Finance in the first cabinet, he became Minister for the Interior and Defence (1965-1967), then back to being Minister of Finance (1967-1970), Minister for Defence (1970-1979), Minister for Education (1979 -1984), and finally as a Deputy Prime Minister (1973-1984). He retired after that, and passed away in 2010. He was given a state funeral.

Sinnathamby Rajaratnam
Better known as S. Rajaratnam, he is best remembered as being Singapore’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs. When Singapore became independent, he had the job of getting the new country recognised all over the world. He put Singapore on the international stage by helping Singapore get into the United Nations, and helped establish ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations). He also steered Singapore through during the Vietnam War and the terrible period of Konfrantasi. Mr Rajaratnam wrote the Singapore Pledge which students continue to recite every morning all over the country. Mr Rajaratnam was Minister for Foreign Affairs in Singapore (1965-1980), Minister for Labour (1968 – 1971), Deputy Prime Minister (1980-1985) and Senior Minister (1985-1988). He retired in 1988 and passed away in 2006 and was given a state funeral.

Ong Pang Boon
In the early days, Singapore was not as orderly or safe as it is now. Organised crime, secret societies, gambling dens, prostitution and corruption was common. As minister for home affairs, Mr Ong, with the police, cleaned up the city, went after the secret societies and organised crime, closed down the vice dens and went after corruption, turning Singapore into the orderly, lawful state it is now. When he was Minister of Education (1963-1970), he made second language compulsory in schools, as he believed it was important to Singapore’s survival.  He later became Minister without Portfolio (1970-1971), Minister for Labour (1971-1981), Minister for Communications (1983), and Minister for Environment (1981-1984). He retired from politics in 1988.

Othman Wok
As Minister for Social Affairs (1963-1965, 1968-1977), he had to look after the issues of the poor and disadvantaged. He set up the Singapore Council of Social Service (now National Council of Social Service) and later the Volunteer Social Service Bureau. He did a lot for the Malay community too, setting up the Mosque Building Fund (MBF), where Muslims contribute a small sum from their monthly salary to build mosques in new towns. He also helped set up MUIS which handles Muslim affairs. From 1977 – 1981, he was Minister without Portfolio and Ambassador to Indonesia. He retired in 1981. Many people may not know that he wrote and published a few horror story books after he retired, including Malayan Horror: Macabre Tales from Singapore and Malaya in 2004.

Lim Kim San
Mr Lim was Singapore’s first Minister of Finance, and he over the years, he was also Minister of Defence, Environment, Communications, and  National Development. But he is most well known as ‘Mr HDB’. In Singapore’s early days, most people were living in terrible conditions – in slums and squatters without electricity or running water. So when the government set up the Housing Development Board (HDB), he volunteered to run the HDB without pay for the first few years. During that time, the HDB built so many flats for Singaporeans, it averaged one every 45 minutes. He also made it such that Singaporeans could afford to buy their own homes. He retired from politics in 1980 and died in 2006.

EW Barker
Mr Barker drafted the papers for Separation from Malaysia, and was the first to put his signature to them. He was also Singapore’s longest serving Law Minister from 1964 to 1988. Since Singapore’s independence, he helped develop Singapore by overseeing the housing, and was a driving force behind the building the first National Stadium in Kallang. He also set up the Preservation of Monuments Act, that allowed historical buildings to be preserved. He retired in 1988 and passed away in 2001.

Hon Sui Sen
Mr Hon served Singapore for 44 years of life, first in the civil service then as a minister. As a minister of finance in the early years, he helped Singapore industrialise and grow its economy. Under him, lots of factories sprang up in Jurong, creating jobs for lots of people. He was also instrumental in turning Pulau Blakang Mati, a fortified island used by the British army, into Sentosa, an island for tourists and Singaporeans to enjoy themselves. He was Finance Minister from 1970 until he died in 1983, making him one of the longest serving Finance Ministers in the world.

(Source: Singapore Infopedia NLB. PIcture credits: Straits Times)


By littlesingaporebook

The companion website to The Little Singapore Book with history, tales, and little known facts about Singapore, just for kids and their teachers.

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