Joshua Benjamin Jeyaratnam (1926-2008) TODAY picture
SINGAPORE: Politicians and political watchers remember Mr JB Jeyaretnam for being a determined fighter.
When Mr Jeyaretnam entered Singapore’s Parliament in 1981, most of the PAP MPs were uncomfortable, said former MP Tan Cheng Bock.
That’s because they had no experience of opposition politicians in the Singapore legislature.
Dr Tan said: “In Parliament, he was concentrating on Lee Kuan Yew. He wasn’t at all interested in discussing or engaging a debate with us. The saddest thing I noticed about JBJ was that he was so obsessed only about one particular subject – human rights and rights of parliamentary democracy.”
When Mr JB Jeyaretnam took part in parliamentary debates when he was an MP in the 1980s, Parliament used to sit late till about 9pm when Mr Jeyaretnam had several motions listed down for debate in Parliament’s order of proceedings.
But it’s not just the length of proceedings he is remembered for.
Workers’ Party Secretary-General Low Thia Khiang described his former leader as a political fighter, recalling the time when Mr Jeyaretnam was disqualified from office in 1986.
Mr Low said: “He fought with all costs despite the setback that he had faced and the insurmountable obstacles put in front of him. This is a legacy he left with the Workers’ Party.
“Many times there were frustrations and anger but he stayed in Singapore and continued to fight on. Mr Jeyaretnam is no armchair critic.”
Some political observers remember him more for being combative than for offering ideas but feel that younger Singaporeans can still learn from Mr Jeyaretnam’s experience.
Assistant Professor Eugene Tan, School of Law, Singapore Management University, said: “Mr JB Jeyaretnam, through his own confrontation with the government may have encouraged people. He may have also discouraged people when younger Singaporeans see the price that he paid. Some Singaporeans may not be willing to walk down his path.”
He said it will be difficult to find another fiery opposition speaker like Mr Jeyaretnam. – CNA/vm