By Lee Foong Ming
JB Jeyaretnam (file pic)
SINGAPORE: Former opposition MP and former Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party, JB Jeyaretnam, died of heart failure early Tuesday. He was 82 years old.
His son, Kenneth Jeyaretnam, told Channel NewsAsia that Mr Jeyaretnam – who had a pre-existing heart condition – had complained of breathing difficulties at about 1.30am on Tuesday.
He was rushed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, but doctors were unable to revive him. He died of heart failure with both his sons, Kenneth and Philip, by his side.
A lawyer, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam was the first opposition member to win a Parliamentary seat in 15 years when he defeated the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Pang Kim Hin and the United People’s Front’s Harbans Singh in the Anson By-Election in 1981.
He retained the seat in the 1984 General Election, but had to vacate it in 1986 after he was convicted on charges of mis-stating his party’s accounts.
Barred subsequently from standing for office, Mr Jeyaretnam returned to Parliament following the 1997 General Election.
That year, he was part of a 5-member team from the Workers’ Party who contested in Cheng San Group Representation Constituency (GRC), and garnered 45.18 per cent of the votes against the PAP’s 54.82 per cent.
A Non-Constituency MP seat was offered to the Workers’ Party for turning in the highest votes by an opposition party, and this was taken up by Mr Jeyaretnam.
In the late 1980s and 1990s, the fiery opposition member faced several defamation lawsuits brought against him by PAP leaders, among them Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.
In 2001, Mr Jeyeratnam was declared a bankrupt and disbarred as a lawyer. As a bankrupt, he was also barred from taking part in the General Election held that year.
Later, in October 2001 he left the Workers’ Party he had led since 1971.
After he was discharged as a bankrupt in 2008, the 82 year old formed a new political party, the Reform Party, in July.
Mr Jeyaretnam leaves behind two sons.
The family later said in a statement that the family is overwhelmed with grief and will make further announcements after the necessary arrangements have been made.
According to the statment from both his sons, Mr Jeyaretnam had spent his last hours at the Evelyn Road apartment of his son Kenneth.
“Earlier this evening he and I had enjoyed a light dinner and chatted and then he sat out on the balcony for a while before retiring.”
The statement went on to say that the family was woken up at about 1:30am by Mr Jeyaretnam who was “obviously in distress” and was rushed to hospital.
“But unfortunately the medical team working on him were unable to revive him despite their lengthy and strenuous attempts. My brother Philip joined me at the hospital and we were then informed by the doctor in charge of his care that he had passed away,” said the family in their statement, which also gave thanks the medical team. – CNA/yb