Toh Chin Chye

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Dr.
Toh Chin Chye
Toh chin chye.jpg
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
In office
5 June 1965 – 2 August 1968
President Yusof bin Ishak
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
Preceded by None, new post
Succeeded by Goh Keng Swee
Chairman of the People's Action Party
In office
1954–1981
Preceded by None, new post
Succeeded by Ong Teng Cheong
Minister for Science and Technology
In office
1968–1975
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
Preceded by None, new post
Succeeded by None, post abolished
Minister for Health
In office
2 June 1975 – 5 January 1981
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew
Preceded by Yong Nyuk Lin
Succeeded by Howe Yoon Chong
Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore
In office
1968–1975
Preceded by Lim Tay Boon
Succeeded by Kwan Sai Kheong
Member of the Singapore Parliament
for Rochor SMC
In office
1959–1988
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1921-12-10)10 December 1921
Batu Gajah, Perak state, Federated Malay States[1]
Died 3 February 2012(2012-02-03) (aged 90)
Singapore
Political party People's Action Party
Spouse(s) Florence Yeap Sui Phek (married from 1962 until her death in 2004 at the age of 77)
Children Adopted daughter: Toh Ai Chu (born in 1967 or 1968 – died in 2009 at the age of 41)
Alma mater St. George's Institution, Anglo-Chinese School in Ipoh,[1]
Raffles College in Singapore,
University of London,
National Institute for Medical Research
Military service
Awards Order of Nila Utama (First Class)[1]
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Toh.

Dr. Toh Chin Chye (simplified Chinese: 杜进才; traditional Chinese: 杜進才; pinyin: Dù Jìncái; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Tō Chìn-châi; 10 December 1921 – 3 February 2012) was a politician from Singapore. He was a prominent member of the country's first generation of political leaders after Singapore became independent in 1965, serving as Deputy Prime Minister (1965–1968), Minister for Science and Technology (1968–1975) and Minister for Health (1975–1981). He also served as the Chairman of the People's Action Party (PAP) from 1954 to 1981, and as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Singapore from 1968 to 1975. After he left the Cabinet in 1981, he continued to serve as a Member of Parliament (MP) on the backbenches until he retired from politics in 1988.

Career[edit]

Academic career[edit]

Toh began his career as an academic. He was a Reader in Physiology at the University of Singapore from 1958 to 1964. He became the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Singapore while concurrently serving as the Minister for Science and Technology from 1968 to 1975.[2]

Political career[edit]

Once you are in the front edge of administration, there'll be barbs and arrows. Don't expect roses. I never expected roses.

Toh Chin Chye [3]

Toh became politically active during his time as a university student in London, when he served as the Chairman of the Malayan Forum, an anti-colonial group for students from Malaya and Singapore (which included two future Prime Ministers of Singapore and Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew and Tun Abdul Razak) which met regularly for discussions and debates on the future of the Malayan region.

Toh was among the founder members of the People's Action Party and the party's Chairman from its formation in 1954 to 1981, save for a brief period in 1957 when leftists, who dominated the common membership in 1957, elected leftist leaders and took over the party leadership.[4] The founding members were restored when many of the leftist leaders were arrested by Lim Yew Hock in his anticommunist crackdown, allowing for the restoration of the original "basement group" of Toh, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Keng Swee, et al to the Central Executive Committee (CEC). Following this, Toh implemented a cadres system to prevent from the newcomer "ordinary members", including leftist sympathisers, from having undue influence over the membership of the CEC.

Toh was elected as a PAP member for Rochor in the 1959 Singapore general election.

Toh was a key member of Lee Kuan Yew's faction in their fight against their rivals within the party.

Following the PAP's victory at the 1959 elections, the members of the party's Central Executive Committee voted to decide whether Lee, as the party's Secretary-General, or the party's Treasurer, Ong Eng Guan (who served as the Mayor on the City Council from 1957 to 1959), should take up the newly created post of Prime Minister. The vote was tied (6–6), and Toh, as the party's Chairman, used his casting vote in favour of Lee.[5]

Toh was a tenacious fighter in the battle against the Barisan Sosialis party, a splinter group from the PAP. He managed to defeat Barisan Chairman Lee Siew Choh by a mere 89 votes in the 1963 Singapore general election, his narrowest electoral victory.

Toh held several Cabinet portfolios in pre- and post-independence Singapore, including Deputy Prime Minister (1959–68), Minister for Science and Technology (1968–75) and Minister for Health (1975–81). He was also University of Singapore's Vice-Chancellor from 1968 to 1975. His stint at the university drew mixed reactions from staff and students alike. While his role to reorient the university's focus to suit the fledging nation's needs was applauded, he was also perceived as authoritarian, especially when he clamped down on student demonstrations and political activities.

Toh stepped down from the Cabinet and party chairmanship in 1981. He served out a further two parliamentary terms as a vocal backbencher, during which time he criticised his own party on a regular basis. He retired from Parliament at the 1988 general election.

Contributions[edit]

Toh was generally considered one of the founding fathers of modern Singapore that came along with Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam, for helping to lead Singapore during the nation's formative years.

Majulah Singapura was chosen by Toh as the national anthem of Singapore. In 1959, he headed the team that designed the Singapore coat of arms and flag.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Education[edit]

Toh completed his secondary education at St George's Institution in Taiping, Perak, and at the Anglo-Chinese School in Ipoh. He obtained a diploma in science from Raffles College in Singapore in 1946. He furthered his studies at University of London and in 1953 he received a PhD in Physiology from the National Institute for Medical Research.[2]

Retirement[edit]

Toh spent his last years away from the public eye. The Straits Times featured Toh twice in 2005 and 2006 respectively, once on 2 May 2005 to pay his last respects to former president Wee Kim Wee. He was seen being assisted by two men and a walking stick as he walked. In February 2006, Toh was featured again in The Straits Times paying his last respects to the late former Deputy Prime Minister S Rajaratnam at his home in Chancery Lane.

Toh was briefly back in the spotlight in 1991 when he was mistaken for the culprit in a "hit and run" motor accident by The New Paper, who published the story on the front page. The culprit was in fact another individual who was also named Toh Chin Chye. Toh was subsequently awarded damages in a libel suit against the paper.[6]

Death[edit]

Toh died in his sleep on 3 February 2012 at 9:30 am (GMT+8). He was 90 years of age. He is survived by his son-in-law and four grandchildren aged 4 to 15.[7] His funeral was held on 7 February 2012 at the Mandai Crematorium.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Benson Ang (February 2012). "Dr Toh Chin Chye:1921-2012 VIP With Simple Taste". The New Paper (Singapore). pp. 4, 6. 
  2. ^ a b "Toh Chin Chye". National University of Singapore. Retrieved June 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Dr Toh Chin Chye". Today (Singapore newspaper). Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  4. ^ National Library Board, Singapore. "Toh Chin Chye". Infopedia. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  5. ^ "Remembering Dr Toh Chin Chye". Channel NewsAsia. 2012-02-03. Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  6. ^ "Granted". Asiaweek. Archived from the original on April 21, 2001. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  7. ^ Former deputy PM & PAP founding member Toh Chin Chye dies
  8. ^ Tributes pour in at Dr Toh's funeral
Political offices
Preceded by
None, New post
Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore
5 June 1965 – 2 August 1968
Succeeded by
Goh Keng Swee
Preceded by
Yong Nyuk Lin
Minister for Health
2 June 1975 – 5 January 1981
Succeeded by
Howe Yoon Chong
Party political offices
New political party Chairman of the People's Action Party
1954 – 1981
Succeeded by
Ong Teng Cheong
Academic offices
Preceded by
Lim Tay Boh
Vice-Chancellor of the National University of Singapore
1968 – 1975
Succeeded by
Kwan Sai Kheong