My 50 Years With Singapore


Photo with mum and siblings taken at the old Nantah University at age 9. I am on the extreme left.

Photo with mum and siblings taken at the old Nantah University at age 9. I am on the extreme left. Once in a while, we will get all dressed up and dad would drive us to interesting places in Singapore. I remember admiring the grandeur of the place, built mostly by donations from the Chinese community. The next time I would set foot in the university was as a student representing Temasek Junior College in the annual pre-university seminar in 1982. By then, Nantah had ceased to exist and it was part of the National University of Singapore. Much later in the 1990s, I completed my MBA from the Nanyang Business School, which is located near where this picture was taken. It had by then been changed into the Nanyang Technological University, our 2nd university. So in my first three occasions to step into the university, it had three different identities, a reflection of the changing situation surrounding its controversial early years.

The Straits Times featured me alongside four other Members of Parliament in its article of the same title today. My original text is reproduced below. Added other photos too to complete this post.

On growing up in Singapore over the last 50 years:

I grew up in Opera Estate, living with my parents – both of them teachers – and three siblings.

Just behind our house was Kampong Chai Chee, which had some small farms then. The farmers would sometimes take food waste from our house for their animals and give us eggs on festive occasions.

Afternoons were usually spent exploring the neighbourhood on my rickety bicycle, or playing with neighbours. Once in a while, we would get a supper treat when dad came home with his pay from giving tuition.

I have happy memories of schooling, which were all in neighbourhood schools in the east. Many of my friends went through the same schools from primary school till junior college.

I remember the numerous campaigns in schools, such as Use Your Hands (encouraging students to take care of their surroundings), Anti-littering, Courtesy, and so on. I enjoyed these campaigns and other shared experiences with my peers.

I now have children of my own. My wish is to see a more resilient new generation of Singaporeans so that we can chart a better future for our children.

My wish for Singapore politics in the next 50 years:

I hope to see a more resilient political system, where people of different ideologies can play their parts to develop Singapore, and where there are strong and independent institutions to provide checks and balances for a stronger democracy.
I have always believed that Singapore has enough talent for more than one team. I hope to see the day that enough people will come forward in the political scene so that there will be viable alternatives in the political system.

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Yes, growing up in Singapore was memorable. I could only use about 200 words for the ST article. I had found other interesting photos while searching for the above for ST, which I have inserted below.

With paternal grandmother in Ipoh. I had lived the first 2 years of my life with my grandparents in Gopeng (near Ipoh) as both my parents had to work and they already had two elder siblings to look after.

With paternal grandmother in Ipoh. I had lived the first 2 years of my life with my grandparents in Gopeng (near Ipoh) as both my parents had to work in Singapore and they already had my two elder siblings to look after.

At the tower of Seletar reservoir with family on another outing at around 7 years old. I must have opened my mouth to shout into the wind.

At the tower of Seletar reservoir with my family on another outing at around 7 years old. As a cheeky boy, I must have opened my mouth to shout into the wind.

Received a surprise gift of a live chicken from my college classmates for my 18th birthday in school.

Received a surprise gift of a live chicken from my college classmates for my 18th birthday in school.

I went to St. Stephen’s School near my house because dad wanted us to have an English-based education. My parents were Chinese teachers but they realised that it would be a dead end for us to go to a Chinese school given the strong switch to English as the medium of education throughout Singapore then. Most of my schoolmates and I graduated to St. Patrick’s for secondary school and later to Temasek Junior College. We studied hard but we also played hard. I ended up taking part in five CCA groups in college, something unheard of these days.

I had received my education entirely in Singapore, including for my postgraduate courses. It was during my working years that I got to travel more widely and became exposed to different forms for governance and political systems. I started to write to the forum pages of newspapers and international magazines.

With NUS Computing colleagues in Tokyo for my first overseas conference. My first job was teaching computer science at NUS.

With NUS Computing colleagues in Tokyo for my first overseas conference (3rd from left). My first job was teaching computer science at NUS while undergoing my postgraduate programme.

In Boys' Brigade officer uniform with my eldest child, then around 2 years old.

In Boys’ Brigade officer uniform with my eldest child, then around 2 years old. I had continued my active involvement in the community with various organisations even after I had started working.

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