LKY once described Lee Khoon Choy as a man of courage

LKY once described Lee Khoon Choy as a man of courage
Mr Lee Khoon Choy taking an oath on September 18, 1965 as Minister of State for Culture, witnessed by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (left). On the right, Mr Lee Khoon Choy with his book, Golden Dragon and Purple Phoenix, in 2013.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Mr Lee Kuan Yew once said Mr Lee Khoon Choy was a man who did not cave in under pressure from political rivals, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook tribute to the ex-cabinet minister who died on Saturday (Feb 27).

"Deeply saddened" by his death "at the ripe old age of 92", PM Lee said Mr Lee Khoon Choy was known to all as "KC".

The prime minister wrote: "In the early 1960s when the PAP was battling pro-communist factions in the party, the pro-communists targeted KC. He received a letter with a bullet, a death threat. In 1961, thousands of Chinese school students staged sit-ins. They threw rotten apples at him and shouted, "李炯才, 进棺材 (Lee Khoon Choy, enter the coffin)!" KC did not buckle. He stood with the PAP and was loyal till the end."

Singapore's founding father and first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, had described KC, a member of the People's Action Party old guards, as a man who "had it" - a man of courage who "did not melt under pressure", PM Lee recalled.

It was the late Deputy Prime Minister S Rajaratnam who recruited Mr Lee Khoon Choy to join the PAP.

"KC fought in the 1959 elections and won, thus beginning his long career in politics and the Public Service," said the prime minister.



Penang-born Mr Lee was a journalist with Nanyang Siang Pau and The Straits Times in the 1950s before entering the political arena.

The former senior minister of state, who served in the Prime Minister's Office and held culture, education and foreign affairs portfolios, was a Member of Parliament for five terms before he stepped down in 1984.

Mr Lee also served as an ambassador and high commissioner to eight countries. "In recognition of his contributions, KC was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1990," said PM Lee.

Other surviving PAP members of Mr Lee Khoon Choy's generation include Mr Othman Wok, Mr Jek Yeun Thong, Mr Chor Yeok Eng and Mr Ong Pang Boon. Mr Lee's death was the first to follow the death of PAP founder Lee Kuan Yew last year.

Mr Lee Khoon Choy wrote 10 books, including those that featured his insights on countries like China, Japan and Indonesia. 

"After KC stepped down from public service, he returned to his first love - writing and painting. I was honoured to launch his book "Golden Dragon and Purple Phoenix" in 2013," said PM Lee (picture above).

"KC believed that every human being should know his own roots. A tree without roots cannot grow. Human beings are the same", said Mr Lee, using the former's wise words.

"Indeed, as we remember his life, we remember our roots and what our pioneers like him did, to put Singapore on the path it is today," added the prime minister.



Thanking Mr Lee for his immense contributions to Singapore on his Facebook page, former PAP backbencher MP and Singapore's ex-presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock (in picture below with Mr Lee), said he was "an unassuming gentleman always ready to share his experiences and knowledge on politics".

Impressed with his "curiosity and eagerness to keep learning even at a ripe old age", Dr Tan gave him a book on Japanese carps.

"One day he invited me to his home to learn about koi keeping as he knew I had been keeping the Japanese carps,(koi) as a hobby to relax," he recalled, adding that they took a selfie together at a lunch which was also their last meeting.

Mr Lee is survived by his second wife, seven children and 11 grandchildren. His first wife Florence Khor Swee Hoon, with whom he had two sons, died in 1959. It was a most eventful and painful year, he had said in a 2014 interview with The Straits Times - as it was also the year he joined politics, his mother and father-in-law died.

His son, Professor Lee Chuen Neng, who is a heart surgeon and head of surgery at the National University Hospital, had described him as "the best father" and a man of many talents, reported The Straits Times.

Apart from painting and writing, Mr Lee could also play a few musical instruments - the piano, violin and guzheng. He had held exhibitions of his works, captured with Chinese brush strokes of famous sights of countries where he was a Singapore diplomat.

His wake will be held till tomorrow (Mar 1) at Mount Vernon Sanctuary.

Related:

KC was loyal and steadfast till the end

chenj@sph.com.sg



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