PAP stalwart's memoirs out

PAP stalwart's memoirs out
PAP stalwart and former Senior Parliamentary Secretary Chan Chee Seng publishes his memoirs.

People's Action Party (PAP) stalwart and former senior parliamentary secretary Chan Chee Seng reveals in his memoirs out today that he took a six-month hiatus in London to "be alone to decide what to do" with the rest of his life after leaving politics in 1984.

He was just 52 at the time, but had to step down as the ruling party was in the process of self- renewal.

By then he had been in public service for nearly three decades as a city councillor, legislative assemblyman and later Member of Parliament for Jalan Besar.

He describes his days in London and his experience of despair turning to hope in his memoirs titled Mo Ran Hui Shou, meaning "to look back", which will be launched at the chamber of the Old Parliament House this afternoon.

Now 83 and chairman of the ISS International School, he told The Sunday Times that he learnt a lot during his London stay, especially from the people he met.

They included someone he refers to as "Uncle William", an Englishman and boss of a big company who taught him many valuable lessons about business and life.

Mr Chan returned home determined to grow the international school he had started in 1981 with his pharmacist wife, Madam Chan Chin Oi.

The couple, who married in 1962, have two daughters and three grandchildren. Their school now has two campuses in Singapore and a sister school in Beijing.

The 260-page book in Chinese was written by Mr Chan's friend and assistant, Mr Chang Kwai Ming, 74.

It begins when his father died the year he turned five, leaving him and seven siblings. Mr Chan dropped out of school in Secondary 1 when his mother could not afford his fees, and he started working at a shop.

But through self-study and hard work, he became a clerk in a bank, where he met several old guard PAP leaders in the early 1950s. They included Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Toh Chin Chye and Mr S. Rajaratnam - who have all since passed away - and Mr Ong Pang Boon.

He was soon recruited by them and fielded as the party's candidate for the 1957 city councillor's election.

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew described Mr Chan in his 1998 memoirs, The Singapore Story, as a "non-communist Chinese- educated Cantonese, a judo black belt, well-built, not intellectual but loyal and energetic and a good campaigner".

A key interviewee for Men In White, the 2009 book about the PAP, Mr Chan said his greatest contribution was saving the party from defeat in a 1961 confidence motion in the Legislative Assembly.

The PAP was short of one vote, and he volunteered to bring a hospitalised member back to cast the winning vote in the nick of time.

Mr Chan said: "I decided to publish my memoirs because I wanted to share my story and struggles in the early years with the young... I hope to come out with an English translation soon."

His granddaughter, Miss Tan Yu Ann, 21, a final-year psychology student at the University of Hong Kong who returned for today's book launch, said: "I am glad Grandpa's memoirs finally came ."

wengkam@sph.com.sg

Mr Chan's book is available at all major Chinese bookshops at $26.50 (GST inclusive) and also at the 2015 Singapore Book Fair now on at Suntec City Convention Centre at a 20 per cent discount.


This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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