Former Cabinet minister Chua Sian Chin died of heart failure on Wednesday, triggering a host of tributes from political leaders who hailed his dedication and drive in helping to build modern-day Singapore.
Family members said he was at his Chestnut Drive home when he started to exhibit signs of a heart attack at about 8.30pm.
He was rushed to the National University Hospital, where he died of heart failure three hours later. He was 81.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Mr Chua belonged to Singapore's pioneer generation of leaders who had led the country to independence and set it on the path to growth.
"Mr Chua's passing is a sad loss to Singapore, but his contributions live on in our policies and institutions," said Mr Lee in a condolence letter to the former minister's widow, Mrs Alice Chua.
Mr Chua, who was conferred the Order of Nila Utama (Second Class) in 1990, had helmed the Health, Home Affairs and Education ministries, and Mr Lee highlighted his contributions in all three portfolios. These ranged from improving public health standards, strengthening the Penal Code, enhancing the vocational and technical streams, and promoting bilingualism.
One of Mr Chua's first projects was the Keep Singapore Clean campaign, which he started in 1968. This was his most important contribution to Singapore, the Malacca native told The Straits Times when he retired from politics in 1991.
In his two-page condolence letter, PM Lee also cited Mr Chua's humility and dedication as an MP in MacPherson. When he was first elected, the ward was a new estate that had many resettled residents from nearby kampungs.
Said Mr Lee: "He made sure that they settled in well into their new homes, and worked hard to develop their sense of community and camaraderie. He also personally groomed many young grassroots volunteers who served him throughout his 23 years as MP, including several who have continued volunteering till today."
Mr Lee recalled how Mr Chua was studying law in London when he met Dr Goh Keng Swee, an Old Guard leader who served as Singapore's deputy prime minister.
It was during this period that Mr Chua also met founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Mr Chua would later recount what a "profound impression Mr Lee had made on him and his fellow students", wrote PM Lee.
On Thursday, the older Mr Lee said in a letter to Mrs Chua: "It is with sadness that I was informed that Sian Chin has passed away. You have my deepest condolences."
President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who served in the Cabinet with Mr Chua from 1980 to 1984, also paid tribute in a Facebook post.
"As a member of Singapore's first generation of leaders, Mr Chua played an important role in setting Singapore on a path of development and growth from the early years of our independence," he wrote.
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean credited Mr Chua with "laying the foundations for the safe and secure Singapore we enjoy today".
He is survived by his wife, three children - Eng Chiang, Hui Tin and Eng Leong - and five grandsons. Eng Leong, 43, the PAP's branch chairman for the Eunos ward in Aljunied GRC, recalled how his late father developed dementia in the late 1990s, slowly losing his faculties and eventually becoming bedridden.
"My father did not get to see how Singapore has developed because of his illness, but now he will be able to," said the younger Mr Chua.
A pioneer leader
Mr Chua belonged to our pioneer generation of leaders, who led Singapore in our early years of independence, and set us on the path to growth. Mr Chua's passing is a sad loss to Singapore, but his contributions live on in our policies and institutions.
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a letter to Mr Chua's widow Alice
It is with sadness that I was informed that Sian Chin has passed away. You have my deepest condolences.
- Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, in a letter to Alice
He played a vital role
Mr Chua was my senior in the Parliament when I entered politics in 1979 and I served with him in the Cabinet from 1980 to 1984... As a member of Singapore's first generation of leaders, Mr Chua played an important role in setting Singapore on a path of development and growth from the early years of our independence.
- President Tony Tan Keng Yam, in a Facebook post
Making his mark
Mr Chua Sian Chin, a Peranakan Chinese, was born in Malacca in 1933. He studied law in London on a scholarship and worked in Malaya as a barrister after graduation. Later, he joined law firm Lee & Lee.
Mr Chua was first elected in 1968 and was immediately made Health Minister, making him the youngest Cabinet minister then at 34.
He went on to spend 23 years in politics, and also held ministerial portfolios in Education and Home Affairs.
As Minister for Home Affairs from 1972 to 1984, he was instrumental in improving Singapore's internal security by clamping down on triads and dealing with the drug menace.
As Education Minister from 1975 to 1979, he enhanced the vocational and technical streams and promoted bilingualism.
He was conferred the Order of Nila Utama (Second Class) in 1990, and retired in 1991.
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