Singapore's 1st local accountant-general dies at 90

Singapore's 1st local accountant-general dies at 90

Singapore's first local accountant-general Chua Kim Yeow, who reluctantly stood against former deputy prime minister Ong Teng Cheong in Singapore's first presidential election, died of pneumonia yesterday morning. He was 90.

He had been hospitalised in Singapore General Hospital after falling critically ill in early August, said his second daughter Chua Hui Ling, who is in her 50s.

"He was an honest, committed man with integrity in the things that he did," said Dr Chua, who recounted his humble beginnings.

He was a cautious and careful person as well - valuable traits in Singapore's early days of independence, she added.

In 1961, Mr Chua became the first Singaporean to be appointed accountant-general, succeeding a British accountant.

Said Dr Chua: "It's no mean feat to achieve that - he was not born with a silver spoon. A lot of people called him a self-made man."

A top pupil in primary school, he moved on to Raffles Institution but his studies came to an end two years later owing to the Japanese Occupation.

After the war, he passed the examination of the Association of Certified Accountants in 1954 by enrolling in a correspondence course with the United Kingdom School of Accountancy.

The professional qualification got him an executive job at the Income Tax Department in the same year.

Mr Chua was Singapore's accountant-general for 18 years, and received the silver Public Administration Medal in 1964 and the gold medal in 1975.

After retiring from the civil service in 1979, he joined DBS Bank as its president. He moved to POSB in 1986 to be its executive chairman for seven years.

In 1993, just months after his retirement from banking, Cabinet ministers, including then prime minister Goh Chok Tong, who is now Emeritus Senior Minister, urged Mr Chua to run in the country's first presidential election to give voters a choice of candidates.

He agreed, but openly acknowledged his reluctance to do so, calling his opponent Mr Ong "a far superior candidate".

Mr Chua received 41.3 per cent, or 670,358, of valid votes, a better-than-expected performance in the eyes of political observers who pointed out that he was going up against a minister with a much higher public profile.

After the election, he withdrew from the public eye as quickly as he entered it.

He returned to the corporate world and took up various appointments, including chairman of the Singapore Stock Exchange from 1994 to 2000 and chairman of Stamford Tyres from 2000 to 2013.

Mr Chua is survived by four daughters, three grandchildren and a great-granddaughter. His wife, former school teacher Seah Sok Meng, died four years ago.

Mr Chua's wake will be held at his home in Hua Guan Avenue, off Dunearn Road.

He will be cremated on Wednesday.

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