On a separate note, the 3rd paragraph of MM Lee's eulogy below shows, hey presto, that MM Lee, of all people, actually understands the importance of a free press. Too bad the Singapore Standard died a long time ago. Now we don't really have any newspaper that can provide an alternative viewpoint when the Straits Times tries to "downplay" anything.
MINISTER MENTOR'S EULOGY FOR MR S. RAJARATNAM
In April 1952, just as the postmen’s union was about to go on strike, Goh Keng Swee introduced me to the associate editor of the Singapore Standard, S Rajaratnam. Keng Swee said Raja was sympathetic to workers and trade unions, and could be helpful.
As the union’s legal adviser, I was keen to meet him. By the pool at the Singapore Chinese Swimming Club, against the blare of loud music, I described to him the case for the postmen. He promised to help.
When the strike started, the Singapore Standard reported it extensively. This forced the British-owned Straits Times to do the same. Raja wrote editorials attacking the colonial government with wit, punch and vigour. Without the Singapore Standard, the Straits Times could have downplayed the strike. As it was, the British colonial government was regularly lambasted for several weeks on the front pages of the Singapore Standard, and its officials got the worst of the argument.
The strike ended with concessions to the union, and changed the course of history. A rash of negotiations, arbitrations and strikes followed, with the unions often appointing me their lawyer. This built up a mass following for our cause.
Raja was at his best when under attack. I have vivid memories of him when we were pummelled by the Communists from 1961 to 1963. Almost everyday they berated and denounced us at mass rallies and in the Chinese language press. At times I felt weary rebutting their accusations, but Raja was tireless. A chain smoker always with a cigarette between his lips and taking sips of coffee or tea during pauses, he would bang away at his typewriter, to knock down every one of their points. He did this with inexhaustible energy and gusto. He enjoyed stringing words together to capture people’s attention and make fun of or demolish our opponent’s arguments. His strength was as a thinker and a writer, a man of honour, with great moral courage.
His most enduring legacy is our National Pledge. After two communal riots in 1964 and the tensions and suspicions of Separation, we were not at our most optimistic. In spite of our dark mood at the time, I felt Raja would have the conviction and optimism to express our aspirations. I got Raja to draft it. He crafted the words, I tightened them. The cabinet adopted them as the National Pledge. It was an act of faith.
The experiences we shared in this struggle, confronting problems and crises, forged an enduring bond between us.
A few years ago he began to lose his memory. When I visited him in 1998, he did not recognise me.
With his passing, Singaporeans have lost a patriot, a man of deep conviction and principle. His contribution was not in bricks and mortar, or concrete and glass, but in ideas, sentiment and spirit. Everyday when the pledge is recited in our schools, our children are reminded to live up to our aspirations as Raja expressed them.