Let The People Have Him, Chiam See Tong: The Early Years
Shortlisted for Singapore Literature Prize 2016 (English Non-Fiction)
Loke Hoe Yeong
Selected by Mothership.SG as one of the Top 10 local non-fiction books of 2014
3rd Prize Winner of Popular Readers' Choice Award 2015, English (Adult) Category
Chiam See Tong (b. 1935) is Singapore’s longest serving opposition politician. A member of parliament for nearly three decades, Chiam is also one of Singapore’s most iconic, influential and beloved political figures. Through his efforts in shaping Potong Pasir into a “model constituency”, the veteran statesman has greatly contributed towards an increasingly pluralistic Singapore.
When he first entered politics in 1976, there was not a single opposition member in Parliament. As the founder of the Singapore Democratic Party, and later the Singapore People’s Party, Chiam has long rallied for the need of an opposition as the essential democratic check on a one-party system. He is respected for his level-headed and non-confrontational stance, and is the only opposition member to have received public apologies and out-of-court damages from cabinet ministers of Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party.
Based on extensive interviews, family documents and party archives, Let the People Have Him is the first biography of an opposition politician from post-independence Singapore—a biography of a man who, through his accomplishments and devotion, struggled to build a fairer, more balanced and diverse country.
Tracing the first half of a life fully lived, this book sheds light on Chiam’s circuitous and colourful route to Parliament at the age of 49—from his revolutionary family background to his days as a champion school swimmer; from his political awakening in New Zealand to his stint as an inspiring school teacher in Malaysia; from training as a lawyer to his cross-continental romance with his wife Lina; from standing as an independent candidate in 1976 to winning the Potong Pasir seat in 1984 as the leader of the fledging Singapore Democratic Party. Let the People Have Him draws a humanistic picture of Chiam in his early days—as his country changed around him before he was to change it—while revealing the guiding values that have made this humble and unassuming man revered for generations to come.
“Let The People Have Him offers an important, if not comprehensive, look into what motivates and forms the political mind of one of Singapore’s most recognisable political icons, but the personal approach of the book would make you believe that he is just an ordinary man.”
—Howard Lee, The Online Citizen
“Let The People Have Him, a book by academic Loke Hoe Yeong that traces Chiam’s birth to his winning of the Potong Pasir seat in 1984, is a reminder that Chiam’s rise as a national opposition is no easy feat.”
—Martino Tan, Mothership.SG
“Among the book's interesting revelations is that [Chiam's] grandfather Chiam Seng Poh was a revolutionary who helped Dr Sun Yat Sen overthrow the Qing government. Another is that one of Mr Chiam's mother's sisters, Mabel, married Mr Kwa Soon Siew - a brother of Madam Kwa Geok Choo, the late wife of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.”
—Leong Weng Kam, The Straits Times
“In the book, Loke describes how Chiam, under the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) banner, fought against the People’s Action Party (PAP)’s Mah Bow Tan. He described how even amid a climate of fear rampant in Singapore as a result of political dissidents being detained under the Internal Security Act, Chiam’s voice stood out for his courage in daring to speak against the PAP’s policies.”
—Nicholas Teo, Popspoken and Yahoo! Singapore
“A wonderful read on Chiam See Tong[’s] rise from lawyer to opposition politics. The only opposition leader who walked the minefield without getting blown away.”
—The Independent Singapore
About the Author:
Loke Hoe Yeong is Associate Fellow at the European Union Centre in Singapore, and was formerly Research Analyst at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Since 2014, he has been Assistant Secretary-General of the Singapore People's Party.
Size: 153 x 225mm
Published: October 2014