The former senior parliamentary secretary and People’s Action Party (PAP) member Mr Chan Chee Seng has passed away on 17 Dec at the age 90.
Mr Chan was a pioneer member of the PAP, who according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong played a very important role in Singapore’s development and “made every difference”.
Diagnosed with Pneumonia
According to The Straits Times’ interview with Ms Chan Mun-E, Mr Chan’s elder daughter, Mr Chan was hospitalised due to pneumonia at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
He later passed on at the same hospital.
Ms Chan added that Mr Chan was surrounded by his family members at the hospital who were there to celebrate his life with him.
Mr Chan is survived by his wife, two daughters and three grandchildren.
The wake for Mr Chan is currently being held at Singapore Casket level 2, Regency Hall, and his funeral ceremony will take place at the same location at 8:30am on 21 Dec.
Prime Minister’s Letter
In a letter written by Prime Minister Lee to Mrs Chan Ching Oi, Mr Chan’s wife, Mr Lee expressed his condolences to her and the family.
He also mentioned the sadness that he and his wife, Ho Ching, shared upon hearing the sad news of Mr Chan’s death.
Mr Lee said, “Chee Seng will be deeply missed. He stood up when it mattered most. He was a fearless and undaunted comrade of our founding leader, whom all had a high regard for him. He served Singapore well.”
Mr Lee added that Mr Chan was a pioneer member of the PAP who gave the party his all even when the success of the party was not in sight, mentioning that Mr Chan played an important role during the “tumultuous early years” when Singapore was fighting for independence.
Adding on to the wave of tributes for Mr Chan, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said in his Facebook post that Mr Chan was a well-loved MP who served Jalan Besar and also played an important role in the confidence vote in 1961, where the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew won by only one vote.
In 1961, the Legislative Assembly was split, prompting Mr Lee to move a motion of confidence in the PAP government.
The vote was down to the final person, the assemblywoman for Siglap, Che Puan Sahora Ahmat, who was hospitalised at that time.
She initially changed her allegiance away from PAP’s leadership. However, Mr Chan rushed down to Singapore General Hospital to persuade her otherwise.
Mr Chan then arranged an emergency ambulance at 3am in the morning to send her to parliament, where she was brought in via a stretcher.
With that vote, the PAP won the confidence vote, hence Mr Chan’s significant contribution.
Former MP for Jalan Besar SMC
During his years as a politician, Mr Chan was well-known for his long tenure as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the former Jalan Besar Single Member Constituency (SMC).
Jalan Besar SMC existed from 1959 to 1988 before becoming a part of Jalan Besar GRC. Mr Chan served as Jalan Besar SMC’s MP from 1959 to 1984.
As a senior minister, Mr Chan was also the Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social Affairs and for Trade and Industry. He was also the Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs
Outside of Politics
Aside from being a politician, Mr Chan was a sportsman and also an avid lover of sports.
He had previously served as the vice president of the Singapore National Olympic Council as well as the president of the Singapore Amateur Swimming Association.
During the 1977 SEA games, he led the Singapore contingent as the Chef de Mission.
Upon retiring from politics, Mr Chan founded International Singapore School (ISS) alongside his wife, Mrs Chan, who left the Ministry of Health to help him.
He would go on to become the school board’s chairman prior to his departure.
Did not Have Proper Education
According to General surgeon Chia Kok Hoong, a friend of Mr Chan’s, the former MP did not receive much formal education due to his family not being able to pay the school fees.
At the age of nine, Mr Chan worked informally as a runner for Kwong Om department store located at South Bridge Road, where he would later meet Dr Chia’s father, who was the manager.
Later on in 1951, Mr Chan walked into the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp office to ask for work, where he would later land a job as a clerk there.
During his time working at the bank, Mr Chan met many PAP leaders such as Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Toh Chin Chye, who would go on to recruit him to join the party.
Mr Chan joined PAP in 1954 and became MP of Jalan Besar in 1958.
“He was a person who was able to connect – and connect with – people, and that is probably what made him popular at the grassroots level,” said Dr Chia.
He further adds that Mr Chan was not a person who cared about another person’s social status and could easily connect with individuals from all walks of life.
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Featured Image: The Straits Times & Facebook (Alex Yam)
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