Even if you don’t live anywhere near Yishun, ex-Nee Soon South MP Lee Bee Wah should probably ring a bell in every Singaporean’s ears.
Though it has been roughly two years since “Flower Sister” MP left politics, she is probably still one of the former politicians that have left a deep impression on Singaporeans.
And if you’re interested to find out what she’s been up to lately, or if you just want the insider scope of her life, here’s your chance.
In her new biography titled Plantation To Parliament, you’ll be able to get all the information on Lee, who turns 62 this year.
The book, which was written by author Hong Weixi in both English and Chinese, will be launched at the Singapore Book Fair on 4 June.
Regarding the Book: All Slots to Meet Her In-Person Filled
And it seems like even two years of being away from MP duties hasn’t caused Lee’s popularity to decrease at all.
There were 120 slots to see Lee on the day of the book fair that were available for booking, and they were all booked within a day after Lee shared about the event on her Facebook page.
As for what exactly is in the book, the outspoken and cheery lady told The Straits Times that she is not giving any spoilers away.
She also said cheekily that she wants people to read her book instead.
According to The Straits Times, the publisher in charge of Lee’s biography, Focus Publishing, has since received many enquiries regarding Lee’s new book.
Currently, there are 7,500 English and 5,000 Chinese copies of the book.
Over 8,500 copies of the book have been sold as of now, and 65% of the sales come from the English edition.
And if you’re interested in getting a copy of the book, it will be sold at $20 at leading bookstores.
However, you can get the book for a discounted price of $16 from 4 to 12 June at the Singapore Book Fair, which will be held at the National Library Building and Bras Basah Complex this year.
Left Politics Before GE 2020, Left Many Singaporeans Surprised
For those who know Lee well, you’ll know that she has been a prominent figure in politics, especially in the Nee Soon South ward since 2006.
So when the Malaysia-born MP announced her departure from politics right before GE 2020, many Singaporeans were definitely interested to see if she chose to retire on her own accord or if she was asked to step down.
And if you’re asking which one it is, like what she said, you have to read the book lah.
Life and Impact as a Politician
Even after her retirement from politics, she still receives enthusiastic welcomes in the form of claps and greetings whenever she goes around Singapore, particularly when she goes to the Nee Soon South area.
Referring to the residents under her care as her family and friends, she also took time out of her schedule to meet them while she was an MP.
Beyond the usual meet-the-people sessions that took place every week, she would also visit the coffee shop at Block 848 Yishun Street 81 every Sunday morning to have informal chit-chats with residents.
And even though she may not be an official MP anymore, Lee also shared that she still offers advice to younger MPs such as Yip Hon Weng and Derrick Goh whenever they get together.
Even though members from opposition parties have also asked her out for coffee and chats, she has apparently rejected all of them as she is “white through and through”.
She also still sends her feedback to the relevant ministers.
Of course, the 164-page book also includes snippets of Lee’s personal life, especially from when she was younger.
Being the oldest of eight children in the family, her family would move from one rubber plantation to another in Malaysia for their livelihood.
When she was younger, her family moved from Johor to Negeri Sembilan to Malacca whenever the latex from the trees started to dry up. This was to allow them to find younger trees.
Her family was not rich, and she had to help earn money to support the family as well by getting jobs in brick factories and selling street snacks like goreng pisang (banana fritters) after school.
Coming Over to Singapore for University
At 21, she came over to Singapore alone for her university studies with just some old clothes, a pair of slippers and RM20.
She admitted that she struggled greatly during her first year in Singapore due to the extensive use of English, since she was not well-versed in the language.
Lee was also a beneficiary of the Lee Foundation bursary, which helped pay for her tuition fees and living expenses.
Apart from that, she also taught tuition and worked as an intern at OCBC bank during her school holidays.
In 1985, Lee completed a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Civil Engineering at Nanyang Technological Institute, the predecessor of Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
After graduation, she became a civil engineer at ST Construction before becoming an assistant project manager with Wing Tai in 1994.
Thereafter, she was awarded a company scholarship. She then halted her career for a year to obtain a Master of Science degree in Maritime Civil Engineering in 1990 at the University of Liverpool in England.
She then started LBW Consultants in 1996. The company was acquired by global engineering consultancy Meinhardt Group in 2013.
More than two decades after receiving her Masters, the University of Liverpool presented her with an honorary doctorate in 2011.
Donating Proceeds to Charity
With her humble background and hard work, Lee mentioned that she wishes for her story to encourage others to remain resilient even in the face of adversity.
On top of that, she is donating her book royalties to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which is used to help children from lower-income families.
Life After Retirement
As she puts it herself, Lee is a “retiree-at large now”. Her hobbies include gardening, walking in parks and golfing.
And it seems like her friends aren’t left out of the picture either, for her and her friends share gardening tips with each other. She will also be travelling in the next few months for multiple golf trips as well.
Apart from that, she is currently the chair of the school advisory committee cat NTU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is also a board member of Mandai Park Holdings and the Building and Construction Authority.
When talking about her life, she also categorised a person’s life into four different phases, with each one being around 20 years.
In Lee’s perspective, she has spent the first three stages of her life studying, working hard for her family and career, as well as serving the country respectively.
For her, the last phase will be for herself and her family.
Lee’s husband, 63-year-old Soh Chee Hiang, retired from his electrical engineering job at ST, but returned to the workforce as a consultant.
As for her children, she has a 31-year-old daughter who is a Chinese teacher and a 28-year-old son who is a bank executive.
She also mentioned that she is enjoying her retirement, and that there are no regrets in life as we all learn from experience.
What Other Politicians Have to Say
In the book’s forward, which was written by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, he likened Lee to a ball of fire that was indefatigable and resourceful.
He recounted Lee’s eager attitude when serving residents on the ground and how she put in much effort to connect with them.
In addition to that, he also remembered her contributions in Parliament settings, especially her speeches.
“On one occasion, I invited a foreign guest into the Chamber when Bee Wah happened to be speaking. She shared vivid anecdotes about her residents’ problems with snakes and rats, and her dissatisfaction with the official responses she got. The speech later went viral on social media,” PM Lee wrote.
“It deeply impressed my guest, a former national leader not unused to robust Parliamentary debates. I suspect he thought I had specially arranged Bee Wah’s speech just for him! She showed that the PAP team may all wear white and white, but we are far from monochrome in our ideas and perspectives.”
Lee’s Parliament Speeches and Spirit
If you recall past Parliament sessions, Lee was well-known for refusing to give up until she was able to attain improved services and amenities for residents.
The topics she raised included litterbugs, second-hand cigarette smoke and issues brought about by pigeons.
Her attitude in Parliament even earned her the title of “bulldog” from another minister, who said that she will not let go until she is able to have what she wants.
Regarding that topic, Lee wrote in the book, “So yeah, I’m very pesky, but as long as it is something my residents require, I am willing to pester whoever is involved to get it.”
And last but not least, how could anyone forget her “flowery language”?
From the iconic “Where did Ah Gong’s money go to” to her nickname as “Jamban MP”, there is no doubt that Lee’s speeches and unique analogies have left us with much to be amused about amidst the serious Parliament sessions.
If you’re a fan of her hilarious one-liners and speeches, you’ll be delighted to know that there’s no shortage of that in her book as well.
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Featured Image: Facebook (Lee Bee Wah)
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