Singapore — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat have paid tribute to Professor S Jayakumar after he received Singapore’s highest civilian honour — the Order of Temasek (with High Distinction) — in this year’s National Day Awards.
The veteran politician topped the list of 5,470 awardees. Sharing that he was grateful and surprised by the gesture, the 80-year-old told the national broadsheet: “If Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan feel that it will be beneficial for me to share my experience and knowledge, how can I say no?”
The party leaders paid tribute to Prof Jayakumar on social media. Mr Lee wrote on Facebook: “In a long and distinguished public service career spanning almost 50 years, he has played many roles — as a diplomat, holding different portfolios in Cabinet including DPM and Senior Minister, and MP for East Coast GRC.
“Prof Jayakumar has played a vital role protecting our national interests on important and sensitive bilateral issues, such as the Singapore-Malaysia Water Agreements and the Pedra Branca dispute. He has continued to do so, even after retiring from politics. His wisdom and advice has been invaluable.”
Every year, we honour those who have made significant contributions to Singapore through the National Day Awards….
Mr Heng also paid homage to Prof Jayakumar. He wrote on social media: “An accomplished lawyer and an astute diplomat, he has advanced our national interests and represented Singapore internationally with distinction over the decades.
“He handled the Pedra Branca dispute and negotiations for the United Nations Law of the Sea. Both were extremely complex issues. As a ‘little red dot’, his contributions have been critical to Singaporeans’ well-being and future.
“Prof helmed a number of Ministries in his distinguished career. He was also Deputy Prime Minister and later Senior Minister, as well as Coordinating Minister for National Security.”
Mr Heng was recently elected in East Coast GRC — the ward that Prof Jayakumar helmed for many years. Thanking voters for giving him the opportunity to follow in the veteran politician’s footsteps, Mr Heng wrote:
“Prof had to travel abroad frequently for work commitments, but he continued to attend to his constituency and his residents. Prof was the MP for Bedok for more than two decades, and residents have been very appreciative of what he had done for them. Behind his stern appearance, residents who have interacted with him described him as humble and approachable and always lending a listening ear.
“When Prof stepped down in 2011, Lim Swee Say took over as the anchor Minister. I thank the residents of Bedok and East Coast residents for your strong support over the years, and for giving me the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Prof and Swee Say.
“For Bedok, for East Coast, and for Singapore — Prof has dedicated his life to improving the lives of our people and strengthening our foundation as a nation.”
For our 2020 National Day Awards, more than 5,000 individuals are being recognised for their contributions to Singapore….
Prof Jayakumar was first elected to Parliament in 1980. He was appointed as a Minister of State at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law a year later, in 1981. He entered the Cabinet of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew three years later, in 1984, as the Minister for Labour with the additional portfolios of Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Law.
Prof Jayakumar relinquished the Labour Ministry portfolio and was appointed Minister for Home Affairs while concurrently serving as Second Minister for Law in 1985. In 1988, he was appointed Minister for Law and Minister for Home Affairs. He retained these portfolios when Mr Goh Chok Tong became Prime Minister in 1990.
In 1994, Prof Jayakumar was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law. Ten years later, on Aug 12, 2004 which was also his 65th birthday, Prof Jayakumar was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law in the Cabinet of the new Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong.
Prof Jayakumar stepped down as Minister for Law in 2008 and as Deputy Prime Minister in 2009. He was appointed a Senior Minister in 2009 before retiring from politics on May 21, 2011. He decided not to contest in the 2011 General Election due to health reasons.
Prof Jayakumar now serves as senior legal adviser to the Miistry of Foreign Affairs and continued to consult on issues like the Pedra Branca dispute and water agreements with Malaysia after his retirement from politics. He is currently a pro-chancellor of the National University of Singapore for a three-year term from July 1, 2020. /TISG