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Pritam Singh recalls how the late Lee Kuan Yew demanded that his civil servant should read his mind

The infamous incident was chronicled in a memoir by Herman Ronald Hochstadt who served as Lee Kuan Yew's secretary between 1962 and 1965

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Leader of the Opposition shared an excerpt from Herman Ronald Hochstadt’s new memoir, in which the civil servant recalled how the late demanded that he should read his mind, in a new social media post.

Mr Hochstadt – who is fondly known as hrh – was a pioneer generation civil servant. He was one of the first three administrative officers to join the Singapore Administrative Service after the People’s Action Party () came into power and helped establish many of Singapore’s independent institutions.

In his prolific career, Mr Hochstadt served as Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s secretary between 1962 and 1965 and, later, as acting director of manpower for the Ministry of Defence at the time when Singapore was building its armed forces from scratch. He has served as permanent secretary at the ministries of communication, education and law, as well.

Aside from serving as the deputy managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), where he helped coordinate the merger between the MAS and the Currency Board, the Public Administration Medal (Gold) and Public Service Star awardee also helped develop Singapore’s mass rapid transit network as the chairman of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority Board.

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Mr Hochstadt retired from the public sector in 1989 after 29 years of service and served as Singapore’s first non-resident High Commissioner to South Africa and its neighbouring countries, aside from carving out a successful career in the corporate sector.

Ridge Books, an imprint of NUS Press, recently published hrh’s memoirs. The book, entitled ‘lives and times of hrh’, traces the retired civil servant’s dedication to public service from the time the nation was a British colony through its evolution to an independent republic.

Mr Pritam snapped up a copy of Mr Hochstadt’s memoir from the Parliament library this week, after completing his duties at the two-day ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) meeting that he attended virtually with his parliamentary colleagues.

Urging his social media followers to pick up a copy of the book, the secretary-general of the Workers’ Party shared an excerpt from the memoir that covered an interesting exchange between then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Hochstadt, when he was Secretary to the Publicity and Propaganda Coordinating Committee.

The excerpt Mr Pritam shared covered how an angry Mr Lee claimed that Mr Hochstadt had forgotten an instruction he gave him. As Mr Hochstadt considered whether he was truly given the instruction, the PM demanded that the civil servant should have been able to read his mind even if he had not explicitly given the instruction. Read the excerpt here:

“The PM immediately blew up and asked me very angrily and pointedly, “And why not?” I feebly replied that he had not asked me to tell them to standby, which caused the PM to get even hotter under his collar and bark, “I did. You forgot!”

“Which I might well have, especially with the abundance of new and unfamiliar work, much of which had to be done “yesterday” as officers in the PMO often declared, but could not admit to his having told me.

“He then added, “But even if I did not, do you think I have so much time to spare that I would just talk to my own Minister and Political Secretary and government officers about these issues and then say it again at some other meeting with the press later? Surely you’ve been in my office long enough to read my mind!”

‘lives & times of hrh’ can be purchased from NUS Press’ website here.

AIPA & Hochstadt————————Joined Speaker, Dy Speaker and other parliamentary colleagues over the last two days for the…

Posted by Pritam Singh on Wednesday, 9 September 2020

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