Although 23 November 2020 marked half a century since Singapore’s first President Yusof Ishak passed away, there was no state acknowledgement to commemorate the former President’s 50th death anniversary.

Neither current President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong nor any other Cabinet Minister paid tribute to Mr Yusof yesterday.

Mr Yusof, a well-known journalist who co-founded Malay language daily ‘Utusan Melayu’ became Chairman of the Public Service Commission of Singapore at the invitation of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew after resigning from Utusan Melayu in 1959.

After the People’s Action Party’s (PAP) victory in the 1959 elections, he was appointed as Yang di-Pertuan Negara and was sworn in on 3 December 1959. The position of Yang di-Pertuan Negara was abolished when Singapore was expelled from Malaysia and became an independent nation on 9 August 1965.

He then became the first President of Singapore and served for three terms in office before he died on 23 November 1970 at the age of 60 due to heart failure. He is survived by his wife of twenty one years, Puan Noor Aishah, and their three children, Orkid Kamariah, Imran, and Zuriana.

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Over the years, Singapore has also paid tribute to the former President by featuring his name and image on prominent institutions and even the Singapore currency. The most prominent memorial for Mr Yusof is the current series of Singapore dollar notes, the portrait series issued from 1999 onwards, which features Mr Yusof Ishak’s image.

Institutions that bear Mr Yusof’s name include Yusof Ishak Secondary School, which was opened by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 29 July 1966, and the Yusof Ishak House in National University of Singapore’s Kent Ridge campus.

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) was officially renamed in August 2015 as the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute on Yusof’s 105th birthday, so its name will call to mind Yusof’s “vision of equality, justice, harmony and strength amid diversity”.

Masjid Yusof Ishak in Woodlands was opened in 2017. The opening ceremony was officiated by the former president’s widow, Puan Noor Aishah, and witnessed by guests including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

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No state acknowledgement of the former President was, however, issued on his 50th death anniversary. The Istana and the Prime Minister’s Office did not issue statements commemorating Mr Yusof. President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the 20 Ministers in his Cabinet did not pay tribute to Mr Yusof on social media either.

Similarly, the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute and the Yusof Ishak Secondary School did not acknowledge the former President’s 50th death anniversary online. The only institution that remembered him yesterday was Masjid Yusof Ishak.

The mosque said in a Facebook post published yesterday afternoon: “50 years since the passing of our first President. May the contributions of our forefathers, and pioneer leaders like Encik Yusof Bin Ishak always be remembered.

“?? ???? ??? ???? ?????? ?? ??? ???? ????? ?? ??? ????? ????? ????, ??? ???? ???? ???? ????? ?? ?????????? ????? ???????? ?? ???? ???? ???? ????? ?? ? ???????? ?? ??? ????? ????? ??? ???? ???? ?? ??? ??? ??????? ??????? ???? ??????? ??????? ??? ?????????? ?? ??? ??????.” – President Yusof Bin Ishak, in his speech at the Koran reading competition at National Theatre on 9 December 1967.

“Al-Fateha. In loving memory.”

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