10 prominent Eurasians in Singapore

SINGAPORE - Eurasians have been in the spotlight recently, when netizens called Singapore's swimming sensation Joseph Schooling, 19,  an "ang moh" and a foreign talent. His Eurasian looks captured more attention than his feats as an Asian Games gold medallist.

Also, this Wednesday, Oct 15, sees the launch of a new book, From Syonan To Fuji-Go, penned by British national and Eurasian Fiona Hodgkins. The book chronicles a significant episode of the Japanese Occupation, when 3,000 people from Singapore moved to the Bahau settlement in Negeri Sembilan, lured by promises of a better life.

About 60 per cent of the residents, who built their own homes and grew crops in stark conditions, were Eurasians.

Eurasians have played a prominent role in Singapore's development. They have contributed to fields as diverse as politics, entertainment, sports and even crime-fighting.

Here are 10 prominent local Eurasians, both past and present:

1. Benjamin Sheares (1907 - 1981)

He was Singapore’s second president, from the age of 63 and until his death at the age of 73.

The popular president had 85,000 people turned up at the Istana to pay their last respects.

He was also known as Singapore's father of modern obstetrics and gynaecology, and was once the head of the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Kandang Kerbau Hospital (now KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital).

Several landmarks and buildings have been named after him, like the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, which is Singapore's longest bridge, and the Sheares Hall, a hostel in the National University of Singapore.

2. John Le Cain (1912 - 1993)

He was the first local Commissioner of Police, appointed in 1963.

After joining the Straits Settlements Police Force in 1939, he held various appointments such as heading the Police Training School, Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and Marine Police.

As Commissioner, he led the Police Force through the turbulent times of the Indonesian Confrontation, racial riots and Singapore's separation from Malaysia.

As a tribute to his dedicated service in the Police Force, the John Le Cain Collection was launched in 2005 at the Police Heritage Centre.

3. E.W. Barker (1920 - 2001)

One of the People's Action Party Old Guard leaders, the former Minister for Law drafted the document announcing Singapore’s separation from Malaysia in 1965.

He held the Law portfolio for 24 years, and left office in 1988.

In addition, he has held other positions, including president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, chairman of Bukit Turf Club and chairman of the Singapore Stock Exchange.

Before entering politics, he was a lawyer for 12 years.

4. Rex Shelley (1930 - 2009)

The award-winning writer is best known for his quartet of novels that centre on the lives of Eurasians in Singapore and Malaya.

The former member of the Public Service Commission started writing at the age of 61.

His first novel, The Shrimp People, clinched the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s top prize in 1992.

His next three novels also received positive critical responses and went on to win book awards.

In 2007, Shelley was honoured with the Singapore S.E.A. Write Award in recognition of his literary achievements.

5. Herman Hochstadt (1933 - )

Part of the pioneering group of top civil servants who had to build up many of Singapore's institutions from scratch, he was once permanent secretary at the Ministry of Law, and has experience working across a number of ministries.

In the mid-1960s, he helped to lay the foundation for the Singapore Armed Forces. Later, he took on the chairmanship of the Mass Rapid Transit Authority board, started in 1980 to build and operate Singapore's MRT network.

He also had a corporate career and was Singapore's High Commissioner to a number of African countries.

He retired from the public sector in 1989, after 29 years in the civil service, and is currently a patron of the Eurasian Association of Singapore.

6. Barry Desker (1947 - )

The former diplomat was Singapore’s Ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1993.

The President’s Scholar is currently the Dean of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University. His areas of expertise include terrorism and civil conflict in Asia, as well as regional economic and security issues.

He is also a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, Singapore, and a member of the board of directors of the Lee Kuan Yew Exchange Fellowship.

7. Brian Richmond, (1947 - )

The veteran radio personality is a familiar face on the TV and radio for over 40 years, since he joined Radio Singapore in 1971.

Over the years, he travelled widely to cover sporting events, such as the Southeast Asian Games, Asian Games and Olympic Games.

In 1974, he hosted the first colour programme on television, which was the World Cup Final between West Germany and Holland.

He is currently a presenter on radio station Gold 90.5FM.

8. Annabel Pennefather, (1948 - )

The former national hockey player is now vice-president of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC).

In her sporting days, she represented Singapore from 1964 to 1980 and captained her side for more than 10 years. She then entered the legal profession in 1972 and spent over 25 years practising law.

She has since devoted her life to sports promotion and administration, and was Singapore’s chef de mission at the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar in 2013.

9. Jeremy Monteiro, (1960 - )

Often labelled “Singapore's King of Swing”, the jazz pianist and vocalist was the first Singaporean to perform jazz in the international arena, and has won critical acclaim worldwide.

By the time he was 16, he had already started performing in local clubs. He has also performed at international festivals with a range of fellow jazz musicians, including saxophonists James Moody and Ernie Watts, Eldee Young, Paul Martin and Shawn Kelly.

In 1990, he composed the national song titled One People, One Nation, One Singapore.

In 2002, he was awarded the Cultural Medallion for his contribution towards the local jazz scene, and is the first jazz musician to receive the honour.

10. Eunice Olsen, (1977 - )

The host, actress, film and TV producer first came to the public eye after being cast as the local equivalent of Vanna White in Channel 5’s version of Wheel Of Fortune in 2002.

She went on to win the Miss Singapore Universe contest in 2000. Four years later, she became a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) in Singapore, and was the youngest ever appointed at the age of 27.

Her two stints as NMP from 2004 to 2009 were well received as she spoke up on issues pertaining to youth and volunteerism.

bang@sph.com.sg