Ex-detainee contributed to S'pore, say sons

Family members paying their respects to the late Fong Swee Suan. A group of about 50 people bade a final farewell to Mr Fong yesterday at his funeral service in Mandai Crematorium, including former leftist trade unionists and friends. Mr Fong died la
Family members paying their respects to the late Fong Swee Suan. A group of about 50 people bade a final farewell to Mr Fong yesterday at his funeral service in Mandai Crematorium, including former leftist trade unionists and friends. Mr Fong died last Saturday at age 85, after suffering from liver cirrhosis for several years.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Family, friends and former leftist trade unionists bid farewell to Fong Swee Suan

Former trade union leader and political detainee Fong Swee Suan was labelled a leftist, even a communist, by many in his lifetime.

But according to his two sons, he was a loving father and husband who made significant contributions to Singapore's development from a British colony to an independent nation in the turbulent 1950s and 1960s.

In one of the emotional eulogies they gave at their father's funeral service in Mandai Crematorium yesterday, elder son Otto Fong, 48, an author and cartoonist, remembered him as a patient man who "seldom lost his temper".

"Dad had green fingers, anything he planted blossomed," he added, referring to the time the family lived in Johor, from the late 1960s to the 1990s.

Younger son Yong Sheng, 42, an engineer, said: "I want to thank my dad for the sacrifices he made in the early years so that Singapore could be what it is today."

In the small group of about 50 people who bade a final farewell to Mr Fong were his wife, Madam Chen Poh Chang, 80; his eldest child, Lydia, 54, an architect; other family members; former leftist trade unionists and friends.

Mr Fong died last Saturday at age 85, after suffering from liver cirrhosis for several years.

He was a founding member of the People's Action Party (PAP) in 1954, but left with other leftists in the party to form the now-defunct Barisan Sosialis in 1961.

He quit the PAP because of differences over Singapore's merger with the Federation of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia.

A firebrand trade unionist and politician, he was imprisoned in 1955 and again in 1956.

When he was arrested a third time under Operation Coldstore, which was another security swoop against leftists and pro-communists in 1963, he was sent back to peninsula Malaya, where he was born. He spent 41/2 years in jail there.

Hundreds of Mr Fong's former comrades, from the PAP as well as Barisan Sosialis, had paid their last respects at his wake in the past three days.

Others included Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung and Minister of State for Education, and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary. Both are sons of former leftists and Barisan leaders who were close comrades of Mr Fong.

Mr Ong told The Straits Times after visiting the wake on Sunday: "Mr Fong Swee Suan represented the ideals of many Singaporeans of an earlier generation - my parents' generation.

"He will be remembered and respected."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 08, 2017, with the headline 'Ex-detainee contributed to S'pore, say sons'. Print Edition | Subscribe