Ex-MPs put together personal stories to inspire the young

Dr Chiang Hai Ding (left) and Rohan Khamis took eight years to put together We Also Served - Reflections Of Singapore's Former PAP MPs. They are the book's editors and contributed to the volume.
Dr Chiang Hai Ding (left) and Rohan Khamis took eight years to put together We Also Served - Reflections Of Singapore's Former PAP MPs. They are the book's editors and contributed to the volume.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Group effort containing 25 essays by the 'Men In White' to be launched today

A book of autobiographical essays by 25 former People's Action Party MPs about the stories of their lives and their days in politics will be launched today.

The book, a group effort by the "Men In White", as PAP members have been known to be called, took two former MPs, Dr Chiang Hai Ding and Mr Rohan Kamis, eight years to put together. They are the book's editors and contributed to the volume.

Dr Chiang, 76, now retired, and Mr Rohan, 65, managing partner of a public accounting firm here, said the idea for the book, titled We Also Served - Reflections Of Singapore's Former PAP MPs, was mooted in 2006.

"That was when we passed over the organising of informal gatherings for former PAP MPs, held once in three months or so since the early 1980s, to the party headquarters," said Mr Rohan, who was MP for Telok Blangah between 1979 and 1984.

"Then we thought of the book of autobiographical essays, for former MPs to share their experience and inspire the young, and it received support even from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong," recalled Dr Chiang, who was MP for Ulu Pandan between 1970 and 1984.

They were further encouraged when the then Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew wrote to The Straits Times Forum in July 17, 2007, to encourage them.

As Mr Lee wrote: "MPs are important actors in determining Singapore's history. I encourage all MPs, including those who opposed the PAP, to give their accounts of the past.

"They will give a multi-dimensional view of past events and provide richness and texture to the story."

Dr Chiang and Mr Rohan received a $100,000 grant from the Lee Foundation to finance the project and they worked with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies first before passing it to the Straits Times Press to publish it for them.

They had written to more than 100 former PAP MPs, including those who stepped down in 2006, inviting them to write for the book.

Though, in the end, only 25 essays were published, Dr Chiang said they represent a very diverse group, from Mr Chor Yeok Eng, who was among the first batch of 43 PAP assemblymen in 1959, to cardiologist Michael Lim, who was MP for Punggol and, later, Cheng San GRC between 1991 and 2006.

Former Cabinet minister Othman Wok, 89, the guest-of-honour at the book launch at Singapore Press Holdings' News Centre, is also among the essayists.

Others include Nanyang University graduates Ho Kah Leong and Chai Chong Yii, English-educated scholars Tan Eng Liang and Bernard Chen, and trade unionists and professionals from the Malay and Indian communities.

But three of the contributors - the late Ho See Beng, Sha'ari Tadin and Dixie Tan - will not be able to see the fruit of their labour.

On seeing the book published today, former MP Teong Eng Seong, 79, said: "I am glad because I can finally tell my story and my struggles in the early days of Singapore for the benefit of the young."

wengkam@sph.com.sg

We Also Served - Reflections Of Singapore's Former PAP MPs is available at all major bookstores at $39.90, inclusive of GST.