Pioneer-generation Singapore diplomat Maurice Baker dies, aged 97

Pioneer-generation Singapore diplomat Maurice Baker died on Tuesday (July 11).
Pioneer-generation Singapore diplomat Maurice Baker died on Tuesday (July 11).PHOTO: ST FILE
Pioneer-generation Singapore diplomat Maurice Baker died on Tuesday (July 11).
Pioneer-generation Singapore diplomat Maurice Baker died on Tuesday (July 11).PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Mr Maurice Baker at Victoria School's annual Speech Day, on Aug 23, 1973.
Mr Maurice Baker at Victoria School's annual Speech Day, on Aug 23, 1973. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Pioneer-generation Singapore diplomat Maurice Baker died on Tuesday (July 11). He was 97.

Mr Baker was Singapore's first High Commissioner to India, and also served as Ambassador to Nepal and to the Philippines.

He was also High Commissioner to Malaysia from 1969 to 1971, and from 1980 to 1988.

His younger son Bernard, 60, Singapore's High Commissioner to New Zealand, told The Straits Times his father died of old age at home around noon.

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"He had a good innings, he lived a good life," he said.

The late Mr Baker was born in Kedah in 1920. He came to Singapore when he was 18 to attend Raffles College, and won the Queen's scholarship in 1941 with the aim of becoming a teacher. But his plans for further studies were disrupted by the Japanese Occupation.

He was only able to take up the scholarship at King's College, London in 1948, graduating with a bachelor's degree in English.

He was an activist during his student days and was one of the founding members of the Malayan Forum, which advocated for independence for Malaya and Singapore, together with Mr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Abdul Razak Hussein, who would go on to become deputy prime minister and prime minister of Singapore and Malaysia respectively.

It was also during his time in London that he met his future wife, Barbara Balhetchet, a Singaporean teacher studying in London. She was also a member of the Malayan Students' Union, of which he was president. They married in London in 1952.

When Mr Baker returned to Singapore, he found that the British had blacklisted him for his political activism in London. But he was able to find work teaching at Bartley Secondary School and Victoria School, later becoming an English lecturer at then University of Malaya in 1955.

In 1967, he began his diplomatic career as Singapore's first High Commissioner to India, and became the concurrent ambassador to Nepal in 1969.

He then represented Singapore in Kuala Lumpur from 1969 to 1971. He was appointed to the post as he had a close friendship with Tun Razak, who became prime minister in 1970, from their student days in London.

Mr Baker also served as pro-chancellor of the National University of Singapore from 1989 until his retirement in 2000.

He leaves behind his wife Barbara, two sons Edmund and Bernard, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said in a Facebook post on Tuesday evening that Mr Baker "lived a full life and served our country with distinction".

"As we continue to safeguard and advance our national interests in the world, we will always remember the contributions of our pioneers," said Dr Balakrishnan.

"Our deepest condolences to his wife Barbara and his family, including his son Bernard Baker who carries on his good work as our High Commissioner in Wellington.