The MP who won affection with his sincerity

Mr Govindaswamy won the Anson seat in 1963 and remained the area’s MP until he died of a heart attack in 1978.
Mr Govindaswamy won the Anson seat in 1963 and remained the area’s MP until he died of a heart attack in 1978. PHOTO: ST FILE

The MP for Anson, Mr P. Govindaswamy, called on Singaporeans to show that the country had the will to survive even though it was small and was "the newest nation in the world". Speaking at a charity show at the Victoria Theatre, he said of Singapore's separation from Malaysia on Aug 9: "Let us not cry over spilt milk but face the future with greater determination and courage."

The People's Action Party (PAP) man had defeated his rival from the communist United Front in 1963 and remained MP for the area until 1978, when he died of a heart attack at 67. Founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew paid tribute to Mr Govindaswamy, whom he had met in 1952 during a postmen's strike, calling him a "responsible, firm and steady leader".

He had little formal education but rose to become Inspector of Postmen, the highest rank in the uniformed side of the postal service, said Mr Lee.

"He did not speak the Queen's English. But he spoke from the heart, with an openness and sincerity which commanded the respect of the MPs every time he made telling, common-sense points.

"Most of all, it was his kindly disposition which won him the affection and regard of all Members of the House."

Mr Govindaswamy was also chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board. The PAP retained Anson through Mr C.V. Devan Nair, who later resigned to become President. But in the by-election in 1981, the PAP candidate lost to Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam of the Workers' Party.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 16, 2015, with the headline 'The MP who won affection with his sincerity'. Print Edition | Subscribe