First-generation PAP MP Chor Yeok Eng dies, aged 86

Former MP for Bukit Timah Chor Yeok Eng died at the Singapore General Hospital today (July 21), at the age of 86.
Former MP for Bukit Timah Chor Yeok Eng died at the Singapore General Hospital today (July 21), at the age of 86.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - People's Action Party (PAP) stalwart and former MP for Bukit Timah Chor Yeok Eng died at the Singapore General Hospital today (July 21), just 11 days before the launch of a book chronicling his 60-year-long political career dating back to the 1950s. He was 86.

Mr Chor was diagnosed with severe aplastic anemia a year ago, a disease in which the bone marrow does not make enough blood cells for the body. He was also looking forward to the launch of the book, titled Chor Yeok Eng's 60 Years in Politics, when he passed away suddenly in hospital just before 5am this morning.

The book is published by the Char Yong (Dabu) Association as a tribute to his long years of service to Singapore, both as a politician and community leader, and includes photographs, his speeches in English and Chinese made between 1973 and 1984, and newspaper cuttings of major political events he was involved in. Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min has been invited to launch it at the clan association's premises in Geylang on Aug 2.

Youngest daughter Eng Horng, 56, a retired IT professional, said her father was admitted to hospital on May 27. She added: "It was his wish to see the book launched and he had even asked for additional physiotherapy sessions in the hospital to strengthen himself so that he could attend the event. But he did not make it."

Mr Chor also leaves behind two other daughters, two sons, three grandsons and two great-grandsons.

The PAP stalwart, one of 43 candidates who helped the party win a landslide in the 1959 general election and form the government, is still remembered for his loyalty and refusing to cross over to the leftist Barisan Sosialis even though he was offered a $200,000 bribe to do so. The Barisan was formed by breakaway assemblymen from the PAP in 1961.

PAP's majority in the 51-member House then was wafer thin at 26-25 and had Mr Chor, the PAP assemblyman for Jurong then, crossed over to the other side or simply resigned from the party, the PAP government would have been crushed.

Leftist leaders such as Lim Chin Siong had denied having offered the money to Mr Chor.

Mr Chor lost the 1963 general election to his Barisan opponent Lee Tee Tong in Bukit Timah. But he was elected MP for Bukit Timah in a 1966 by-election.

Mr Chor was also praised by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew as "one of my oldest, most steadfast and courageous party comrades" when he retired from politics in 1984, after stepping down as Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

PAP HQ executive director Alex Yam said Mr Chor remained active in the community after retirement "and was a constant welcomed presence in Bukit Timah".

"He always struck me as a humble and patient mentor, always encouraging. With his passing, we have lost another of our remaining Old Guards, that crucial generation that shaped the Singapore of today," Mr Yam added in a Facebook post.

Char Yong (Dabu) Association announced yesterday that the book on Mr Chor would be launched as planned, but as a posthumous tribute to him. Daughter Eng Horng said she remembered her father as "a strong-willed person and doting daddy who loved his family, all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren".

Mr Chor's wake is at her house at 158C, Jalan Jurong Kechil. He will be cremated on Monday.