SINGAPORE - Former Member of Parliament Saidi Shariff, who represented Kaki Bukit constituency between 1980 and 1984, died on Tuesday morning (Jan 14). He was 79.
A founding member of self-help group Yayasan Mendaki, he was also involved in the People's Association, from which he retired as assistant director in 2002.
Mr Saidi, the third of nine children, grew up in the workers' quarters of the Singapore General Hospital in MacAlister Road. His father was a gardener at the hospital; his mother a cleaner at the nurses' quarters.
He devoted much of his life to training young people, including public service officers, and community and grassroots leaders. In the 1960s, Mr Saidi worked at the National Community Leadership Training Institute. He once said that the skills he gained there - such as communication, human relations, and management - helped him when he became an MP.
Later on, he began doing grassroots community work in Telok Blangah, where he lived. He was subsequently asked to stand for election in Kaki Bukit, where he won 72.32 per cent of the vote.
After stepping down as an MP in 1984, Mr Saidi went back to conducting training courses for young leaders. At age 56, he obtained a Master of Business Administration from the University of Hull in Britain.
Ms Normah Ahmad, 67, who has been a grassroots volunteer in Kaki Bukit for nearly 40 years, said Mr Saidi was the one who encouraged her to join the Residents' Committee in her neighbourhood. She described him as a hardworking MP who was always walking the ground.
The administrative officer recalled that at the time, Kaki Bukit was a newly-built estate with few amenities. Many of its residents were unhappy with the Government as they had been resettled from nearby kampungs. "But Mr Saidi was very cool and calm, and very attentive," Ms Normah said. "He listened and he tried to explain."
Mr Shamsul Kamar, who currently chairs the PAP's Kaki Bukit branch, said that he had not worked with Mr Saidi before. But senior grassroots leaders remember him as a humble, friendly man, he added. "I had wanted to invite him back to Kaki Bukit last year, but we were told that his health was not at its best."
In a Facebook post, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli honoured Mr Saidi for his contributions to Singapore.
"As one of the founding members of Mendaki, he was at the forefront in building Mendaki up to be the pioneer self-help group in promoting excellence in education among the Malay/Muslim community," he said. "Today, Mendaki plays a pivotal role in uplifting the Malay/Muslim community. We can be proud of its achievements in education, thanks to visionary leaders such as Mr Saidi."