Former chief justice Yong Pung How inspired loyalty and respect in those who worked for him

Mr Yong Pung How's transformation of the court system is well documented. He single-handedly conceived and drove its modernisation, taking the courts from the practices inherited from a 19th century colonial system to the 21st century. LIANHE ZAOBAO
Mr Yong Pung How's transformation of the court system is well documented. He single-handedly conceived and drove its modernisation, taking the courts from the practices inherited from a 19th century colonial system to the 21st century. LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE PHOTO
Mr Yong Pung How (left) with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Madam Kwa Geok Choo on the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge in the summer of 1949. Mr Yong and Mr Lee became friends at university. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE In 1971, Mr Yong Pung How le
Mr Yong Pung How (left) with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Madam Kwa Geok Choo on the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge in the summer of 1949. Mr Yong and Mr Lee became friends at university. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE
Mr Yong Pung How (left) with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Madam Kwa Geok Choo on the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge in the summer of 1949. Mr Yong and Mr Lee became friends at university. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE In 1971, Mr Yong Pung How le
In 1971, Mr Yong Pung How left legal practice to go into merchant banking and finance. He later became chairman and chief executive officer of OCBC Bank from 1983 to 1989. ST FILE PHOTO
Mr Yong Pung How (left) with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Madam Kwa Geok Choo on the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge in the summer of 1949. Mr Yong and Mr Lee became friends at university. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE In 1971, Mr Yong Pung How le
Then Chief Justice Yong Pung How showing former president Wee Kim Wee his T-shirt, which had the words “A Mended Heart, A Better Life”, at the launch of Children’s Heart Day at Singapore General Hospital on Oct 1, 1994. ST FILE PHOTO
Mr Yong Pung How (left) with Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Madam Kwa Geok Choo on the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge in the summer of 1949. Mr Yong and Mr Lee became friends at university. PHOTO: NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF SINGAPORE In 1971, Mr Yong Pung How le
Then Singapore Management University Chancellor Yong Pung How looking at a model of the new SMU School of Law building on Jan 20, 2014, with (from left) Mr Jonathan Marshall, son of Singapore’s first chief minister David Marshall; Mr Ho Kwon Ping, SMU board of trustees chairman; and Ms Ho Ching. ST FILE PHOTO

After 18 years in the commercial sector, the position of chief justice of Singapore was offered to former banker Yong Pung How in 1989.

He asked then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who put it before him, what he was supposed to do if he took up the position.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 10, 2020, with the headline 'He inspired loyalty and respect in those who worked for him'. Print Edition | Subscribe