Prominent Sikh community leader and nursing pioneer dies, aged 81

A prominent Sikh community leader and pioneer in the nursing field in Singapore, who was also well known in the football fraternity, died on Monday after a bout of ill health. He was 81.

Mr Jagjit Singh Sekhon, who was raised in a village in Potong Pasir where he helped to take the cattle owned by his family for grazing, grew up to become a dedicated healthcare worker who led a nurses' strike and fought for better working conditions for them in the 1960s.

He later founded Singapore's first professionally operated nursing home and established an ambulance service operated by nurses in the 1980s.

In later years, he weighed in on the impact of his early activism, saying in a 2015 interview: "I think the strike could have finished me off. The media was quite ruthless and the Government could have put me behind bars. 'Home' could have been Changi or St John's Island. However, I am glad that the Government engaged us fairly."

Regarded as a local community hero and known by many simply as "JJ", Mr Jagjit served in many roles, including as chairman of the Sikh Welfare Council and president of the Singapore Khalsa Association (SKA). He was also well known in the football fraternity.

Mr Hernaikh Singh, current president of the SKA, recalled how he was drawn by Mr Jagjit's enthusiasm and passion to join the association.

"He focused on youth and sports, encouraging young people to participate in community service projects and establishing the youth excellence in sports programme. As a person, he had a very forthcoming and giving nature. It is a trait that ran in his family as both his brothers served the community as well," said Mr Hernaikh.

Mr Jagjit also left his mark on the Singapore football scene as he was a former chairman of the S-League, since rebranded as AIA Singapore Premier League (SPL).

In a tribute posted on Facebook on Monday, SPL said he would be remembered for his numerous contributions to football as well as to various charitable social causes.

Mr Jagjit Singh Sekhon founded Singapore's first professionally operated nursing home and served in many roles over the years.
Mr Jagjit Singh Sekhon founded Singapore's first professionally operated nursing home and served in many roles over the years.

Mr Hernaikh recalled that Mr Jagjit would personally approach those in need.

"If someone needed a job, he would help them find one, or if someone was sick, he would send an ambulance to take them to treatment. If someone was immobile, he would send a bed for them to their home, often free of charge. He has personally touched so many lives in his lifetime," said Mr Hernaikh, adding that Mr Jagjit leaves a wife and two children.

PASSION FOR YOUTH AND SPORTS

He focused on youth and sports, encouraging young people to participate in community service projects and establishing the youth excellence in sports programme. As a person, he had a very forthcoming and giving nature. It is a trait that ran in his family as both his brothers served the community as well.

MR HERNAIKH SINGH, president of the Singapore Khalsa Association, on Mr Jagjit Singh Sekhon, who previously served as the association's president and was also well known in the football fraternity.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2020, with the headline 'Prominent Sikh community leader and nursing pioneer dies, aged 81'. Print Edition | Subscribe