SINGAPORE, September 30, 2008 (AFP) – Veteran Singapore opposition leader J.B. Jeyaretnam, who died Tuesday, waged a long and lonely campaign for greater political freedom in the tightly governed city-state. “I get my strength from somewhere else, if you know what I mean,” he said in an interview with AFP in 2006. “I refuse to conform to the world.”
He was attempting a fresh political comeback when he succumbed to heart failure.
The 82-year-old British-trained lawyer and former MP was the nemesis of Singapore’s iron-fisted founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, 85, whose People’s Action Party (PAP) will celebrate 50 uninterrupted years in power in 2009.
“I haven’t got very many more years,” Jeyaretnam said in July at the launch of the new Reform Party, which was to be his vehicle for a comeback after years in the political wilderness.
Jeyaretnam, remembered by many Singaporeans for his old-school lambchop sideburns and a gravelly voice that thrilled audiences in court, parliament and street rallies, said he feared “no one except God”.
Born Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam in 1926 during a family visit to what is now Sri Lanka, he was often a solitary voice in largely ethnic Chinese Singapore, a pros