I was only a child in the eighties, but back then I still distinctly remember seeing Dr Toh Chin Chye on television, arguing in parliament that public healthcare is the responsibility of the government.
I was too young then to understand what the debate I was watching on television was about. What struck me then was the intensity and the passion I had heard in Dr Toh’s voice. He made me understand that he cared for all Singaporeans. It is an impression that I still carry with me today.
Over the years as I grew up I came to realize that Dr Toh was always fighting for Singaporeans. He fought for our independence as a nation. And post independence, he frequently defied his party whip to fight for the long term health of a growing nation (link). Dr Toh set the benchmark on what it means to be a voice of the people, something that all Singaporeans can hope to aspire to in these tumultuous times. Dr Toh may have been a soft spoken man. But when he spoke, he roared. And he was heard all throughout the land.
I went to pay my final respects to Dr Toh Chin Chye on Sunday, February 5th. It was the first and last time in my life that I would see him in person. It was a very poignant moment for me to say the least.
“He looks so tiny.” That was the thought that echoed in my mind as I stood before Dr Toh Chin Chye’s coffin, looking reverently at the man I had come to regard as the Lion of Parliament. The visual of Dr Toh lying there reminded me, that big things do indeed come in small packages.
After exchanging some words of condolences with his family, I walked out of Dr Toh’s house with a renewed sense of perspective. We maybe a small nation, but we are capable of doing great things. We just need to put aside our own fears and doubts and standup. Speak out. And do great things for our people, for our country. And for this planet that we call home.
Thank you Dr Toh, for illuminating the way forward for Singapore. May you rest in peace and always watch over us as the sentinel of Singapore.