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Wee Kim Wee ( ; POJ: Ng Kim-fei; 4 November 1915 – 2 May 2005) was the fourth President of Singapore from 2 September 1985 to 1 September 1993.

Early life

Born into a humble family, Wee Kim Wee was the son of a clerk, Wee Choong Lay and his wife Chua Lay Hua. His father died when he was eight. Wee studied at Outram School, and he started out as a clerk working for The Straits Times, before becoming a reporter focusing on political issues. He eventually became one of the paper's main reporters. In 1941 he joined the United Press Associations, and was its chief correspondent in the 1950s. He returned to The Straits Times in 1959, and was appointed deputy editor in Singapore. In 1966, he interviewed the former Indonesianmarker president, General Suharto, reporting Suharto's intention to end the three-year confrontation with Malaysiamarker (see Konfrontasi). He broke the news with a front-page headline using Suharto's own words: "Suharto: 'Peace: The sooner the better'" [91906].

Later career

Wee was editorial manager when he retired in 1973 to become the High Commissioner to Malaysia, a position he held for seven years. He was appointed ambassador to Japanmarker in September 1980, and to South Koreamarker in February 1981. At the end of his diplomatic career in 1984, he was appointed chairman of the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation – the predecessor of the current MediaCorp Studios – and became president a year later.

Presidency

A highly popular president, he was noted by people from all walks of life for his approachability and humility during his term in office. Modest, friendly, and sincere, he is remembered as the People's President.

Up until Wee's second term as President, the selection of the presidential candidate was determined solely by the Parliament of Singapore. During Wee's second term, the Singapore Parliament amended the constitution in January 1991 to allow for the direct election of the President, who would have the right of veto over civil service appointments and the use of government reserves. The creation of an elected presidency was a major constitutional and political change in Singapore's history as under the revision, the President is empowered to veto government budgets and appointments to public office. This allows him to examine the Government's exercise of its powers under the Internal Security Act and religious harmony laws, and in investigations into cases of corruption.

For the ensuing initial Presidential election - the first in Singapore to be decided by popular poll - Wee decided not to enter his candidacy, and went into retirement upon the completion of his second and final term as President.

In 2004 he published his autobiography, Glimpses and Reflections. From the royalties and other donations, half a million Singapore dollars were donated to eight charities.

Death

Wee died due to prostate cancer in his home on 2 May 2005 at 5:10am SST. He was 89. A humble man up to his death, he had asked to be cremated and for the ashes to be placed at Mandai Columbarium with those of ordinary citizens instead of Kranji War Cemeterymarker, where late dignitaries are usually buried. His state funeral saw a large crowd who attended to pay their last respects at the Istana.

Wee was survived by his wife of 69 years, Koh Sok Hiong, son Bill Wee Hock Kee, six daughters, thirteen grandchildren, and fourteen great-grandchildren.

References




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