Arumugam Ponnu Rajah

Arumugam Ponnu Rajah (b. 23 November 1911, Port Dickson, Malaya - d. 28 September 1999, Singapore), better known as A. P. Rajah, was Singapore's first High Commissioner to Britain. He was also the first Supreme Court judge to remain on the Bench after turning 70.

Early Life
Rajah was born in Port Dickson on 23 November 1911.  He received his education at St Paul's Institution (Seremban, Malaya), Raffles Institution and Oxford University where he obtained a law degree in 1932.  After graduation, he returned to Singapore and worked with a colonial law firm.  He left for England again in 1936 and was called to the English Bar the following year.  Later, he returned to Singapore to set up a law firm.  He was called to the Singapore Bar on 15 August 1938.  

When the Singapore Progressive Party was formed in August 1947, Rajah became its first secretary.  In 1949, he was elected a city councillor.  In 1953, he was part of the delegation that represented Singapore at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  In 1959, Rajah re-entered politics as an independent candidate, and was elected to the Legislative Assembly.  He lost his seat in 1963, but became the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly the following year.  After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the Legislative Assembly was renamed the Parliament and Rajah became its first Speaker.  In 1966, Rajah left for London to become Singapore's first High Commissioner to Britain.  From 1971 to 1973, he was High Commissioner to Australia and Fiji.  Rajah returned to Singapore to resume legal practice in 1973, and was appointed as a Supreme Court judge on 1 October 1976.  He held the appointment until his retirement on 30 September 1990 at the age of 79.  He was the first Supreme Court judge to remain on the Bench after turning 70.  He was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by the National University of Singapore on 14 November 1984.

Rajah died of old age in his home in Balmoral Road on 28 September 1999.  His wife Vijaya Lakshmi had predeceased him in 1971.  He was survived by his son Chelva R. Rajah, a senior counsel, and daughter Mala.

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

Lee, K. Y. (1998).  The Singapore story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (p. 305).  Singapore: Times Editions
(Call no. RSING 959.57 LEE)

Turnbull, C. M.  (1986). A history of Singapore 1819-1975 (pp. 235).  Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR)

A. P. Rajah - obituary.  (1999, November 24).  The Times [Electronic Version].

In memoriam: The late Dr Arumugam Ponnu Rajah.  (1999, November-December).  Singapore Academy of Law Newsletter, 14.

Justice A. P. Rajah retires after 14 years on the Bench.  (1990, September 29).  The Straits Times [Electronic Version]

Lim. S. J. (1999, September 30).  Former Supreme Court judge and envoy diesThe Straits Times [Electronic Version]

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore. (n.d.). About the High Commission.  Retrieved June 29, 2006, from

Parliament of Singapore. (2006).  About us: Speaker of Parliament.  Retrieved June 29, 2006, from

The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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