Chua Sian Chin


Chua Sian Chin (b. 26 November 1933, Malacca–d. 26 February 2014, Singapore)1,2 was a former cabinet member and one of Singapore’s pioneer generation of leaders. A lawyer by training, Chua entered politics in 1968 after he was elected a People’s Action Party (PAP) member of parliament (MP) for the MacPherson constituency, a seat he would serve in until his retirement from politics in 1991. Chua held several ministerial portfolios during his political career: he served as minister for health (1968–74), minister for home affairs (1972–84) and minister for education (1975–79).3

Early life and education
Chua was born in Malacca and attended the Malacca High School. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree from the University of Malaya in 1954, Chua travelled to England to study law at the University of London where he completed his law degree in 1958. He was then called to the bar by the Inner Temple in 1959.4 During his studies, Chua was active in student affairs. At the University of Malaya, he was a member of the University Socialist Club’s central working committee. He then served as secretary of the Malayan Forum and editor of the forum’s newsletter, Suara Merdeka, while studying in London.5


Early career
After returning to Singapore in 1959, Chua joined the law firm of Lee and Lee where he became a partner in 1965.6 At the firm, Chua served as a legal adviser to numerous associations and trade unions such as the Singapore Hawkers’ Petty Traders Association, the Chinese Teachers’ Union, as well as the Chua and Ong clan associations.7 He also represented the Minister for Education Yong Nyuk Lin at the Commission of Inquiry on the Secondary Four Students’ Boycott in 1962.8


Besides practising as an advocate and solicitor, Chua also served as a member in the Public Utilities Board, the permanent examination board of the Singapore Public Service Commission, the citizenship committee of inquiry and the governing board of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Research Unit. He was also a referee of the Industrial Arbitration Court and served as chairman of the University of Singapore Council from 1967 to 1968.9

Political career
Chua entered politics when he was elected unopposed as a PAP MP for the MacPherson constituency in the 1968 general election.10 Earlier, he had contested unsuccessfully as a PAP candidate for the Bandar, Malacca, seat in the 1964 Malaysian general election.11 Following his successful entry into parliament, Chua was appointed as the minister for health in April 1968 at the age of 34, making him then the youngest cabinet minister in Singapore’s history.12


During his tenure as health minister, Chua was credited for raising the public health standards and enhancing the environmental conditions of Singapore.13 Shortly after assuming the post, Chua launched the Keep Singapore Clean campaign on 1 October 1968. The objective of the campaign, as Chua puts it, was to transform Singapore into a clean and healthy place so that the people could have a better living environment and the country would be in a stronger position to attract tourists as well as foreign investment. To realise this goal, Chua implemented a series of public health-related measures and legislations during his term as health minister. For instance, he introduced a seven-day waste collection service and expanded the country’s waste management system.14 This was in addition to the Environmental Public Health Act of 1968, which, among other things, made littering and the disposal of refuse in public places an offence. The legislation also expanded the authority of public health officers and required housing and industrial developers to provide, at their own expense, proper facilities for refuse collection and disposal.15

After Chua was re-elected to the MacPherson seat in the 1972 general election, he was given an additional ministerial portfolio of home affairs in November 1972.16 As Minister for Home Affairs, Chua played a key role in the fight against drugs by introducing the Misuse of Drugs Act in 197317 and improved Singapore’s law and order by clamping down on secret societies.18 He also helped develop a community policing system by overseeing the introduction of police reservists and national servicemen into neighbourhood and block committees in 1975,19 the neighbourhood policing scheme in 1976,20 the National Crime Prevention Council in 1981,21 and the neighbourhood police post system in 1983.22 The objective of the community policing system was to expand the presence of the police force in the public housing estates. The system was also designed to allow the police to establish a close rapport with the public so that ordinary citizens could play a part in the overall crime prevention effort.23 Chua was also involved in establishing the Police Boys' Clubs. Managed by the police force, the clubs were meant to keep delinquent teenagers occupied as volunteers so that they would not get into trouble with the law again.24 Besides fighting crime, Chua concentrated on improving safety on the roads by launching the first road safety campaign in 1974.25

In October 1975, Chua was assigned to take charge of the Ministry of Education while still holding on to his appointment as minister for home affairs.26 During the period when he was education minister, Chua was instrumental in promoting bilingualism in schools.27 He also played a key role in encouraging students to participate in extra-curricular activities (ECAs), thus allowing them to not only develop academically but also socially and morally.28

Besides holding multiple ministerial portfolios, Chua continued to serve as the MP for MacPherson until 1991. As an MP, Chua was known for holding marathon Meet-the-People sessions with his constituents that would stretch into the night. He held these sessions in different locations in order to meet as many residents as possible and to minimise their need to travel. To keep the youngsters in his constituency from getting into trouble, Chua recruited them into a stilt-walking troupe and as volunteers to clean the homes of samsui women.29

Retirement and death
Chua stepped down from his last cabinet position as minister for home affairs in December 1984.30 He then set up his own legal practice in 198531 before retiring from politics completely after deciding not to contest for the MacPherson seat in the 1991 general election.32


Chua passed away on 26 February 2014 due to heart failure.33

Career timeline
1959–1968:
Solicitor, Lee and Lee law firm.
1964: Contested unsuccessfully as a PAP candidate for the Bandar Malacca seat in the 1964 Malaysian general election.
1968: Elected as MP for MacPherson constituency.
1968: Elected member of the PAP's central executive committee.34

1968–1970: Assistant treasurer of the PAP.35
1968–1974: Minister for health.
1970–1984: Treasurer of the PAP.36,37

1972: Re-elected as MP for MacPherson constituency.38
1972–1984: Minister for home affairs.
1975–1979: Minister for Education.
1976: Re-elected as MP for MacPherson constituency.39

1980: Re-elected as MP for MacPherson constituency.40
1984: Re-elected as MP for MacPherson constituency.41
1984: Stepped down from his last cabinet position as minister for home affairs.
1985: Started his own law firm.
1988: Re-elected as MP for MacPherson constituency.42
1991: Retired from politics.


Awards
1990:
Order of Nila Utama (Second Class).43


Family44
Wife:
Alice Tan Kim Lian.
Children: Chua Eng Chiang (son), Chua Eng Leong (son), Chua Hui Tin (daughter).



Author
Lim Tin Seng



References
1. Who's who in Malaysia and guide to Singapore, 1969. (1969). Kuala Lumpur: J.V. Morais, p. 19. (Call no.: RCLOS 920.0595 WWM)
2. Former minister Chua Sian Chin dies at 81. (2014, February 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
3. Former minister Chua Sian Chin dies at 81. (2014, February 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
4. Who's who in Malaysia and Singapore, 1979–1980. (1980). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 9.( Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
5. Loh, K. S. (2013). The University Socialist Club and the contest for Malaya: Tangled strands of modernity. Singapore: NUS Press, pp. 267–268. (Call no.: RSING 371.8109595 UNI)
6. Sian Chin sets up own law firm. (1985, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. A dynamic Parliament. (1968, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Who's who in Malaysia and Singapore, 1979–1980. (1980). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
9. Who's who in Malaysia and Singapore, 1979–1980. (1980). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM).
10. A dynamic Parliament. (1968, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; State of the constituencies. (1968, February 18). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. A dynamic Parliament. (1968, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Former minister Chua Sian Chin dies. (2014, February 28). Today. Retrieved from Factiva.
13. President Tony Tan sends condolences to family of late Chua Sian Chin. (2014, February 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
14. Abul Fazil. (1968, August 25). The big ‘Keep Singapore clean’ campaign begins. (1968, August 25). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, Y. S. (2009). Clean, green and blue: Singapore's journey towards environmental and water sustainability. Singapore: ISEAS Pub., pp. 59–62. (Call No.: RSING 363.70095957 TAN)
16. Who's who in Malaysia and Singapore, 1979–1980. (1980). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
17. Lee Kuan Yew, DPM Teo express condolences over Chua Sian Chin's death. (2014, February 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
18. President Tony Tan sends condolences to family of late Chua Sian Chin. (2014, February 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
19. Anti-crime teams plan. (1975, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Kwee, M. (1976, January 21). A new plan to patrol HDB estates. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Public will be persuaded to help police. (1981, July 5). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Wee, P. (1983, January 25). First neighbourhood post to start in June. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Lai, Y. K. (1977, August 9). Police: New dynamism in maintaining order. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Late minister hailed for his dedication. (2014, March 1). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
25. ‘Keep Roads Accident Free’ campaign. (1973, March 17). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Chua to take over education. (1975, October 20). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Incentives plan for learning two languages. (1976, August 20). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Chua: ECA helps development. (1976, January 8). The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Late minister hailed for his dedication. (2014, March 1). The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva.
30. Wee, P. (1984, December 24). Chua to step down from the Cabinet. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Sian Chin sets up own law firm. (1985, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Family needs 'a more permanent husband and father'. (1991, August 17). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. Former minister Chua Sian Chin dies at 81. (2014, February 27). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva.
34. Who's who in Malaysia and Singapore, 1979–1980. (1980). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 9.( Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
35. Who's who in Malaysia and Singapore, 1979–1980. (1980). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 9.( Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
36. Who's who in Malaysia and Singapore, 1979–1980. (1980). Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Who's Who Publications, p. 9.( Call no.: RSING 920.0595 WWM)
37. Two more opt out of PAP Exec Committee. (1968, September 24). The Singapore Monitor, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Election scoreboard. (1972, September 2). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. The 16 who were returned unopposed. (1976, December 24). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Election scoreboard. (1980, December 23). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. 'Victory' cheers for Mah and Chiam. (1984, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. MacPherson. (1988, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Old Guards in National Day honours list. (1990, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Untitled. (2005, December 10). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 10 March 2014 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.

Subject
Personalities
Politics and Government

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2014.