S. Rajaratnam


Sinnathamby Rajaratnam (b. 25 February 1915, Jaffna, Sri Lanka–d. 22 February 2006, Singapore), better known as S. Rajaratnam, was a former journalist, co-founder of the People's Action Party (PAP), first minister for foreign affairs in post-independence Singapore, a member of parliament for the Kampong Glam constituency and former minister for labour and culture. He was the second deputy prime minister in 1980 until he stepped down in 1985 and became a senior minister. Rajaratnam was one of the pioneer leaders who helped to shape Singapore’s development.

Early life
Born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Rajaratnam was only six months old when he was brought back to Seremban in then Malaya, where his father worked as a supervisor at a rubber plantation.1 He began his early education at St Paul's Institution in Seremban.2 It was at this stage that he became an avid reader, with the greatest influence from his uncles who bought him many books.3 He went on to study at Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur, and finally Raffles Institution, Singapore.4 In 1935, he went to King's College, London, to study law, but did not complete his studies.5 During his time in London, Rajaratnam was involved in politics as a member of the Marxist group, Left Book Club.6

Rajaratnam worked as a journalist to support himself when financial aid from his father was terminated during World War II (1942–45).7 He married a Hungarian in 19438 and stayed in London for several years. They returned to Malaya in 1947 after the war.9 Rajaratnam worked as a journalist at The Malaya Tribune from 1948 to 1950 and left to join another newspaper, Singapore Standard, as an associate editor in 1950.10 Between 1954 and 1959, he was an editorial staff at The Straits Times in Singapore.11

As a journalist, he wrote articles related to the political issues in Singapore and Malaya. His open anti-British and anti-communist stance attracted the attention of Lee Kuan Yew, Toh Chin Chye and Goh Keng Swee, who, together with Rajaratnam, formed the People’s Action Party in 1954.12

Political career
In 1959, he resigned from The Straits Times to contest in the Legislative Assembly general election.13 He was elected as an assemblyman for the Kampong Glam constituency and also appointed as the minister for culture – a position in which he served till 1963.14 With the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, he became a member of the Federal Malaysian Parliament.15

When Singapore gained independence, he was the first minister for foreign affairs. He held this office until 1980, with additional duty as the minister for labour in 1968. As a long-serving foreign affairs minister, he contributed immensely to establishing good relations with nations of the world, which was of paramount importance to a young, struggling nation, especially after the separation from Malaysia.16 He represented Singapore in the Bangkok Declaration in 1967, which was convened to establish the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).17 In December 1997, together with the other founding members, Rajaratnam was honoured with an award by ASEAN for this significant contribution.18

In 1966, Rajaratnam, together with then education minister Ong Pang Boon, composed the national pledge with an emphasis on a united and multiracial society.19

In 1980, he was appointed as the second deputy prime minister. He relinquished this post in 1985 to make way for younger candidates, but remained as a senior minister in the Prime Minister's Office till his retirement from politics in 1988.20 After his retirement, he served as a senior distinguished fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (now ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute) from 1988.21

Rajaratnam died from heart failure on 22 February 2006 at his home on Chancery Lane.22

Legacy
In recognition of contributions to Singapore’s development, the S. Rajaratnam Scholarship (renamed S. Rajaratnam Professorship in Strategic Studies in 1999) was set up in 1990.23 In 2006, Raffles Institution named a new building in the school after him.24 The S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies was established in 2007 in honour of his contributions as foreign minister.25 Launched in October 2014, the S$100-million S. Rajaratnam Endowment established by Temasek Holdings supports programmes that foster stronger ties in the region and internationally, as well as initiatives that “recognise the work and contributions of Mr Rajaratnam”.26

Other appointments held
Secretary, Malayan Indian Congress

Founding member, Singapore Union of Journalists27
Member, Presidential Council for Minority Rights28

Timeline
1948–1950:
Journalist, The Malaya Tribune
1950–1954:
Associate editor, Singapore Standard
1954–1959:
Editorial staff, The Straits Times29
1955:
Sat on the Malayanisation Commission
1956:
Sat on the Minimum Standards of Livelihood Committee
1959:
Elected to the Legislative Assembly as the assemblyman for the Kampong Glam constituency
5 Jun 1959–23 Sep 1965:
Minister for culture30
1963:
Appointed member of the PAP’s central executive committee and director of its political bureau31
16 Sep 1963:
Member, Federal Malaysian Parliament
9 Aug 1965–31 May 1980:
Minister for foreign affairs32
1968–4 Jul 1971:
Minister for labour33
1980–1985:
Second deputy prime minister (foreign affairs)34
1985–1988:
Senior minister, Prime Minister’s Office35
1988–1997:
Distinguished senior fellow, ISEAS36

Awards
1990:
Order of Temasek (First Class)
24 Feb 1990:
Distinguished Service Medal, PAP37
1997:
ASEAN Heads of Government Citation Award38

Publications
Rajaratnam was a prolific writer who contributed many articles to The Straits Times and wrote many books, including the following:

Challenge of confrontation. (1964). Singapore: Ministry of Culture.
(Call no.: RSING 327.598 RAJ)


Malaysia and the world. (1964). Singapore: Ministry of Culture.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5 RAJ)

Asia’s unfinished revolution. (1966). Singapore: Ministry of Culture.
(Call no.: RSING 950 RAJ)

Raayat: The English weekly for thinking Malayans. (1954–1955). Singapore: S. Raja Ratnam.
(Call no.: RCLOS 052 R)

Singapore: Global city. (1972). Singapore: Ministry of Culture.
(Call no.: RSING 330.95957 RAJ)

The prophetic and the political: Selected speeches and writings of S. Rajaratnam. (1987). Singapore: Graham Brash.
(Call no.: RSING 920.05957320.95957 RAJ)

Ng, I. (Ed.) (2011) The short stories and radio plays of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Epigram.
(Call no.: English S823 RAJ)

Family39
Father: Sabapathy Pillai Sinnathamby
Mother: Annapillai d/o Nagalingam
Brother: Seevaratnam
Wife: Piroska Feher (m. 1943; d. 1989)



Author

Jenny Tien



References
1. Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
2. Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the president, prime minister and ministers. Singapore: Publicity Division, Ministry of Culture, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 328.59570922 BIO)
3. Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 13. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
4. Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the president, prime minister and ministers, [n.p.]. Singapore: Publicity Division, Ministry of Culture. (Call no.: RSING 328.59570922 BIO)
5. Rajaratnam, S. (1991). Dialogues with S. Rajaratnam, former senior minister in the Prime Minister’s office Singapore: Shin Min Daily News. pp. 84–92. (Call no.: RSING320.95957 RAJ); Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 9, 54. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
6. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 920.059597 CHE)
7. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 920.059597 CHE)
8. Most newspaper articles indicate the marriage in 1941, but the recent biography on Rajaratnam by Irene Ng, The Singapore lion: A Biography of S. Rajaratnam, states that their union was solemnised on 2 January 1943. Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 66. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
9. Koh, T. T. B., & Chang, L. L. (Eds). (2005). The little red dot: reflections by Singapore’s diplomats. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 327.5957 LIT)
10. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 920.059597 CHE); Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 95, 119. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
11. Low, K. T. (2006). Who’s who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
12. Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 182–184. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
13. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 920.059597 CHE)
14. Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the president, prime minister and ministers. Singapore: Publicity Division, Ministry of Culture, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 328.59570922 BIO)
15. Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 504–505. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
16. Chan, H. C., & Obaid ul Haq. (Eds.). (2007). S. Rajaratnam: The prophetic and the political. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 269–280. (Call no.: RSING 320.95957 RAJ)
17. Peh, S. H. (2006, December 12). President launches grad school named after Rajaratnam. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Tang, E. (1997, July 16). Tribute planned for five visionaries who founded Asean. The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Devan, J. (2009, September 6). Forget about forgetting differences. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore. Singapore: Resource Press, p. 151. (Call no.: RSING 920.059597 CHE)
21. Kesavapany, K. (2006, February 25). Remembering Raja. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Chua, M. H. (2006, February 23). S’pore pioneer Rajaratnam dies. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Koh, L. (1999, January 17). Rajaratnam scholarship to be scrapped. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. RI remembers Rajaratnam – in mosaic. (2006, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Raffles Institution. (n.d.). Facilities: Campus map. Retrieved from Raffles Institution website: http://www.ri.edu.sg/file/1-6Map.jpg
25. Peh, S. H. (2006, December 12). President launches grad school named after Rajaratnam. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. (n.d.). About RSIS: Introduction. Retrieved from RSIS website: http://www.rsis.edu.sg/about-rsis/introduction
26. Sim, W. (2014, October 14). $100 million endowment to honour Rajaratnam. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chan, Y. W. (2014, October 22). Temasek launches S$100m S. Rajaratnam fund. The Business Times. Retrieved from Factiva
via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
27. Low, K. T. (2006). Who’s who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)
28. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 321. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
29. Low, K. T. (2006). Who’s who in Singapore 2006. Singapore: Who’s Who Publishing, p. 415. (Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO); Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, pp. 95, 119, 212. (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
30. Ministry of Culture. (1977). Biographical notes of the president, prime minister and ministers. Singapore: Publicity Division, Ministry of Culture, [n.p.]. (Call no.: RSING 328.59570922 BIO)
31. Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp 258-259 (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)
32. Cabinet reshuffle. (1980, June 1). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T. T. B., & Chang, L. L. (Eds). (2005). The little red dot: reflections by Singapore’s diplomats. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, p. 35. (Call no.: RSING 327.5957 LIT)
33. Ong appointed new Labour Minister. (1971, July 4). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved fromNewspaperSG.
34. Cabinet Reshuffle. (1980, June 1). The StraitsTimes,p. 1; The new cabinet. (1985, January 1). The Straits Times, p.1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. The new cabinet. (1985, January 1). The Straits Times, p. 1; The men who are part of nation’s history. (1988, August 22). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Kesavapany, K. (2006, February 25). Remembering Raja. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Kudos to man of ideas. (1990, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Founders honoured. (1997, December 16). The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39. Ng, I. (2010). The Singapore lion: A biography of S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp 4, 6, 54, 509, (Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 NG)



Further resources

Chew, J. (2008). The voice of a nation: S. Rajaratnam. Singapore: SNP Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 959.5705092 CHE)

Durairaj, G. (Compiler), & Yip, S. C. L. (Ed.). S. Rajaratnam: A bibliography. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
(Call no.: RSING 016.32759570092 S)

Kwa, C. G. (Ed). (2006). S. Rajaratnam on Singapore: From ideas to reality. Singapore: World Scientific.
(Call no.: RSING320.95957 S)

The S. Rajaratnam Collection in the ISEAS Library, Singapore: A catalogue. (2007). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
(Call no.: RSING 327.59570092 S)



The information in this article is valid as at 1 March 2016 and correct as far as we can 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
Law and government>>Public administration>>Ministries of state
Cabinet officers--Singapore--Biography
Politicians
Law and government>>Political process>>Political parties
Politicians--Singapore--Biography
S. Rajaratnam, 1915-
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders