Lee Siew Choh

Lee Siew Choh (Dr) (b. 1 November 1917, Kuala Lumpur, Malaya - d. 18 July 2002, Singapore), a Cantonese, a former Barisan Sosialis leader, the first Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) and a vocal opposition leader who set the record for holding the longest speech in Parliament at seven hours and thirteen minutes opposing the proposed merger with Malaysia. He is also best remembered for leading the Barisan Members of Parliament to boycott the first Parliamentary session in 1965.

Early life
In 1934 , after graduating from Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur, Lee came to Singapore to study medicine at King Edward VII College of Medicine. Upon graduating in 1942, he joined Kandang Kerbau (KK) Hospital as a doctor. A volunteer nurse whom he met at the hospital became his wife a year later when they married during the Japanese occupation. He was sent to work as a medical officer for two years at the Thai-Burmese border where prisoners of war were building the Death Railway for the Japanese. In 1947, he set up his own medical practice, the International Dispensary, at Hill Street.

Political career
PAP member
Being an anti-colonialist and with the persuasion of Dr Goh Keng Swee, Lee joined the People's Action Party (PAP) in 1958. In 1959, he was elected as Legislative Assemblyman for Queenstown. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Affairs Ministry the following year.

Opposition leader
In 1961, he left the PAP due to differences over the proposed merger with Malaysia and formed the Barisan Sosialis as its founding chairman on 13 August 1961. He is well-known for his record-breaking speech of seven and half hours spread over two days in 1961, in which he argued over the merger issue with Malaysia.

In 1963, he was detained for allegedly participating in the City Hall Riots. In the 1963 election, his party won 13 seats although he lost his Rochor seat. After the separation from Malaysia in 1965, he and 13 of his party members boycotted the first parliamentary session and later resigned. Again, his party refused to participate in the 1968 election signalling their unhappiness over the PAP-led government.

When Barisan merged with the Workers' Party in 1988, he stood as a Worker's Party candidate in the Eunos GRC. He lost but became the first NCMP after garnering the largest number of votes among the losing electoral candidates.

He retired from politics in 1993. Lee succumbed to lung cancer after suffering for three years and passed away on 18 July 2002 at the age of 84. His memoirs remain unpublished.

1942 : Doctor, Kandang Kerbau Hospital.
1947 : Set up his own medical practice, International Dispensary at Hill Street.
1959 : Joined People's Action Party.
1960 : Legislative Assemblyman for Queenstown.
1 Nov 1960 - 20 Jul 1961 : Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for Home Affairs.
13 Aug 1961 : Left the People's Action Party and form the Barisan Sosialis as the Founding Chairman.
1963 : Won 13 out of the 51 seats in the 1963 General Elections.
1965 : Led the Barisan Members of Parliament to boycott the first Parliamentary session.
1966 : Resigned from Parliament.
1988 : Merged Barisan with Workers' Party and contested as Workers' Party candidate in the General Election. He lost by a margin of 1,279 votes in the Eunos Group Representation Constituency (GRC).
1989 - 1991 : Appointed as a Non-Constituency Member of Parliament for polling the highest votes among the losers at the 1988 General Election.
1993 : Resigned from Workers' Party.

Father: Lee Fook Chuen, a Chinese school teacher.
Mother: Yim Kam.
Wife: Kathleen Fam Yin Oi , a retired teacher and sister of Fraser and Neave, Chairman Michael Fam.
Sons: Lee Yew Chung, a doctor; Lee Yew Keong, a dental surgeon.
Daughter: Lee Yu Lian, a lawyer.

Jenny Tien

Chew, M. (1996). Leaders of Singapore (pp. 121-130). Singapore: Resource Press.
(Call no.: RSING 920.05957 CHE)

Low, K. C., & Dunlop, P. K. G. (Eds.). Who's who in Singapore (pp. 135-136). Singapore: Who's Who Publishing.
(Call no.: RSING 920.05957 WHO)

Mulliner K. (1991). Historical dictionary of Singapore (p. 88). Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57003 MUL)

Choo, S. F. (1993, August 3). Dr Lee Siew Choh quits politics. LianHe Zaobao, Singapore, p. 6. 

Leong, W. K. (2001, June 17). The good doctor carries on. The Straits Times, p. 37.

Nirmala, M. (2002, July 19). Ex-Barisan Socialis leader dies of cancer. The Straits Times, p. 3.

Teo, L. (2002, July 20). SM Lee, PM Goh praise one-time political foe. The Straits Times, p. 6.

Zuraidah Ibrahim. (1993, August 6). Lee Siew Choh resigns from Workers' Party. The Straits Times, Home, p. 31.

Conviction, to the end. (2002, July 19). The Straits Times, Home, p. 2. 

The information in this article is valid as at 2003 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.

Lee, Siew Choh, 1917-2002--Biography
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