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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

David Marshall 'a true national hero'

March 12, 2008
David Marshall 'a true national hero'
By Li Xueying

AFTER the late David Marshall was elected as Singapore's Chief Minister in 1955, he wore a safari jacket to his first meeting with British governor John Nicoll - unacceptable wear for the occasion.

'Marshall insults the Queen,' trumpeted The Straits Times the next day.

Following in his footsteps, another minister wore sandals, and no socks, to the opening of the Legislative Assembly.

'So clothing became our anti-colonial protest,' recounted Professor Chan Heng Chee, a political scientist, author of a biography on Mr Marshall and currently Singapore's ambassador to the United States.

While many criticised the burly lawyer-turned-politician for his 'histrionics', he felt that this was what the average man could grasp.

'He could mobilise them and inspire them to join his nationalist movement,' said Prof Chan of Mr Marshall, who led talks with London to bargain for Singapore's independence in the late 1950s.

President SR Nathan described him thus: 'Under colonial domination, he made us aware of who we were and made us dream of independence.'

'He was a giant of a man, in that he sought to inspire in us a sense of hope, and what we needed to be.'

These descriptions of Mr Marshall occurred during a one-day symposium yesterday to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Mr Marshall, who died in 1995.

In his time, Mr Marshall had been at turns Singapore's most formidable criminal lawyer, its first Chief Minister, founder of the Workers' Party (WP), a respected diplomat, a Jewish community leader, and a passionate advocate of liberal democratic values.

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