Singapore, 7 December 2016 – Straits Times Press (STP), the book publishing arm of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), today launched “E W Barker: The People’s Minister”, written by Ms Susan Sim, who was a former journalist and Indonesia Bureau Chief with The Straits Times.
The book was commissioned by the Eurasian Association (EA) and a steering committee consisting of Mr E W Barker’s two daughters Carla and Deborah and EA Trustees Mr Edward D’Silva and Mr Gerard de Silva was formed. They were instrumental in driving this project, assisting the author with fact-checking, research and contacts for interviews. The EA received sponsorship from Ngee Ann Development and the National Heritage Board for this biography.
The book launch was held at The Pod, at the National Library Building this evening. The launch was attended by more than 130 guests, including members of the diplomatic corps, former politicians, government officials and family members.
This 428-page biography traces the life of Mr E W Barker and pieces together his deeds and achievements that were instrumental to Singapore’s formative years, from pre-independence to a thriving city-state. It comprises five main parts.
In Part One – Remembering Eddie Barker, family members, former Ministers, Members of Parliaments and staff recalled fondly how Mr Barker conducted himself during Parliament sittings and social events and how his influence and authority have continued to transcend even for infrastructure and nation-building projects that were outside his scope.
In Part Two – The Early Years, the book looked back at Mr Barker growing up and excelling academically and in sports at Raffles Institution and at Cambridge. He also survived a harrowing stint as a prisoner-of-war in the infamous Death Railway in Kanchanaburi, Thailand as a medical orderly. He gave up a lucrative career as a private practicing lawyer to be a Speaker of Parliament and Member-of-Parliament for Tanglin. As the Speaker, he was remembered for his wit, decorum and impartiality in enforcing order and discipline among the MPs, regardless of rank or party affiliations.
In Part Three – Separation, Mr Barker took on the Law Minister appointment during tumultuous times as Singapore sought to leave Malaysia in separation talks and form an independent sovereign state. As a close confidante of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, he used his legal expertise in the drafting of the separation documents and with his close ties with the Malaysian leaders, convinced them to agree and endorse the separation. He was also influential in ensuring cordial relations with the Malaysian political leaders and royalty following the separation of Singapore from Malaysia.
In Part Four – The Ministerial Years, it chronicled the multiple roles that Mr Barker played in the government. For 25 years, he had helmed and deputised at various ministries such as Law, Foreign Affairs, National Development and Environment and during each stint, he had initiated projects and made contributions ranging from public housing, land reclamation to social affairs and international relations which had benefitted both Singapore and Singaporeans alike till this day. As Singapore’s first unofficial Sports Minister, he headed the Singapore National Olympic Council for 19 years and was a visionary administrator who successfully lobbied for the construction of the National Stadium, mass building of sports stadiums and swimming pools and Singapore’s bid to host the 1983 SEA Games.
In Part Five – The Retirement Years, Mr Barker remained active even after he had left the government service. He was appointed Chairman of the Bukit Turf Club and Chairman of the Stock Exchange of Singapore. He had also previously held directorship appointments in other organisations such as Shangri-la Hotel, United Industrial Corporation, The Hour Glass and Sime Singapore. Helping to groom the second generation of Singapore leaders, he played a behind-the-scenes role in ensuring that Singapore continued to have warm and friendly ties with Malaysia and its leaders.
Ms Susan Long, General Manager, Straits Times Press said: “We are very privileged to be the publisher for E W Barker: The People's Minister. It is an important memoir to add to anyone's Singapore collection. It adds detail, colour and insight to the narrative of how we came to be.”
Ms Carla Barker, daughter of Mr E W Barker and member of the book’s steering committee said: “This book was inspired by former President Nathan, who encouraged the EA to tell the story. It is both a tribute in memory of my father, featuring the milestones in his extraordinary life, and in charting his dedication to the development of Singapore, is a recounting of our history."
“E W Barker: The People’s Minister” is available at leading bookstores at $45.90 (GST inclusive). The book can also be ordered from the Straits Times Press Online Bookstore at: www.stpressbooks.com.sg.