Yong Nyuk Lin, member of first Cabinet, dies

A member of Singapore's first Cabinet, Mr Yong Nyuk Lin, has died at the age of 94.

The Straits Times reported that he had been warded in Singapore General Hospital for the past few days due to medical problems related to old age.

Mr Yong turned 94 just last week. He leaves behind his wife Kwa Geok Lan, elder sister of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's late wife Kwa Geok Choo, two daughters Siu Len and Siu Li, and four granddaughters.

Mr Yong was a Member of Parliament in Geylang West. He served as a minister from 1959 to 1976, and was responsible for areas that included Education, Communications and Health.

He was among the ministers who signed the Separation Agreement in 1965 that declared Singapore's independence.

He also contributed significantly to the public transport sector through various anti-congestion measures.

His notable contributions include raising the cost of car registration, introducing school buses and bus lanes, and implementing a predecessor of the Electronic Road Pricing system (ERP) known as the Area Licensing Scheme (ALS).

The Straits Times reported that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sent a letter to Mrs Yong on Friday, offering his condolences and paying tribute to the late Mr Yong.

He highlighted Mr Yong's role in building up the capacity of Singapore's education system at a time when the need for more places in schools was urgent.

"Education was a politically sensitive and urgent priority. Mr Yong embarked on a major programme to expand capacity, adding afternoon sessions to primary schools, building new schools and training more teachers.

"He introduced upper secondary classes in Chinese schools (equivalent to pre-university classes in English schools), and provided free tuition for Singaporean Malays. He also introduced bursaries and scholarships to encourage students to study mathematics and science, and master the skills that our economy needed. This enormous expansion of education opportunities laid the foundation for our subsequent success."

PM Lee also acknowledged Mr Yong's role in restructuring and expanding healthcare services and consolidating the bus industry as Communications Minister.

He also said that Mr Yong's many contributions will be long remembered: "He answered our nation's call at a critical time, and helped lay the foundations for Singapore's success. His passing is a deep loss to all of us."

Mr Yong's family told The Straits Times on Friday that his wake and funeral, which is planned for Sunday, would be a private affair.

klim@sph.com.sg and hteoh@sph.com.sg

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