SINGAPORE: Former People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament Phua Bah Lee, who was also the founding president of the Singapore Armed Forces Reservists’ Association (SAFRA), died aged 89 on Sunday (Dec 26).
Mr Phua joined the PAP in 1968, serving as MP for Tampines constituency for two decades until 1988.
He was also the parliamentary secretary in the then-Ministry of Communications from 1968 to 1971, and the senior parliamentary secretary of Ministry of Defence from 1972 to 1988.
In a post on the PAP's Facebook page on Monday, Prime Minister and party secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong said Mr Phua was "a dedicated and effective ground MP" who took care of his residents’ needs and made sure they were well looked after.
"Bah Lee was a faithful stalwart of the People’s Action Party. Even after he retired from politics in 1988, he remained actively engaged, loyally supporting party and grassroots events whenever he could," said Mr Lee.
Born in 1932, Mr Phua graduated from Nanyang University (Nantah) in 1959 and joined the civil service in 1960.
In the two decades after he entered politics in 1968, Mr Phua witnessed the transformation of Tampines from a rural constituency to a modern Housing Development Board township, Mr Lee said.
Mr Phua also helped to resettle villagers affected by the construction of the then Paya Lebar Airport, said Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli in a Facebook post.
Together with his grassroots leaders, Mr Phua resolved issues affecting his residents, such as education, livelihood and their transition to living in HDB flats.
In the 1980s, Mr Phua mooted the idea of setting up the Tampines Chinese Temple and persuaded the heads of 13 temples that had to go in order to make way for developments to work together.
"It was the dedication and hard work of Mr Phua and the grassroots leaders that laid the strong foundation for Tampines Chinese Temple which still has a strong following today," said Mr Masagos.
PIVOTAL ROLE IN SAFRA
Mr Phua was the founding president of SAFRA from 1972 to 1989.
Under his tenure, SAFRA launched several ground-breaking initiatives that helped promote pride and loyalty among National Servicemen, said SAFRA CEO Edward Leong in a Facebook tribute.
SAFRA’s membership grew from fewer than 2,000 in 1972 to 120,000 in 1989, testifying to his exemplary leadership, added Mr Leong.
"Mr Phua played a pivotal role in establishing a strong foundation for SAFRA to appreciate NSmen’s contributions to NS in a variety of relevant and tangible ways ... We are indeed indebted to (his) founding work and effort," he said.
The Ngee Ann Kongsi, of which Mr Phua was a member, said he left "an indelible mark in Kongsi for his dedication, untiring efforts, kindness and sublime sense of duty in establishing many milestones for our entities".
"He contributed significantly to the development of Ngee Ann City and was instrumental in bringing in some of the best Chinese physicians from China in the early days of the formation of Ngee Ann Traditional Chinese Medicine Centre," it said in a Facebook post.
STAUNCH SUPPORTER OF SPORTS, ARTS
Mr Lee said Mr Phua was a "staunch supporter" of sports and the arts and culture, having served as president of the Basketball Association of Singapore and chairman of the management committee for Kreta Ayer People's Theatre.
"He had done his part to make this a better place, and having passed on the baton to younger leaders, continued to cheer for them and support the national cause."
Mr Phua was awarded the Friend of Labour Medal by the National Trades Union Congress in 1979.
He is survived by his wife, Madam Tan Cheok Tin, and three children, according to MP Alex Yam.