Teng Jingwei and Koh Yi Na
A public group dedicated to the memory of veteran Singapore opposition politician Mr JB Jeyaretnam on the popular social networking website, Facebook, has attracted more than 3000 members to date, making it the largest Facebook group in Singapore, according to its creators.
The group, titled “In Memory of JB Jeyaretnam”, was created by Mr Melvin Tan, Mr Jacob George and is jointly managed by Mr Arif Khan. One of its "officers" is Kenneth Jeyaretnam, the eldest son of the late opposition icon. Information available on the group webpage includes Mr JBJ’s recent biography and election results, as well as links to tributes by 73 different bloggers, several unofficial websites and Mr JBJ’s online obituary.
The Facebook group also includes an open letter to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to preserve Mr Jeyaretnam’s public-spiritedness and love for the law through the creation of a professorial chair in the name of the veteran opposition politician in NUS’ Faculty of Law, as well as the establishment of a scholarship fund in his name for graduate studies in political science and/or constitutional law and/or civil society studies.
A previous Facebook group, “JBJ Supporters”, also created by Mr Melvin Tan of the Workers' Party Youth Wing Executive Committee, and Mr Jacob George, a former member of the Think Centre, initially saw 40 members sign up. This current “in memoriam” group, however, was met with unprecedented success.
In comparison, the “I <3 sg” Singapore Day ‘08 group on Facebook attracted some 740 members, while the “Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games” group has about 220 members.
Group a spontaneous initiative
In an email interview with TOC, Mr George revealed that the group was created spontaneously, where group members accumulated via word of mouth and invitations from online friends; blogs, online forums and various websites also helped to publicise the group. The group was conceived as a platform for Mr. JBJ’s many admirers to express their love and respect; akin to an “Online Mausoleum”, in the words of Mr Tan.
Members of the group range from secondary school students to retirees; some have met Mr Jeyaretnam in person and attended his rallies, most have not, but all hold him in high regard and remember his contributions to Singapore.
That his contribution to Singaporean politics and civil society is highly valued is undeniable from the barrage of comments, numbering some 250 at last count. Almost all of these included fond memories or words of remembrances, as Singaporeans of all creeds, races and faiths converged to remember a man described as “representing true courage in Singapore.”
More comments by members included: “Singaporeans, young or old, remember and admire this remarkable man”, “A true legend, and an inspiration. He cannot be replaced.” and “...a brave man who held steadfastly to his beliefs. He had a vision for a better Singapore and kept that as his northern star.” Both creators are indeed touched and heartened to see so many pay their tribute to Mr Jeyaretnam.
When Mr Tan, also a former member of the Think Centre, was interviewed by TOC on his reaction to the popularity of the group, he said, “Of course I am glad – for him up there, not for me or the administrators – that more people remember and celebrate his role in Singapore. I only wish that more people could have shown their support for him while he was alive. Had he seen for himself that he had about 3000 Singaporeans supporting him, and non-anonymously, I believe he would have rejoiced.”
Indeed, Singapore has lost a proud and triumphant lion, and with it, one of the strongest and most resounding roars in its political scene.