SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has sent his condolences to the family of the late Yong Nyuk Lin.
Mr Lee recounted Mr Yong’s contributions as Minister for Education, Health and Communications before he stepped down in 1976.
Mr Yong served as Education Minister in the first Cabinet after Singapore attained self—government in 1959.
He embarked on a major programme to expand capacity in schools, build new schools and train more teachers.
He introduced upper secondary classes in Chinese schools, which is equivalent to pre—university classes in English schools, and provided free tuition for Singaporean Malays.
Bursaries and scholarships were introduced to encourage students to study Mathematics and Science, and master skills that were needed by the young country.
Mr Lee said the enormous expansion of education opportunities then laid the foundation for Singapore’s subsequent success.
When Mr Yong took over as Health Minister in 1963, he restructured the public healthcare system and expanded healthcare services by building more hospitals and outpatient facilities.
He improved children’s health through an effective immunisation campaign, and also introduced school dental clinics and regular medical checkups.
Mr Lee said Mr Yong was one of the Singapore ministers who signed the Separation Agreement in 1965, when Singapore separated from Malaysia.
As the first Communications Minister in 1968, Mr Yong consolidated the bus industry for greater efficiency, and created the Singapore Bus Service in 1973.
To reduce traffic congestion, he took the first steps to control the car population, implementing the Area Licensing Scheme, the precursor to today’s Electronic Road Pricing system.
Mr Lee said although the scheme was controversial at that time, it was effective in controlling traffic congestion and remains a successful case study for other cities today.
Mr Yong relinquished his Communications portfolio in 1975 and remained a minister without portfolio while serving as High Commissioner to Britain until 1976, when he stepped down from the Cabinet.
Mr Yong was later appointed as a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights, where he helped to foster closer inter—ethnic ties and racial harmony.
Mr Lee said Mr Yong’s many contributions will long be remembered.
He had answered the nation’s call at a critical time, and helped to lay the foundations for Singapore’s success.
Mr Lee said his passing is a deep loss to all.
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