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Institute to host exhibition on life of Mr Yusof

The newly-renamed ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute will host a permanent exhibition on the life of Singapore’s first President.

Guests, including ministers and Puan Noor Aishah, touring the exhibition on the life and contributions of Singapore’s first President Yusof Ishak. Photo: Valerie Koh

Guests, including ministers and Puan Noor Aishah, touring the exhibition on the life and contributions of Singapore’s first President Yusof Ishak. Photo: Valerie Koh

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The newly-renamed ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute will host a permanent exhibition on the life of Singapore’s first President.

Sited in the ISEAS library in the National University of Singapore, the exhibition will showcase photographs and quotes about Mr Yusof.

A book, Yusof Ishak — Singapore’s First President, was also launched yesterday.

It was written by ISEAS fellow Norshahril Saat, who trawled through old editions of Malay newspaper Utusan Melayu — first circulated by Mr Yusof and his friends in 1939 — and conducted oral interviews with Mr Yusof’s widow Puan Noor Aishah for his research.

“If one looks at his writing and thinking at that time, one would think that he’s a Malay chauvinist (for setting up the first Malay newspaper here),” said Dr Norshahril.

Seeking to debunk this myth in his book, he argued that Mr Yusof had simply wanted Malays to “have a voice”.

A separate book on the history of ISEAS was also launched — ISEAS: Studying Southeast Asia by veteran journalist Lee Kim Chew.

ISEAS: Studying Southeast Asia traces the history of the think tank, which was set up in 1968.

Then-Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee had written a paper about the importance of studying Indonesia after the Konfrontasi period, and this led to the founding of ISEAS.

But the institute later expanded its focus to include regional issues.

“ISEAS provides a forum for the discussion of contentious issues, for instance, the South China Sea. It is an academic discussion, but academic discussion has a bearing as far as policymakers are concerned, so they’ll take the cues from there,” said Mr Lee.

Of Mr Yusof, Mr Lee said: “There was no doubt he played a crucial unifying role in the tumultuous years of Singapore.

“He took on the responsibilities as a unifying figure from the word ‘go’. During those times, the racial divide was palpable, but he identified his cause in a young Singapore.”

Both books are not for sale, but plans are under way to distribute Yusof Ishak — Singapore’s First President to all schools.

VALERIE KOH

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