Address by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security, at the E.W. Barker Commemorative Book Launch and Scholarship Awards Presentation on 12 October 2021 at the National Institute of Education, Singapore.
The Legacy of Mr E.W. Barker – A Patriot and a Sportsman
Ms Carla Barker,
Ms Deborah Barker,
Ms Megan Barker,
NTU Deputy President and Provost, Prof Ling San,
NIE Director, Prof Christine Goh,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A great pleasure to see many familiar faces in the audience – those who have contributed to sports; those who have contributed to the development of NIE. A very good afternoon to all of you.
I am very pleased to join the Barker family and all of you to launch the E.W. Barker Commemorative Book, and to present the E.W. Barker Scholarship Awards. The event was originally planned to be held last year, but had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, it is still a very significant event and I am delighted that we are able to proceed with it today.
Mr E.W. Barker
Mr E.W. Barker is one of our most important founding fathers, who made significant contributions to the independence and what today is modern Singapore. In 1965, Mr Lee Kuan Yew asked Mr Barker, who was an accomplished lawyer, to draft the Separation Agreement, the Amendment Bill for the Constitution for Malaysia, and the Proclamation of Singapore. These were the founding documents that make us what we are today. Mr Barker drafted, circulated, amended and finalised the text in just 10 days. He then played a key role, together with Dr Goh Keng Swee, in negotiating the terms of Separation with Tun Razak, Malaysia’s then-Deputy Prime Minister, and persuading Malaysia to sign the documents. These important documents, as I said, are the founding documents of modern Singapore and the legal basis for our independence.
As a first-generation minister in our post-independence cabinet, Mr Barker took on 5 different ministerial portfolios over time. He is best remembered as Singapore’s first and longest serving Law Minister, who oversaw the formation and development of our Constitution, and introduced key pieces of legislation needed to govern Singapore, such as the Land Acquisition Act to acquire private land for national development purposes and for all the public works, public buildings and facilities that we have today. He was also our first post-independence Minister for National Development, a position he held for ten years, during which he oversaw HDB’s affordable home ownership programme, the building of ports and roads, land reclamation, and the development of Singapore’s urban landscape. Mr Barker left an indelible mark and a lasting legacy in the history of our modern Singapore.
But today, we will shine the spotlight on what Mr Barker was best loved for, and what he was most passionate about – Mr Barker’s legacy to Singapore’s sporting arena. Mr Barker was an avid athlete who excelled in every sport he played since his student days, including cricket, soccer, rugby, athletics, hockey and badminton. You name it, he played it. Although his cabinet appointments never included sports, he was deeply involved in the development of Singapore sports throughout his political career. He was the driving force behind the building of our iconic National Stadium. I think those of us of a certain age will remember contributing a little bit of our pocket money to have that built. He made sure that it was built in time for the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 1973. Mr Barker was President of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) for 20 years – our longest-serving ever, and President of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Federation. For his contributions, he received the Distinguished Service Award by the United States Sports Academy in 1983, and was also the first Singaporean to be awarded the Olympic Order (Silver) award from the International Olympic Committee.
E.W. Barker Professorship and Scholarship
In honour of Mr. Barker’s important contributions to sports and sports education, the National Institute of Education (NIE) launched the E.W. Barker Professorship and Scholarship in 2002, with the wonderful support and blessings of the family. I was happy to play a small part in this meaningful initiative by serving as the Adviser to its Fundraising Committee, in my capacities then as Minister for Education as well as President of the SNOC. Since 2005, the Professorship has hosted 10 eminent professors and scholars from Australia, Canada, Malaysia, the UK and the US to conduct guest lectures and seminars in Singapore and conduct collaborative research in sport science and management, uplifting sports, professionalism and scientific study to a higher level. Together with the creation of the Singapore Sports School, NIE and the Physical Education and Sports Science (PESS) Academic Group now have a good continuum of sports education and development in Singapore for people who want to take sports seriously, not just for fun although having fun in sports is itself a very important motivating factor. Since 2009, the E.W. Barker Scholarship has been awarded to 33 students, nurturing a new generation of student athletes who are passionate about sports and sport education. 33 students over the last 12 years – it shows how just a few a year, when you add them up over many years, become a large pool, a huge critical mass to develop sports and sports science in Singapore, and take it to a new level. Today, I am happy to present the certificates of the E.W. Barker Scholarship to the 8 deserving recipients for 2019 to 2021.
This commemorative book that we are launching today chronicles the milestones in Mr Barker’s life and legacy, as well as the collective impact that the E.W. Barker Professorship and Scholarship have had in Singapore sports. I thank NIE and the Barker family for coming together to produce this book. It is a fitting tribute to the man, who had always put his nation before self, and who firmly believed in the power of sports to shape a brighter future for his nation – by promoting discipline and sportsmanship, and by building healthy bodies, active minds, and sound character.
E.W. Barker Bursary
Today, I am pleased to announce that NTU and the Barker family will be launching another programme in Mr Barker’s honour – the E.W. Barker Bursary. Up to four bond-free bursaries will be awarded each year to deserving students in sport science and management, to ensure that they have access to high quality sports education regardless of their financial circumstances.
Mr Barker was not just a patriot and an athlete, but also a family man. I am delighted that his daughters Carla and Deborah, both of whom I have known for many years, are with us here today. Not only were your dad and my dad schoolmates in Raffles College, Carla, Deborah and their siblings were schoolmates with my siblings and myself many years ago. Mr Barker passed on to his family not just his love for nation and sports, but also his passion for music. Deborah would know the number of occasions we have had, even official events together, where I always invited her to entertain us a little, and put a little bit more spirit into the proceedings. I remember every occasion with the Barker family to be filled with lots of joy and music, and may that continue into the future.
As we come together to celebrate Mr Barker today, I am confident that his many contributions will continue to strengthen the bonds of our nation and bring our sports development to greater heights. Congratulations on the launch of the commemorative book, and also to all recipients of the E.W. Barker Scholarship. Mr Barker’s life and work, and his love for country and sports is an inspiration to all of us. May Mr Barker’s legacy, continue through these programmes, to inspire all of us to use our talents and abilities to do good, to be a positive influence on others, and to always do our best for Singapore. From this foundation, we hope will flow new inspirational stories that will excite, and energise, motivate and unite Singaporeans for many generations to come.
Congratulations and thank you all very much.
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