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SMU law school renamed after ex-CJ

SMU law school renamed after ex-CJ

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 09 Apr 2021
Author: Selina Lum

The new name takes effect on April 11, the day on which Mr Yong would have turned 95.

Former chief justice Yong Pung How had such a profound and immense impact on the legal profession that, more than three decades after he set out to transform Singapore's justice system, his achievement is still talked about around the world today.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said this yesterday at a ceremony to mark the renaming of the Singapore Management University (SMU) law school after Mr Yong, who was Singapore's second chief justice and SMU's third chancellor.

The new name - Yong Pung How School of Law - takes effect on Sunday, the day on which Mr Yong would have turned 95.

He was 93 when he died in January last year.

More than 200 guests - including Mr Yong's widow, Mrs Yong Wei Woo, 91, and their daughter, Ms Yong Ying-I, 57 - attended the event, either in person at the SMU Hall or virtually.

In the audience were Education Minister Lawrence Wong, Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong, SMU honorary patron Tony Tan Keng Yam, SMU senior management, as well as faculty, students and alumni of the law school.

CJ Menon said: "Many in this audience lived through the years when (Chief Justice Yong) led tirelessly from the front and, with incredible determination, fundamentally transformed and modernised the administration of justice in Singapore."

In his speech, he told of how, when he was in Jamaica recently to deliver a keynote speech to judges there, Mr Yong's work "was the subject of much attention".

When Mr Yong took over as Singapore's top judge in 1990, he revamped court processes and implemented measures that cleared a backlog of over 2,000 cases.

CJ Menon also spoke of Mr Yong's "strong nurturing instinct" which led him to take a particular interest in the training and education of young lawyers and students.

Mr Yong started the Justices' Law Clerk scheme to enlist talented young officers into the legal service. "More than two decades later, several of them were among his most regular visitors in hospital during his last illness," said CJ Menon.

Ms Yong said her father was happy to make gifts to establish the Yong Pung How Chair Professorship, two research centres in law, and the Yong Pung How Bursaries to benefit students with financial needs.

In his speech, Professor Goh Yihan, current dean of the law school, said: "We want to fashion the Yong Pung How School of Law as an institution that prepares our graduates not only for the practice of law but also the future."

At the ceremony, SMU president Lily Kong presented to Mr Yong's family a specially produced pictorial book highlighting his key achievements.


Ex-CJ sought to give back to country, says daughter

His daughter's education was a main reason why former chief justice Yong Pung How immigrated to Singapore from Malaysia with his family.

This was revealed by his only child, Ms Yong Ying-I, in a rare public speech yesterday at a ceremony to mark the renaming of the Singapore Management University law school after him.

Ms Yong, 57, said that when she was due to enter Primary 1, schools in Malaysia were switching to teach in Malay, which her parents did not want for her.

She also shared why her father, then a banker, had accepted the request by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1989 to lead the judiciary. "My family was appreciative of becoming Singaporean. My father wanted to give back where he could, to the country that had accepted us and gave us opportunities to contribute to something bigger than ourselves," she said.

Mr Yong was born in Kuala Lumpur in 1926. He read law at Cambridge University, where he struck up a lifelong friendship with Mr Lee.

Mr Yong's family moved to Singapore in the early 1970s. He went into merchant banking and helped form Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC. He also led the Monetary Authority of Singapore before returning to OCBC Bank as chairman.

Ms Yong, a permanent secretary at the Ministry of Communications and Information, said: "We were happy to take up Singaporean citizenship, which came with the GIC role."

She said her father believed in education and talent development, pushing for more degrees and diplomas for those in the legal service.

She said he also believed in service to others. "Your achievements can give the world new services and give you societal recognition and standing. But your legacy, after you have gone, is what you have done for others, how you have done your part to make the world a better place."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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