Today, we honour Prof Jayakumar’s contributions to our legal system both as an academic and a policy-maker. But beyond that, we also honour him for his many contributions to our nation for over four decades.
Prof Jayakumar was born on 12 August 1939 and received his early education at Raffles Institution. He studied law at the University of Singapore, where he won the Adrian Clark Memorial Medal and Leow Chia Heng Prize for being the top student of his batch. He was admitted to the Bar in 1964. Subsequently, he did his LLM at Yale in 1966. Following this, he taught at the Faculty of Law of the University of Singapore, becoming Dean in 1974.
In between, he was seconded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1971 and served as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and High Commissioner to Canada. From 1974 to 1979, he was a member of Singapore’s delegation to the UN Law of the Sea Conference.
In 1980, he was elected Member of Parliament. His association with the Ministry of Law began in 1981, when he was appointed Minister of State for Law as well as Minister of State for Home Affairs. In 1984, he became Second Minister. He succeeded Mr E W Barker as Minister in 1988 and held the portfolio until April 2008, one of the longest serving Law Ministers in the Commonwealth, if not the world. Other portfolios he has held are Minister for Labour, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Foreign Affairs. As we all know, Prof Jayakumar is currently Deputy Prime Minister and Co-ordinating Minister for National Security.
Prof Jayakumar was an active and engaged Law Minister, known and respected by all. It helped of course that he knew most of the profession through his contacts with the Faculty, with which he maintained his links. Until today, he is technically still a Professor of the Faculty of Law of NUS. He was a prime mover for the setting up of the second law school at the Singapore Management University. During his stewardship, departments like the Legal Aid Bureau, the Insolvency and Public Trustee’s Office and Community Mediation Unit office were steadily developed and strengthened. He also oversaw the formation of the ministry’s two Statutory Boards – the Singapore Land Authority, to ensure the optimisation of State Land, and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, to build a robust IP regime. He played a key role in the establishment of the Singapore Academy of Law, and more importantly was responsible for ensuring that the Academy would be adequately and properly funded in order to carry out its statutory unctions. He put his nterest in golf to good use by raising money for the Law Society’s Criminal Legal Aid Scheme through his support for their annual golf tournament for the past nine years.
Prof Jayakumar has also played a key role in representing Singapore’s interests in the international legal arena as Foreign Minister. His expertise in both law and politics, his gravitas and his excellent academic credentials were an inestimable advantage when dealing with foreign diplomats and politicians. He made an immeasurable contribution to Singapore’s success in the recent ICJ proceedings regarding Pedra Branca. Having dealt with the matter from the very start in 1979, it was only fitting that he should be part of the team to bring it to a successful conclusion after almost 30 years.
The Honorary Fellowship for Life and Membership for Life that is bestowed upon Prof Jayakumar today is the Academy’s acknowledgment of his accomplishments and invaluable contributions to the legal profession and the nation. In the 20 years of the Academy’s history, this is only the fifth time that the honour has been conferred.
Mr President, may I now present Prof Jayakumar, Honorary Member for Life and Fellow for Life of the Singapore Academy of Law.
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