Fourth President of
the Republic of Singapore
(2 Sep 1985 to 1 Sep 1993)
Dr Wee Kim Wee was elected the President of the Republic of Singapore by Parliament on 30 August 1985.
Born in Singapore on 4 November 1915, he received his early education at Pearl's Hill School. In January 1930, at the age of 15, he left Raffles Institution after only two years to join the Straits Times as a clerk in the circulation department, later moving to advertising and reporting. Eight months before the outbreak of the Pacific War (1941), he resigned from the Straits Times and joined the United Press Association, an American news agency, which set up its office in Singapore for the first time.
Except for three and a half years during the Japanese occupation of Singapore and ten and a half years as High Commissioner to Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur and Ambassador to Japan and the Republic of Korea in Tokyo, Dr Wee has worked in the news media.
During the attack on Malaya and Singapore, he served in the ARP (air raid precautions). During the occupation of Singapore, he worked as a clerk in Japanese military establishments. When the war ended, he was supervisor and cashier of a large canteen catering to Asian seamen of Japanese merchant ships.
When Singapore was liberated in 1945, Dr Wee rejoined the United Press Association. In 1959 he joined the Straits Times as Deputy Editor (Singapore), heading the editorial department in Singapore. The other editorial executives had moved to Kuala Lumpur.
While at The Straits Times, Dr Wee covered the civil war in the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) at the time when Malaysia sent a special force to join the United Nations Command's peace-keeping force. He also covered the official visits of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew to Indonesia and to several countries in Eastern Europe.
In 1966, Dr Wee was the first Singaporean journalist to enter Jakarta during Confrontation and interview Lieutenant-General Suharto and Foreign Minister Mr Adam Malik when President Sukarno was still confined to the palace in Bogor. Through reports of his exclusive interviews, Singaporeans and Malaysians learned for the first time that Indonesia was keen to end Confrontation.
In 1973, two years before he was due to retire from The Straits Times, the Singapore Government offered him the post of High Commissioner to Malaysia. It was to have been a three-year term, but Dr Wee stayed at the post for seven years, the last two years as dean of the diplomatic corps in Kuala Lumpur. Dr Wee also served as a member of the Singapore delegation to the United Nations General Assembly in 1977.
Dr Wee was appointed Ambassador to Japan in September 1980 and concurrently Ambassador to the Republic of Korea in February 1981. He returned to Singapore in end April 1984 and assumed the chairmanship of the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation.
In his younger days, Dr Wee was an active sportsman. He played badminton, table tennis, basketball and soccer. In 1937, he was junior singles badminton champion of Singapore. He spent many years serving various badminton bodies of Singapore and Malaya (later Malaysia), and had served as president of the Singapore Badminton Association and vice-president of the Badminton Association of Malaya. He had also been active in social services serving in various clubs and associations. For several years, he was chairman of SATA (Singapore Anti-Tuberculosis Association).
Dr Wee served on six statutory boards: Rent Control Board; Film Appeal Committee; Land Acquisition Board; Board of Visiting Justices; National Theatre Trust; and Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. In 1966, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.
Dr Wee was awarded the Public Service Star for his public work in 1963, and in 1979, the Meritorious Service Medal for his diplomatic services.
Dr Wee got married in 1936 to Madam Koh Sok Hiong and had seven children – one son and six daughters. He passed away on 2 May 2005.