Encik Yusof Ishak

Encik Yusof Ishak

The Late
Encik Yusof Ishak

First President of Singapore
(9 Aug 1965 to 23 Nov 1970)

Encik Yusof bin Ishak, was born on 12 August 1910 at Padang Gajah, Trong, about 18 miles from Taiping, Perak.  He was a Malay of Sumatran descent and could trace his lineage on the paternal side to Minangkabau, and on the maternal side to Langkat. They first settled in Penang and later, Perak.

Encik Yusof was the eldest son in a family of nine. His father, Encik Ishak bin Ahmad, was the Acting Director of Fisheries, Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States. Encik Yusof received his early education in a Malay school in Kuala Kurau, Perak. He was later transferred to a Malay School at Taiping.  In 1921, he began his English studies at King Edward VII School, Taiping.

When his civil-servant father was posted to Singapore in 1923, Encik Yusof accompanied his parents and studied at the former Victoria Bridge School until December 1923.  In 1924, he was admitted to Raffles Institution where he passed the Cambridge School Certificate in 1927 with distinction, and prolonged his studies for two more years in the Queen's Scholarship class.

While in school, Encik Yusof joined in practically all forms of sport played by boys. At the Raffles Institution, he played hockey and cricket and took part in swimming, weight lifting, water-polo and boxing. In 1933, he became the Singapore light-weight champion. As the most outstanding cadet of the School Cadet Corps, he became the first student ever in Singapore to have been commissioned by the then Governor as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Cadet Corps. He was a school prefect and was co-editor of the 'Rafflesian'.

After leaving school in 1929, Encik Yusof went into partnership with two friends and embarked on the publication of the "Sportsman", a fortnightly magazine devoted entirely to sports. In 1932, he joined the staff of 'Warta Malaya', the leading Malay newspaper of that time. His journalistic ability took him rapidly from the ranks to the top posts of Assistant Manager and Acting Editor within a short time. In 1938, he resigned from the 'Warta Malaya', and with a few close friends, established the 'Utusan Melayu Press Ltd'. In May 1939, the now well-known 'Utusan Melayu', came into being with Encik Yusof at the helm as its first Managing Director.

During most of the period of the Japanese Occupation (1942-1945), Encik Yusof remained in Malaya and on the capitulation of the Japanese Forces, he returned to Singapore on 3 September 1945, and immediately resumed publication of the 'Utusan Melayu'.

In 1948, Encik Yusof visited Britain as a member of the First Press Delegation. In early 1957, he went to Japan to inspect the latest machinery which the 'Utusan Melayu' had ordered. In May of the same year, he moved to Kuala Lumpur to supervise the construction of the Utusan Building. While in Kuala Lumpur, Encik Yusof was elected President of the Press Club of Malaya. He was the moving spirit behind the 'Utusan Melayu' during the difficult period of Malayan independence.

Encik Yusof also held many distinguished public appointments with the Singapore Government. From 1948 to 1950, he served on the Film Appeal Committee. He was a member of the Nature Reserves Committee for a year, and also of the Malayanisation Commission. In July 1959, he was appointed Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Singapore. On 3 July 1965, Encik Yusof became the Chancellor of the University of Singapore.

Encik Yusof took up appointment as Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore on 3 December 1959.  The Singapore Head of State paid a four-day State Visit with his wife Puan Noor Aishah to Cambodia in April 1963 and subsequently proceeded together in the same month to Mecca to perform the Haj, where they were the State Guests of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A State Visit to Ceylon also took place in May 1963.

Encik Yusof was conferred the First Class Order of the Darjah Kerabat (The Most Esteemed Royal Family Order of Brunei) by the Sultan of Brunei in November 1960 and the Darjah Kebesaran Sri Maharajah Mangku Negara (S.M.N.) by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia in November 1963.

On 9 August 1965, when Singapore ceased to be a state in the Federation of Malaysia and became an independent and sovereign State, Encik Yusof became the first President of the Republic of Singapore. He was re-appointed for a further term of four years on 4 December 1967.

Encik Yusof bin Ishak was married to Puan Noor Aishah and had a son and two daughters.  He passed away on 23 November 1970.