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Wee Kim Wee (Chinese: 黄金辉; pinyin: Huáng Jīnhuī; 4 November 1915 – 2 May 2005) was a Singaporean politician and the fourth President of Singapore from 1985 to 1993. He was chosen by the Parliament of Singapore to be President of Singapore and was sworn in on 2 September 1985.

Wee Kim Wee
4th President of Singapore
In office
2 September 1985 – 1 September 1993
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Goh Chok Tong
Preceded byYeoh Ghim Seng (Acting President)
Devan Nair (President)
Succeeded byOng Teng Chong
Ambassador to the Republic of Korea
In office
February 1981 – April 1984
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Ambassador to Japan
In office
September 1980 – April 1984
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
High Commissioner to Malaysia
In office
1973 – September 1980
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Personal details
Born(1915-11-04)4 November 1915
Singapore, Straits Settlements
Died2 May 2005(2005-05-02) (aged 89)
Resting placeMandai Columbarium
Political party
Spouse(s)Koh Sok Hiong
Alma materOutram School
OccupationPolitician, journalist, diplomat

Early lifeEdit

Born in Singapore on 4 November 1915, Wee Kim Wee was the son of Wee Choong Lay and Chua Hay Luan. His father Wee Choong Lay was a ship purser but went blind when Wee Kim Wee was six years old. His mother Chua Hay Luan was the younger sister of Chua Kim Teng, the father of Chua Jim Neo and maternal grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew.[1][2][3] Wee lost his father when he was eight and his mother when he was nineteen. He received his primary education at Pearl's Hill School before enrolling in Raffles Institution for his secondary education. However, Wee did not complete his secondary education and dropped out after two years at the institution in January 1930.[4]


1930 to 1973: JournalismEdit

In 1930, Wee started out as a clerk working for the newspaper The Straits Times, before becoming a reporter focusing on political issues. He eventually became one of the paper's main reporters. He married his wife, Koh Sok Hiong (Chinese: 许淑香) in 1936 when he was a 21 year old reporter.[5] In 1941 he joined the United Press Associations, and was its chief correspondent in the 1950s. He returned to The Straits Times in 1959, and was appointed deputy editor in Singapore. In 1963 he was awarded the Public Service Medal. In 1966, he interviewed the former Indonesian president Suharto, reporting the latter's intention to end the three-year confrontation with Malaysia (see Konfrontasi). He broke the news with a front-page headline using Suharto's own words: "Suharto: 'Peace: The sooner the better'".[6] In 1973, he was awarded the Public Service Star as the editorial manager of the Straits Times.[7]

1973 to 1984: DiplomacyEdit

Wee retired in 1973 from journalism[8] to become the High Commissioner to Malaysia, a position he held for seven years. He was then appointed ambassador to Japan in September 1980, and to South Korea in February 1981. At the end of his diplomatic career in 1984, he was appointed chairman of the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation – the predecessor of the current MediaCorp Studios.[7]

1985 to 1993: PresidencyEdit

Wee became the President of Singapore & also the Commander-in-Chief in 1985, and was also appointed as the Chancellor of National University of Singapore during the same period. Until Wee's second term as President, the selection of the presidential candidate was determined solely by the Parliament of Singapore. During Wee's second term, the Singapore Parliament amended the constitution in January 1991 to allow for the direct election of the President, who could veto civil service appointments and the use of government reserves.

The creation of an elected presidency was a major constitutional and political change in Singapore's history as under the revision, as the President is empowered to veto government budgets and appointments to public office. He can examine the government's exercise of its powers under the Internal Security Act and religious harmony laws and investigate cases of corruption.

For the ensuing initial presidential election, the first in Singapore to be decided by popular poll, Wee decided not to enter his candidacy and went into retirement upon the completion of his second and final term as President. He was also awarded the Darjah Utama Temasek in 1993.[7]

Later years (1994–2004)Edit

After retiring from presidency, Wee was appointed as deputy registrar of marriages. He was then awarded the Doctor of Letters (honorary degree) by the National University of Singapore for his contributions to public service and his contributions to the University of Singapore as its chancellor till 1993.

Wee became the Director of Cathay Organisation Holdings in 1999.[7]

In 2004, Wee published his autobiography, Glimpses and Reflections. From the royalties and other donations, half a million Singapore dollars were donated to eight charities.

Death and LegacyEdit

Wee died of prostate cancer in his home at Siglap on 2 May 2005 at 5:10am SST at the age of 89. Before his death, he had asked to be cremated and for the ashes to be placed at Mandai Columbarium with those of ordinary citizens instead of Kranji War Cemetery, where late dignitaries are usually buried. His state funeral saw a large crowd who attended to pay their last respects at the Istana, where his body lied in state.

Wee was survived by his wife of 69 years, Koh Sok Hiong (1916 - 2018)[9],[10] their son Bill Wee Hock Kee (1936 - 2015), six daughters, 13 grandchildren, and 14 great-grandchildren.

In 2006, Nanyang Technological University renamed its School of Communication Studies after Wee to the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.[11]

The Centre for Cross-Cultural Studies at Singapore Management University, renamed after Wee as the Wee Kim Wee Centre.[12]

Wee Kim Wee Legacy Fund at Nanyang Technological University[13] is named after him.


  1. ^ Lee Kuan Yew and late president Wee Kim Wee are related
  2. ^ CHUA Lay Huan
  3. ^ CHUA Kim Teng, 蔡金鼎
  4. ^ "Dr Wee Kim Wee". Istana Singapore. Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  5. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 8 July 2018. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Excerpt of the interview with Suharto". Singapore Press Holdings. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d "Wee Kim Wee". National Library Board. Archived from the original on 9 January 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Wee Kim Wee". Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  9. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on 8 July 2018. Retrieved 8 July 2018.
  10. ^ "Lee Kuan Yew and late president Wee Kim Wee are related". Veritas. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  11. ^ "History of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information". Nanyang Technological University. Archived from the original on 2 October 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  12. ^ "Wee Kim Wee Centre". Archived from the original on 1 May 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  13. ^ "Wee Kim Wee Legacy Fund". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2015.


External linksEdit