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Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Haji Yusof bin Ishak DUT (First Class), SMN, KStJ (Jawi: يوسف بن إسحاق; /ˈjʊsɒf bɪn ˈɪshɑːk/ YUUSS-off bin ISS-hahk; 12 August 1910 – 23 November 1970) was a Singaporean politician who was the first President of Singapore, serving from 1965 to 1970. He was chosen by the Parliament of Singapore in 1970. Before becoming head-of-state, Yusof was a well-known journalist and co-founded Utusan Melayu, which is still in publication today. He started journalism after he graduated from Raffles Institution in 1929 and in 1932, he joined Warta Malaya, a well-known Malay newspaper company at that time. He left the company in 1938 and co-founded Utusan Melayu.[1]

Yusof Ishak
يوسف بن إسحاق

Yusof bin Ishak
Yusof Ishak.png
President Yusof Ishak Wax Figure at Madame Tussauds Singapore
1st President of Singapore
In office
9 August 1965 (retroactive) – 23 November 1970
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew (1959–1990)
Preceded byNewly created post
(he was previously Yang di-Pertua Negera of Singapura)
Succeeded byYeoh Ghim Seng (Acting President)
Benjamin Henry Sheares (President)
1st Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapura
In office
16 September 1963 (retroactive) – 9 August 1965 (retroactive)
MonarchPutra of Perlis[citation needed]
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Preceded byNewly created post
(he was previously Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore)
Succeeded byPosition abolished
2nd Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore
In office
3 December 1959 – 16 September 1963 (retroactive)
MonarchQueen Elizabeth II
Hisamuddin of Selangor[citation needed]
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Preceded bySir William Allmond Codrington Goode
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Yusof bin Ishak

(1910-08-12)12 August 1910
Terong, Taiping, Perak, Federated Malay States
(now Malaysia)
Died23 November 1970(1970-11-23) (aged 60)
Resting placeKranji State Cemetery
Political party
Noor Aishah Mohammad Salim (m. 19491970)
  • Orkid Kamariah binti Yusof (daughter)
  • "Baba" Imran bin Yusof (son)
  • Zuriana binti Yusof (daughter)
Alma materVictoria School (formerly Victoria Bridge School)
Raffles Institution
(distinction in Cambridge School Certificate)
(awarded Queen's Scholarship)
Military service
AllegianceStraits Settlements (to 1946)
Colony of Singapore (to 1959)
Colony of Singapore (to 1963)
Malaysia (to 1965)
Singapore (to 1970)
Branch/serviceRoyal Malaysian Police.svg Federation of Malaya Police (to 1933)
Malaya Command (to 1957)
Singapore Infantry Regiment (1957-1970)
Badge of the Malaysian Armed Forces.svg Malaysian Armed Forces (1963-1965)
Singapore Armed Forces (1966-1970)
Years of service1929–1970
RankSingapore Army OF5.svg Colonel; CINC
UnitSingapore Infantry Regiment
Singapore Armed Forces
Colonel of the Regiment
Battles/warsWorld War II (1939-1945)

Part of (Cold War)

Tun Yusof held many appointments within the Singaporean government. He served on the Film Appeal Committee from 1948 to 1950 and was also a member of both the Nature Reserves Committee and Malayanisation Commission for a year. In July 1959, he was appointed Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Singapore.[2] He was sworn on 3 December 1959 as Singapore's Yang di-Pertuan Negara (head of state) after the PAP won the first election held in Singapore after Singapore's self-governance.[3] Yusof then became the first President of Singapore after the country gained independence on 9 August 1965.

His portrait appears on the Singapore Portrait Series currency notes introduced in 1999.



Early lifeEdit

Yusof (back row, third from left) and his family in 1933.

Born on 12 August 1910 in Terong, Taiping, Perak Darul Ridzuan, which was then part of the Federated Malay States (present day Malaysia), Yusof was the eldest son in a family of nine. He was of Minangkabau descent from his father's side while his mother was a Malay from the Langkat region in Indonesia.[4] His father, Ishak bin Ahmad, was also a civil servant and held the post of Acting Director of Fisheries, Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States.[5] His brother, Aziz Ishak, was a Malayan journalist and freedom fighter.

Yusof received his early education in a Malay school in Kuala Kurau, Perak and began his English studies in 1921 at King Edward VII School in Taiping, He was then admitted to Victoria Bridge School in 1923 when his father was posted to Singapore. In 1924, he was enrolled in Raffles Institution for his secondary education. During his time in Raffles Institution, he played various sports such as swimming, weight lifting, water-polo, boxing, hockey and cricket and had also represented the school in various sporting events. He was also part of the Singapore National Cadet Corps and was commissioned as the first ever cadet officer in the Corps due to his outstanding performance. Yusof received his Cambridge School Certificate with distinction in 1927, he was also awarded the Queen's Scholarship and decided to prolong his studies at Raffles Institution until 1929.[1]

Journalism careerEdit

After graduating from Raffles Institution in 1929, Yusof began his career as a journalist and went into partnership with two other friends to publish, Sportsman, a sports magazine devoted entirely to sports.[6] In 1932, Yusof joined Warta Malaya, a well-known newspaper during that time.[7] Warta Malaya was heavily influenced by developments in the Middle East and Yusof wanted a newspaper dedicated to Malay issues. He fulfilled his vision by establishing Utusan Melayu with several Malay leaders in Singapore in May 1939.[8]

During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, Utusan Melayu had to stop circulation as machinery used to print the paper were requisitioned to publish the Japanese paper, Berita Malai. Yusof then moved back to Taiping and with the remaining money he had, he opened a provision shop and lived there until the war ended in 1945 and Utusan Melayu resumed publication. In 1957, Yusof moved to Kuala Lumpur and in February 1958, the headquarters of Utusan Melayu was also relocated to the city. During the post-war period, many Malays wanted independence of Malaya from the British and Yusof, fanned this fervour through his publications which resulted in the formation of the United Malay Nationalist Organisation (UMNO) in 1946. However, his democratic ideals were different from UMNO's vision of reestablishing the monarchy of Malaya. This resulted in rising tensions within the Utusan Melayu and in 1959, Yusof had sold his shares he had in the company and resigned as UMNO had bought over almost all of the shares of Utusan Melayu.[8]

Political career and presidencyEdit

Yusof held several appointments within the Singaporean government, he had served on the Film Appeal Committee from 1948 to 1950 and was also a member of both the Nature Reserves Committee and Malayanisation Commission for a year. After his resignation from Utusan Melayu, Yusof took the position of Chairman of the Public Service Commission of Singapore at the invitation of then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.[9]

After PAP's victory from the 1959 Singaporean elections, Yusof was appointed as Yang di-Pertuan Negara and was sworn on 3 December 1959.[10] During his time as Yang di-Pertuan Negara, Singapore was divided by racial conflicts. Yusof actively promoted multiculturalism and reached out to people of all races to help restore trust and confidence after the 1964 racial riots.[11]

On 9 August 1965, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia and became an independent nation. The position of Yang di-Pertuan Negara was abolished and Yusof then became the first President of Singapore. As president, Yusof reached out to the people to reassure citizens astonished by Singapore's expulsion and continued to promote multiculturalism and a national identity within the country by visiting constituencies and reached out to different racial and religious groups.[12]

Yusof served for three terms in office before he died on 23 November 1970 due to heart failure.[13]

Family and personal lifeEdit

Yusof is survived by his wife of twenty one years, Puan Noor Aishah, and their three children, Orkid Kamariah, Imran, and Zuriana.[14] Puan Noor Aishah continued her husband's legacy of public service and was the first Asian to become president of the Singapore Girl Guides Association.[15] She and her now adult children were interviewed for the Channel NewsAsia documentary Daughters of Singapore, which screened in August 2015 as part of the SG50 celebrations and commemorated the spouses of Yusof Ishak and David Marshall, two pioneer leaders of Singapore.[16]

Yusof participated in several sports in his youth. He won the Aw Boon Par Cup for boxing in 1932, and was the national lightweight champion in weightlifting in 1933.[17] One of Yusof's hobbies was photography, and a collection of his photographs was donated to the National Archives of Singapore by his widow, Noor Aishah.[18] He also cultivated orchids,[19] and had the tennis courts at his residence on the Istana grounds, Sri Melati, converted into an orchid garden.[20] He performed the pilgrimage to Mecca in 1963.[21]


The following institutions bear Yusof Ishak's name:

Other memorials include:

  • The current series of Singapore dollar notes, the portrait series issued from 1999 onwards, features Yusof Ishak.
  • In 2014, a wax figure of Yusof was unveiled at Madame Tussauds Singapore.
  • For the celebration of Singapore's 50th anniversary of independence (SG50) in 2015, Yusof Ishak was featured in all set of six SG50 Commemorative Notes for which he champions the caused of meritocracy, multi-racialism and modernization of Singapore.[23]
  • Yusof is buried at Kranji State Cemetery, which is reserved for persons who have made a significant contribution to Singapore.

Titles and stylesEdit

  • 3 December 1959 – 16 September 1963: His Excellency (Paduka Yang Mulia) Inche Yusof bin Ishak, The Yang di-Pertuan Negara
  • 16 September 1963 – 9 August 1965: His Excellency (Tuan Yang Terutama) Tun Yusof bin Ishak, The Yang di-Pertuan Negeri
  • 9 August 1965 – 23 November 1970: His Excellency Inche Yusof bin Ishak, The President of the Republic

Awards and honoursEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Encik Yusof Ishak". Istana Singapore. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  2. ^ "Yusof Head of State. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG". 2 December 1959. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  3. ^ Seet, K. K. (2000). The Istana (pp.88–89). Singapore: Times Editions. Call no.: RART 725.17095957 IST; Singapore rejoices. (1959, 4 December). The Straits Times, p. 1
  4. ^ "Istana - Former Presidents". The Istana. 13 December 2010. Archived from the original on 2 June 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  5. ^ "The Singaporean Yusof Bin Ishak". The Singaporean. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Biography - Yusuf bin Ishak". Knowledge Net. Archived from the original on 18 April 2016. Retrieved 6 April 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  7. ^ "First issue of Warta Malaya (1930–1942) is published - Singapore History". History SG. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  8. ^ a b Kuntom., Ainon (1973). Malay newspapers, 1876-1973: A historical survey of the literature (pp. 27–32).
  9. ^ "Life and times of Yusof Ishak, Singapore's first president". The Straits Times. 18 August 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Yusof Ishak: The man and his passions". AsiaOne. 25 August 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  11. ^ State of Singapore. Government Gazette. Extraordinary. (G.N. 62, p.1055). Singapore. 3 December 1959.
  12. ^ "Straits Times: Iseas to be named after Yusof Ishak on Aug 12". Ministry of Foreign Affairs Singapore.
  13. ^ "Cabinet pays last respects". The Straits Times, (Retrieved from NewspaperSG). 24 November 1970. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  14. ^ "Growing up in the Presidents' shadow". AsiaOne. Archived from the original on 24 March 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  15. ^ "History of Girl Guides Singapore" (PDF). Girl Guides Singapore. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 March 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2019. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  16. ^ "Changing Lives: Puan Dr Noor Aishah". Channel NewsAsia.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Son of S'pore first President: Yes, I taught PM Lee to ride a bike". The New Paper. 23 August 2014. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  18. ^ Khoo, Kevin. "Yusof bin Ishak - The Republic of Singapore's First Head of State". National Archives of Singapore. Archived from the original on 4 January 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  19. ^ "Yusof Ishak: The Man and his Passions". Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  20. ^ "Singapore's history: The Istana". PropertyGuru Singapore. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
  21. ^ "Yusof bin Ishak - The Republic of Singapore's First Head of State". Archives Online. Archived from the original on 3 August 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2017. These pictures were personally taken by President Yusof Ishak during his pilgrimage to Mecca in 1963. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  22. ^ "Yusof Ishak Mosque opens in Woodlands". Channel News Asia. 14 April 2017.
  23. ^ "Set of six SG50 commemorative notes unveiled". TODAY. 19 August 2015.
  24. ^ "Orders and Medals of Yusof Ishak". 31 July 1965. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  25. ^ a b Omar, Marsita (2016). "Yusof bin Ishak". Infopedia / National Library Board, Singapore. Retrieved 23 April 2018.
  26. ^ "Senarai Penuh Penerima Darjah Kebesaran, Bintang dan Pingat Persekutuan Tahun 1963" (PDF).
  27. ^ "Yusof made Knight of St. John". Retrieved 23 April 2018.
Political offices
Preceded by
Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode
Head of State of Singapore
Succeeded by
Benjamin Henry Sheares
Preceded by
Sir William Allmond Codrington Goode
Yang di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Post created
President of Singapore
Succeeded by
Benjamin Henry Sheares