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Ong Boon Tat – Peranakan businessman

Boon Tat Street, right in the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District, is named after Ong Boon Tat (1888-1941) – a well-known, wealthy, Peranakan businessman who also served as Municipal Commissioner and Justice of Peace. Boon Tat Street is parallel to Cross Street and runs from Amoy Street and intersecting with Telok Ayer Street, Robinson Road, Shenton Way and Raffles Quay. Interesting landmarks on Boon Tat Street include the SGX Centre (Singapore Exchange), the iconic neo-classical Ogilvy Centre, and the distinctive Octagon and historic landmark, Lau Pa Sat. And most importantly for many of us, part of Boon Tat Street is closed to traffic in the evenings to make way for dining at the row of Satay stalls just outside Lau Pa Sat. Boon Tat Street used to be known as Japan Street before 1946 which possibly hints at another more benevolent role the Japanese played in Singapore long before the war and the terrible occupation. The Municipal Commissioners had the street renamed in 1946, soon after the Japanese occupation ended on 12 September 1945. It was the first street to be renamed after the war. Ong Boon Tat was born in 1888, the elder son of Ong Sam Leong…

Lee Hoon Leong – grandfather of Lee Kuan Yew

Situated at a nondescript corner of Bukit Brown Cemetery sits the grave of one Lee Hoon Leong. If one had not known better, one would just give it a cursory glance, just as one would perhaps the more than 100,000 other graves at the graveyard just off Lornie Road. But Lee Hoon Leong is no ordinary man, given the distinguished lineage of which he is part of, and his role especially in the early life of his grandson, Lee Kuan Yew, the former Prime Minister and Minister Mentor of Singapore. In his memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew refers to his immigrant background as a fourth-generation Chinese Singaporean: his Hakka great-grandfather, Lee Bok Boon (born 1846), emigrated from the Dapu county of Guangdong province to the Straits Settlements in 1862. “My grandfather, Lee Hoon Leong – whom I addressed as Kung or ‘grandfather’ in Chinese – was born in Singapore in 1871, and according to my father was educated at Raffles Institution up to standard V, which would be today’s lower secondary school,” Lee Kuan Yew said in his memoirs. “He himself told me he worked as a dispenser (an unqualified pharmacist) when he left school, but after a few years became…