Launch of New Book: Yusof Ishak – A Man of Many Firsts

ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute launched a new pictorial book authored by ISEAS Deputy Director, Dr Ooi Kee Beng, titled Yusof Ishak – A Man of Many Firsts on 5 May 2017. Click on to read more.

Friday, 5 May 2017 –  ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute has launched a new pictorial book titled Yusof Ishak – A Man of Many Firsts, at a seminar attended by members from the public service, private, and education sectors.

The author, Dr Ooi Kee Beng, who has written several noted biographies about early leaders of Singapore and Malaysia, said that writing a biography is somewhat like time travel. The more one writes about people from a specific place and period, the better understanding one has about the subtler realities and the deeper levels of struggle of that time and place.


From Left to Right: Dr Norshahril Saat (Discussant), Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute; Dr Ooi Kee Beng (Author of Yusof Ishak – A Man of Many Firsts), Deputy Director, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Instutute; Professor Dato’ Dr Ahmad Murad Merican (Seminar Speaker). Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

Mr Yusof Ishak, the first president of Singapore, was especially interesting not only for developing Utusan Melayu into the influential newspaper it was in the 1950s, but also for how his principles of personal integrity and mutual respect saw him rise splendidly to the occasion when he was offered and accepted the highest office in the land in 1959.

Dr Norshahril, discussant at the seminar, highlighted three learning points from his study of Yusof Ishak. First, Encik Yusof was a genuine believer of multiculturalism. He believed in equality of the public sphere. Second, he was a progressive citizen, and also a Muslim. Encik Yusof was raised in a progressive religious tradition. Third, Encik Yusof believed that success is not solely based on academic achievements.


Source: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

Over 50 people attended this event.


Source: ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute

Professor Dat’ Dr Ahmad Murad Merican (on the right) , who launched the book, presented a history of Malay journalism, and discussed the social consciousness and strong sense of justice that informed much of Yusof Ishak’s life as a journalist and as President. Dr Merican highlighted that Singapore was the hub of Malay cultural and intellectual expression, and traced the evolution of Malay journalism until the formation of Utusan Melayu in 1939. He posited that Yusof Ishak was at the centre of fateful interplay of history, geography, and nationhood.

For media coverage of the event, click here.