Monday, January 7, 2013

An Unknown Singapore Pioneer

Chew Joo Chiat

Chew Joo Chiat was an unknown Singapore Pioneer. He helped in the economy and development of Singapore, especially in Joo Chiat area. He was a housing developer in Geylang opposite Paya Lebar, building shops and residential houses before the turn of the 21st century. He was a planter owning spice plantations producing pepper, nutmeg and gambier. His coconut plantations produced copra. All the products from his estates were exported to Europe and America. In the early 1920s there was a migration of population moving to the east coast area known verbally as Katong. Chew Joo Chiat saw a housing need. He cleared his plantations and divided his lands into parcels of building plots. He became a housing developer once more. He also owned three rubber plantations and the largest was 64 acres. They were at Bukit Timah, Mandai and Changi, all with factories producing rubber sheets for export to Europe and America. As a planter and housing developer he provided jobs to the people. The goods exported overseas brought in foreign exchange to the country. Therefore, he made significant contributions to Singapore across the various sectors such as in economy, commerce and history. But he was an unknown Singapore pioneer.
In 2008 I chanced upon a list of past Singapore pioneers buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery. The list of names were compiled by the Asia Paranormal Investigators (API). Chew Joo Chiat’s name was not there. I wrote to them in April and May 2009. Raymond Goh replied favourably. After some verifications Chew Joo Chiat’s name was put on the list of Singapore pioneers buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery.

The Sunday Times dated June 10, 2012 published an article "New book features famous Hokkiens"
A new book to celebrate Singapore’s prominent Hokkiens will be available from November. Published by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK), the 400 pages book will feature 150 Hokkien Singaporeans.

I checked SHHK’s website for the list of 150 famous Hokkien Singaporeans but Chew Joo Chiat’s name was missing. I was not only disappointed but was also overwhelm with anger and frustration. How could a well known Hokkien son who had contributed so much to the country be excluded from the list? After my intervention I was informed by the manager of SHHK that his name would be in the publication. 

Recently the Minisry of Education was going to produce an educational video entitled "More Than A Name" and asked me for permission to use Chew Joo Chiat's photo. I gladly gave my permission.

                                   Shooting movie at Chew Joo Chiat's tomb

A documentary ‘History From The Hills’ about past Singapore pioneers buried at Bukit Brown Cemetery in 8 episodes will be telecast in okto channels starting Wed 9 January 2013 at 10.00 pm. Chew Joo Chiat’s story will be featured in the 4th episode on 30.01.2013

Finally Chew Joo Chiat has been recognised as a past Singapore pioneer.

1 comment:

stephleong said...

Dear Mr Chew,

I am Steph from Murdoch University/Kaplain singapore, doing a tourism project with Joo Chiat as focus. The goal of the project is to come up with a plan that can tackle the issues faced by Joo Chiat of today, and positively redevelop the area, raising awareness of the Culture and Heritage in Joo Chiat.

My group and i came across your blog while doing our research and we are amazed and intrigued by your vast experience and knowledge in the history and current events of Joo Chiat.

We would be delighted if you would be happy to share with us your thoughts and views in this area, and if possible, we would love to speak to you more on this topic.

Best regards,
Steph Leong