Wee Chong Jin DUBC (黄宗仁; 28 September 1915 – 5 June 2005) was a Singaporean judge and the first Chief Justice of the country. Born in Penang, he was the first Asian lawyer to be appointed a judge at the Supreme Court of Singapore. He served in the position of Chief Justice for 27 years, making him the longest-serving chief justice in the Commonwealth.
|Wee Chong Jin|
Portrait of Singapore's 2nd Acting President
|1st Chief Justice of Singapore|
5 January 1963 – 27 September 1990
|Appointed by||Yusof Ishak|
Sir Alan Rose|
(Chief Justice of British Colonial Singapore)
|Succeeded by||Yong Pung How|
|Head, Presidential Council for Religious Harmony|
|President of Singapore |
28 March 1985 – 29 March 1985
|Prime Minister||Lee Kuan Yew|
|Preceded by||Devan Nair (President)|
|Succeeded by||Yeoh Ghim Seng (President)|
28 September 1915|
(then the Straits Settlements, British Malaya)
5 June 2005 (aged 89)|
|Spouse(s)||Cecilia Mary Henderson|
|Alma mater||St John's College, Cambridge|
|Religion||Christianity (Roman Catholic)|
|Hanyu Pinyin||Huáng Zhōngrén|
|Hokkien POJ||Ûi Chhung-Yĭn|
He was born in Penang to parents Wee Gim Puay and Lim Paik Yew. He received his early education at the Penang Free School, and read law at St John's College, Cambridge. He was called to Bar at the Middle Temple in November 1938, and was admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of Straits Settlements in 1940 upon returning to Penang.
Wee practised law in Malaysia and Singapore from 1940 to 1957, with the firm Wee Swee Teow and Co.
Wee became the first Asian lawyer to be appointed to the position of a judge at the Supreme Court of Singapore on 15 August 1957, and subsequently appointed Chief Justice of Singapore on 5 January 1963. His appointment as Chief Justice, marked the end of the century-old tradition of appointing British Chief Justices – the last of whom was Sir Alan Rose – for Singapore. Wee remained in the position for 27 years, making him the longest-serving chief justice not only in Singapore, but also in the Commonwealth.
Wee also served as the first chairman of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights from 1973 and remained at its helm for 18 years. Wee assumed the post of the acting President of Singapore for two days when Devan Nair stepped down as President. Wee Chong Jin had also stepped in when Singapore's heads of state were either away or indisposed. He had stood in for Yusof Ishak when he was Yang di-Pertuan Negara and also for President Benjamin Sheares. He was the first president of the Singapore Academy of Law in 1988. In August 1991, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In April 1992, Wee was made an Honorary Member and Fellow of the Singapore Academy of Law for life – the highest honour made to a person by the Academy. He served as a legal consultant of the Supreme Court of Singapore after his retirement on 27 September 1990, and was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004.
Wee was also known for his love for sports, as he was an outstanding cricketer for Cambridge University in 1937 and a keen golfer serving as President of the Singapore Golf Association from 1962 to 2002. According to Subhas Anandan, he "loved golf more than law, so much so that there was a backlog of cases as far back as five to six years. Parties had to wait that long before they could hear their civil cases. It was worse for criminal cases as the accused persons had to stay in remand prison for as long as between five and seven years for their trial to be heard, and if they were acquitted for the offence, no compensation was paid for their time in prison. Such was the situation in the system that made many angry. The perception was that he didn’t seem to bother. In the end, when he was to retire, many said that it was high time that he left and a more efficient system be put in place.”
Wee died on 5 June 2005 of complications from lung and brain cancer, and a funeral was held at the Catholic Church of St. Ignatius at King's Road in Bukit Timah before his body was cremated at the Mandai Crematorium. Wee is survived by his wife, Cecilia Henderson, three sons, Laurence, John and Patrick, and one daughter, Veronica, and his grandchildren, Laura, Nicole, David and Michael.
| Chief Justice of Singapore
Yong Pung How