“THE brightest stars are those who shine for the benefit of others” – these words aptly describe the late Mr Gurcharanjit Singh. He was the star among his family and friends – a star that shone bright!
Gurcharanjit grew up in a multi-racial Housing Development Board estate at Outram Park in the 1970s. At that time, the Singapore government’s promotion of racial harmony was in its infancy stage and had yet to make an impression on the people. However, to this child, the campaign was irrelevant as race and religion mattered little to him in his daily interactions. He had friends from all creeds and cultures because, to him, everyone was equal, regardless of ethnicity or class. It was this belief that ultimately fashioned the thinking and life of Gurcharanjit and which led him to spend much of his time in public and community service despite working in an extremely challenging legal profession and fulfilling his responsibilities to his beloved family.
Gurcharanjit possessed wisdom far beyond his age, unlike young Singaporeans of his age. He actively participated in many conversations focusing on socio-economic and political issues. This exposure to real world issues affecting Singaporeans expanded his knowledge and awareness, something that would be extremely relevant later in his life. Significantly, it was these early conversations which planted the desire in Gurcharanjit to want to make a difference to the Singapore Sikh community and all Singaporeans.
Gurcharanjit graduated from the University of London and was called to the Singapore Bar as an Advocate and Solicitor in 1998. Viewed as an all-rounded lawyer, he was a consummate advocate with particular strengths in litigation and negotiations. He encapsulated the highest virtues of integrity and honesty expected of members of the Bar.
In a tribute to the memory of Gurcharanjit, his wife, Rajvant wrote: “He was always eager to share his ideas and plans and dispense words of advice. He was also not one to hold any punches. He was always frank, forthright and true to his beliefs. His presence was always felt when he was around and he invariably left his mark in everything he embarked on.”1
To Gurcharanjit, the well-being and interests of his clients were of paramount importance. He fought the cases of his clients with a great degree of passion and confidence. He respected every person whose case he advocated. Although not every outcome was in his client’s favour, he derived great personal satisfaction in doing his best for every case he undertook. The legal fraternity saw in Gurcharanjit all the great qualities of a gentleman and a lawyer. As his fellow partner in Lau & Gur, the law firm in which he practiced, Dr Lau Teik Soon, stated, Gurcharanjit was “his closest legal colleague and a dependable lawyer”2 and one who was highly committed to the legal profession.
Despite his hectic professional career, Gurcharanjit also found time to serve the Sikh community and the larger Singapore community. To him, time was relative to desire – if one had the desire to serve, one would find the time. Gurcharanjit was an extremely dedicated, committed and passionate volunteer. What distinguished him from those around him was his sociable and approachable nature, and his ability to relate to those around him. His best friend and fellow lawyer, Mr Jagjit Singh Gill, remarked that Gurcharanjit “had the uncanny ability to connect with all kinds of people whatever their status, race, creed or background and it, therefore, came as no surprise that he excelled in community work.”3
Gurcharanjit’s involvement in grassroots activities saw him manage a range of portfolios over the years. These included being the Chairman of sub-committees under the Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council and the South West Community Development Council, Vice-Chairman of the Bukit Timah Community Club Management Committee, Chairman of the Community Emergency and Engagement Committee and Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, and Immediate Past Chairman of the Bukit Timah Zone 3 Residents’ Committee.
“Gurcharanjit was an active, enthusiastic and aspiring lawyer who would have achieved prominence in the legal profession. He was diligent and con dent in the conduct of the cases and some judges knew him well – they conveyed to me commendable remarks about him.
Aside from his professional occupation, Gurcharanjit contributed unsel shly to the welfare and well- being of Singaporeans and his exemplary role was recognised by the state. e legal professional has lost a valuable, balanced and stable member.”
Dr Lau Teik Soon,
Former Partner Lau & Gur
As a grassroots volunteer, Gurcharanjit’s compassion and accommodating nature were readily apparent. Although he ended up with many people’s burdens on his shoulders, Gurcharanjit’s calming nature never failed to provide assurances and resolution to his constituents.
Notwithstanding his heavy involvement in grassroots activities, Gurcharanjit always had the Sikh community’s welfare at heart. He envisioned Sikh youth contributing to the cohesion of the community and, consequently, to the fabric of Singapore. His engagement with the Sikh community saw him spending countless hours outside the office addressing the challenges and concerns of the Sikh community. His genuine desire to promote the welfare of the Sikh community led to his active involvement in the Sikh Advisory Board, the Singapore Sikh Education Foundation, the Sikh Welfare Council (SIWEC) and Sri Guru Singh Sabha Youth Wing. As his wife aptly stated, Gurcharanjit just wanted to make life better for his community and the people around him.4
Gurcharanjit’s contribution to the Sikh youth of Singapore is best epitomised by his role as Advisor to Sri Guru Singh Sabha Youth Wing. He took particular pride in the success of the youth. He encouraged them to do their part for the community because he felt that the youth would benefit professionally and personally through such involvement. He believed that they would become more enlightened, compassionate and caring. With his active guidance and encouragement, the youth wing became a vibrant body which organised a range of activities to meet the needs of Sikh youth.
Gurcharanjit’s relentless drive to fulfill his responsibilities in the different facets of his life was truly inspiring and outstanding. His selfless service and contributions to society were recognised when he became the youngest- ever recipient of the Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (the Public Service Star).5 He had earlier received the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (the Public Service Medal).6 Quite apart from the medals, the praiseworthy comments of his fellow grassroots members attested to Gurcharanjit’s high level of rapport, harmony and fellowship with his fellow Singaporeans.
FAMILY: HIS PRIDE AND JOY
Of all his achievements, Gurcharanjit’s greatest pride and joy were his wife, his three children (Roshan, Livraaj and Jasreen) and his mother. He cared deeply about his mother who single-handedly raised his two brothers and him after his father passed away when he was just seven years old. His mother’s sacrifices in raising him motivated him to excel in all he did.
His wife was the pillar of strength in his life. Gurcharanjit courted Rajvant during their days in England when they were both law students. He relied heavily on Rajvant’s support in managing the home and raising the children because his involvement in grassroots activities saw him spending many hours away from the family. Notwithstanding his punishing schedule, Gurcharanjit always endeavoured to make time for his wife and his three children. They completed him.
Gurcharanjit always possessed a desire to deepen his legal knowledge, resulting in his acceptance into the Master of Laws programme at the University of London. Gurcharanjit was to have commenced the course in October 2010. Perhaps fate had other plans. On 3 October 2010, Gurcharanjit suddenly passed away from a heart attack. The unanticipated demise of this committed, caring and loving husband, father and son, honest, helpful and hardworking lawyer, and passionate and dedicated grassroots volunteer left everyone in a state of shock and sadness.
Gurcharanjit may no longer be with us physically but his spirit and ideals continue to live in us. He taught everyone whose life he impacted that the highest virtue was how one lead one’s life. Although his life may have been short, Gurcharanjit’s life was rich, full, respectable and impactful.8
If Gurcharanjit were around us today, he would most likely say that it was not the length of time he spent on Earth that mattered; rather, it was how he lived that counted. In the words of his family and friends: “His legacy [has been] defined by his actions that will last for an eternity, where even words engraved in stone will fade away with time.”8
Gurcharanjit indeed left us a legacy – one that will forever keep his memory alive.
1 Rajvant Kaur, In Memory of Gurcharanjit Singh s/o Dewan Singh (PBM) (BBM) 4 February 1969 – 3 October 2010, Singapore Law Gazette, February 23, 2011.
4 Interview with Ms Rajvant Kaur, August 12, 2015.
5 The Bintang Bakti Masyarakat was instituted in 1963. It is awarded to
any person who has rendered valuable public service to the people of Singapore; or who has distinguished himself or herself in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement. See http://www.pmo.gov.sg/nationaldayawards.
6 The Pingat Bakti Masyarakat was instituted in 1973. The medal is awarded to any person who has rendered commendable public service in Singapore or for his or her achievement in the field of arts and letters, sports, the sciences, business, the professions and the labour movement. Ibid.
7 Rajvant Kaur, In Memory of Gurcharanjit Singh s/o Dewan Singh (PBM) (BBM), op. cit.
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