Professor Tommy Koh is one who is tops on my list of most respected and admired men. My first encounter with this remarkable human being was at a Very Special Arts exhibition eons ago. As a novice who was uncomfortable with social fraternising, I moved away as the entourage of the VVIPs with journalists, photographers and TV cameras inched closer. His secretary, I think, advanced forward and told me to ‘stay put’ as the GOH wanted to have a few words with me. I felt humbly honoured and warmed up to him in subsequent meetings thereafter. He was there at charity fundraisers and other occasions doing his part in helping NGOs, VWOs and self-help groups.
I met him again in the Wataboshi Music Festival where he was GOH, at a Singapore Labour Foundation event where I believe he is the Patron. My mother talked with him non-stop yet he was more patient with her than I ever could. That was unforgettable. His lobbying for accessible public transport for the disabled is a meritorious deed I am ever grateful for.
So with a hopeful heart, I emailed about writing the foreword. It was a joy to receive a ‘yes’ reply from him. Handing the book to him personally was itself an experience. All this led to the chance of savouring the tasty popiah of the famous ‘JooChiat’ name, in the equally beautiful cafeteria at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs premises. A casual chat over food and coffee cemented my high regard for our Ambassador-at-large. He paid the bill too!