Former Singapore envoy and close friend of Tun Razak dies

Maurice-BakerSINGAPORE: Pioneer-generation Singapore diplomat Maurice Baker, a close friend of Malaysia’s second prime minister, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, died yesterday.

He was 97.

The Straits Times reported that Baker was high commissioner to Malaysia from 1969 to 1971, and from 1980 to 1988.

His younger son, Bernard, 60, Singapore’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, was quoted as saying by the newspaper that his father died of old age at home about noon.

“He had a good innings, he lived a good life,” he said using a popular cricket analogy.

The report said Baker was Singapore’s first high commissioner to India, and also served as ambassador to Nepal and the Philippines.

The Straits Times reported that Baker was born in Kedah in 1920.

He came to Singapore when he was 18 to attend Raffles College, and won the Queen’s scholarship in 1941 with the aim of becoming a teacher.

However, his plans for further studies were disrupted by the Japanese Occupation.

Baker was only able to take up the scholarship at King’s College, London in 1948, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in English.

He was an activist during his student days and was one of the founding members of the Malayan Forum which advocated for independence for Malaya and Singapore, together with Goh Keng Swee and Razak.

Goh would go on to become deputy prime minister of Singapore while Razak would become Malaysia’s prime minister, said the report.

According to the report, it was also during his time in London that he met his future wife, Barbara Balhetchet, a Singaporean teacher studying in London.

She was also a member of the Malayan Students’ Union, of which he was president. They married in London in 1952.

When Baker returned to Singapore, he found that the British had blacklisted him for his political activism in London.

But he was able to find work teaching at Bartley Secondary School and Victoria School, and later as an English lecturer at then-University of Malaya in 1955, said the report.

In 1967, he began his diplomatic career as Singapore’s first high commissioner to India, and became the concurrent ambassador to Nepal in 1969.

He then represented Singapore in Kuala Lumpur from 1969 to 1971.

He was appointed to the post as he had close ties with Abdul Razak, who became prime minister in 1970, from their student days in London.

Baker also served as pro-chancellor of the National University of Singapore from 1989 until his retirement in 2000.

He is survived by widow, Barbara, sons Edmund and Bernard, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.