Tributes to Maurice Baker remembered how he laid foundations for S’pore’s diplomatic relations

He was remembered as a pioneer.

By Tanya Ong | July 13, 2017

Singapore’s first-generation diplomat, Maurice Baker, passed away on July 11.

Baker served as High Commissioner to India and Malaysia, as well as Ambassador to Philippines and Nepal. During his career, he helped to build strong relations between Singapore and these countries.

Out of the many tasks he faced, Baker was well-known for his efforts in effectively managing Singapore-Malaysia relations in the 60s.  This was a particularly crucial period because the tensions from separation in 1965 were still fresh. As High Commissioner to Malaysia, Baker worked to improve the relationship.

Upon his passing, several leaders such as PM Lee Hsien Loong, President Tony Tan and Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, have written condolence letters and tributes.

In these tributes, both PM Lee and President Tony Tan have noted Baker’s contributions to improving Singapore-Malaysia ties:

In PM Lee’s Facebook post, he said:

Maurice called himself an “accidental diplomat”, but he was a natural: affable and with a gift for getting along with people. He is best remembered for his role managing our relations with Malaysia, the country of his birth. He got along exceedingly well with four Malaysian PMs during his tenure.” 

Here is the full Facebook post:

Baker’s role in improving Singapore-Malaysia ties was also briefly outlined in President Tony Tan’s condolence letter, who added that Baker was a man of great humility:

“During Mr Baker’s long and distinguished diplomatic career, he made particularly significant contributions during his two postings in Kuala Lumpur. When he was first appointed High Commissioner to Malaysia in 1969, Singapore had just separated from Malaysia and Malaysia was in a state of emergency after the 1969 racial riots. Amidst the tumultuous times, Mr Baker played a key role in rebuilding Singapore’s ties with Malaysia. He was resourceful and tapped on his good personal relations with the Malaysian leaders. Despite the momentous contributions he made in that important chapter of Singapore’s history, Mr Baker remained humble and once described himself as a “novice” in international affairs during that period.”

Beyond his achievements in improving Singapore-Malaysia relations, Baker was also known for being a pioneer. He put Singapore on the world map and laid the foundations for Singapore’s role in international relations during her early years.

In Vivian Balakrishnan’s Facebook post, he urged Singaporeans to remember the contributions of pioneers like Baker:

“Deeply saddened by the passing of Mr Maurice Baker, one of our pioneer generation diplomats who had flown the Singapore flag in India, Nepal, Malaysia, and the Philippines. He lived a full life and served our country with distinction. As we continue to safeguard and advance our national interests in the world, we will always remember the contributions of our pioneers. Our deepest condolences to his wife Barbara and his family, including his son Bernard Baker who carries on his good work as our High Commissioner in Wellington.”

The full post can be read here:


Top image from NAS.

Related Articles:

S’pore’s first generation diplomat Maurice Baker has died at 97

LKY helped Maurice Baker out of depression because they were close friends

Maurice Baker’s friendship with Tun Razak improved S’pore-M’sia relations amidst tensions

Maurice Baker advocated independence for S’pore & Malaya as a student activist in London


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About Tanya Ong

Tanya is a keen bean who strives to put the “art” in “articulate”. She also knows pi to the 35th decimal place for absolutely no reason at all.

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