04 December 2016
In early August 1965, Barker received a phone call from the Cameron Highlands. He later told this story as a lesson in phone manners:
“Twenty years ago, when we were still in Malaysia, I received a phone call from the Cameron Highlands. I heard a faint voice and I thought they must have been having a thunderstorm over there. The voice said, ‘Harry speaking.’ Since I knew quite a few Harrys – there was Harry, my footballer friend, Harry the lawyer and Harry, my accountant friend – I said, ‘Harry who?’ Then came the reply, ‘Harry Lee Kuan Yew, you bloody fool!’ and ever since then, I have never asked ‘who?’ when answering the phone.”
It was quintessential Barker to tell self-deprecating jokes in public, while not revealing his own role in historic events. With friends, he would sometimes let slip the significance of his stories. Leo Tan, former dean of the National Institute of Education, recalled joining Barker for drinks at the Singapore Recreation Club one evening. As Barker sipped his Johnny Walker Black Label, he launched into his “Harry who?” story. As the laughter died away, Barker revealed that it was the call summoning him to Kuala Lumpur to finalise the separation agreements with the Malaysians.
… The author Susan Sim is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and a former Singapore diplomat and journalist. Her book has just been released.
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 06/12/2016