Three public service veterans top Singapore's National Day Awards list


The Distinguished Service Order is awarded to (from left) veteran diplomat Gopinath Pillai, PSC chairman Lee Tzu Yang and the Ministry of Health's chief health scientist Tan Chorh Chuan. - COURTESY OF GOPINATH PILLAI, LIANHE ZAOBAO, RENDY ARYANTO

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Three Singaporeans with a long record of public service have been conferred the Distinguished Service Order, one of the Republic's top national honours, for their contributions to the country over the years.

They are among 6,258 individuals - including public servants, community and grassroots leaders and educators - who will receive National Day honours this year.

The Distinguished Service Order, the highest accolade given out this year, is awarded to veteran diplomat and former Indian Heritage Centre advisory board chairman Gopinath Pillai, 84; Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman Lee Tzu Yang, 67; and the Ministry of Health's (MOH) chief health scientist Tan Chorh Chuan, 62.

Pillai, who is a former ambassador-at-large, facilitated greater synergy and interaction between India and Singapore, according to his award citation.

As chairman of the Institute of South Asian Studies at National University of Singapore (NUS) from 2004 to 2021, Pillai played a leading role in fostering Singapore-India relations by building up deep knowledge on India.

He was also involved in various organisations that played a key role in Singapore's social development, and held roles including as chairman of the Hindu Advisory Board from 1990 to 1999 and as founding chairman of NTUC FairPrice Co-operative from 1983 to 1993.

Lee, who has been PSC chairman since 2018, was recognised for his contribution to the public service, education and the arts.

Under his leadership, the PSC brought in a more diverse pool of scholarship candidates. He is also chair of the board of trustees of the Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Esplanade and the Founders' Memorial Steering Committee.

"This is an honour I humbly accept on behalf of others who work with me. In my short time on the PSC, I have seen members and secretariat work tirelessly to increase our reach for diversity in talent, and to improve selection of strengths and traits, to enable the public service to do an even better job," Lee said as he also acknowledged the contributions of his colleagues on the various boards.

Prof Tan, who is also executive director of the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation, said he was thankful for the opportunity to work in three areas that mean a great deal to him.

These are: improving health and healthcare, building the local research and innovation ecosystem, and contributing to the transformation of NUS. He was NUS president from 2008 to 2017.

"What was especially exciting and meaningful for me was the chance to be involved in creating and strengthening bridges between these sectors, to increase the overall impact," he said.

He also highlighted the strength, commitment and resilience of those he had worked with along the way, in particular during the two most challenging periods he encountered - the Sars epidemic in 2003, when he was director of medical services, and the current Covid-19 pandemic.

Four veterans in their fields were conferred the next highest award this year, the Meritorious Service Medal.

They are Chan Yeng Kit, permanent secretary at MOH; Dr Andrew Phang, Justice of the Court of Appeal; Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT; and David Wong, chairman of Republic Polytechnic.

Four foreign business leaders were among 67 individuals to be recognised with a Public Service Star for their contributions to Singapore.

Marcus Wallenberg, 65, a Swedish member of the Temasek International Panel, was also Temasek's first international board director, serving from 2008 to 2020.

The veteran investor, who chairs northern European financial services group SEB, said: "I am deeply honoured to have received this award. Working with Temasek and Singapore for many years has been a true pleasure, as well as an opportunity for me to widen my perspectives and learn a lot from many exceptional people."

Sir James Dyson, 75, the British founder and chairman of home appliance giant Dyson, said the award was a great honour and recognition of the whole Dyson team in Singapore.

"Today, we proudly call the historic St James Power Station our global headquarters and our wonderful Singapore engineers and scientists are driving exciting research programmes with Singapore's excellent universities - it is a highly supportive environment for a high-technology manufacturer such as Dyson," he said. The company's global headquarters officially moved to Singapore in March this year.

Also recognised are Shimano Yozo, Singapore's Honorary Consul-General in Osaka, Japan, who is chairman and chief executive of bicycle component manufacturing company Shimano; and Bill Winters, a member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore's International Advisory Panel and group CEO of Standard Chartered Bank.

One recipient conferred honours posthumously is Dr Agnes Koong, who was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze).

The former community health director at SingHealth Polyclinics died in 2021 at age 44 from leukaemia. She was also clinic director at Marine Parade Polyclinic from 2012 to 2019, where she oversaw the launch of a locker box service that allowed patients, especially the elderly, to pick up urgent medication after hours.

The late Subaraj Rajathurai, a wildlife consultant and well-known conservationist, is conferred the Public Service Medal (Posthumous). Subaraj died in October 2019, aged 56.

His wife, former nurse Shamla Subaraj, said she and her two sons are deeply appreciative of the award.

"It is surreal - I know he has done a lot for Singapore, especially for ecotourism. He would be chuffed, if he is listening from up there," she said. "He made his passion his work. It resonated with him as he was also very passionate when it came to wildlife, and he lived his life fighting for the wildlife and being a voice for the animals."

A full list of the 2022 National Day Award recipients is available at the Prime Minister's Office website.

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