J.Y. Pillay, Acting President (since Sept 1, 2017)
Joseph Yuvaraj Pillay, DUNU (First Class) (born 30 March 1934), also known as J. Y. Pillay, is the chairman of the Singapore Council of Presidential Advisers. He has been appointed acting President of Singapore following the end of President Tony Tan’s term on 31 August 2017. He served 34 years (until 1995) as a top-ranking civil servant and an entrepreneur. He is one of the pioneers who helped build the Singapore economy after its separation from Malaysia in 1965.
Pillay was born at Klang in Selangor, Malaysia in 1934. He graduated from Imperial College London.
His most significant contribution was building Singapore Airlines into a world-class carrier. He served as Chairman of Singapore Airlines from 1972 until 1996. He is one of the few Civil Service officers to reach Staff Grade III.
He was the Chairman of the Singapore Exchange between 1999 and 2010.
He was the Chairman of Tiger Airways Holdings from 2011 until 2014. He is currently the Chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers.
He was the Acting President from 1 September 2017 when President Tony Tan’s term expired on 31 August 2017, until the next president Halimah Yacob, was sworn into office on 14 September 2017.
In 2012, the National University of Singapore (NUS) set up two professorships in his honour, for his contributions.
For his public service, Pillay was awarded the Order of Nila Utama (First Class), one of Singapore’s most prestigious National Day Awards on 9 August 2012.
Tony Tan, President of Singapore (since Sept 1, 2011)
Tony Tan Keng Yam (born 7 February 1940, in Singapore) is a Singaporean politician, banker, and mathematician. Until 1 July 2011, he was Executive Director and Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and Chairman of Singapore Press Holdings Limited (SPH). He also serves as Chairman of Singapore’s National Research Foundation and Deputy Chairman of the Research, Innovation and Enterprise Council. In the late 1980s, Tan was Lee Kuan Yew’s first choice to succeed him as Prime Minister of Singapore, but he declined. He later returned to Cabinet and as Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister from 1995 to 2005, and Minister for Defence from 1995 to 2003.
In August 2011, Tan won the Singapore presidential election by a narrow 0.34% margin.
Tony Tan was educated at St Patrick’s School and St Joseph’s Institution. As a Singapore Government State Scholar, he earned First Class Honours Degree in Physics from the University of Singapore, topping his class. As an Asia Foundation scholar, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he completed a Master of Science (Operations Research). He later earned a PhD in Applied Mathematics at the University of Adelaide, and went on to lecture in Mathematics at the National University of Singapore.
In 1969, Tan left the University to begin a career in banking with Overseas-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), where he rose to become General Manager, before leaving the bank to pursue a career in politics in 1979. From 1980 to 1981, Tan was the first Vice Chancellor of the new National University of Singapore (NUS).
In 2005, Tan was presented the NUS Eminent Alumni Award in recognition of his role as a visionary architect of Singapore’s university sector. In 2010, he was presented the inaugural Distinguished Australian Alumnus Award by the Australian Alumni Singapore (AAS) at its 55th anniversary dinner in recognition of his distinguished career, and his significant contribution to society and to the Australian alumni community.
A member of the People’s Action Party (PAP) until June 2011, Tan became a Member of Parliament (MP) in 1979. He was appointed as a Senior Minister of State in the Ministry of Education in 1979. He joined the Cabinet in 1980, serving as Minister for Education (MOE, 1980–81 & 1985–91), Minister for Trade & Industry (1981–86), Minister for Finance (1983–85), and Minister for Health (1985–86).
Tan espoused a cut in CPF in the 1980s, which Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said would not be allowed except “in an economic crisis”.
Singapore saw a leadership transition that started shortly before the 1984 general elections. Three months before the election, all the members of the PAP Central Executive Committee (CEC)—except Lee Kuan Yew —had left the CEC to allow the “second generation” of PAP leaders to take root. This leadership transition saw Tan replace Singapore’s chief economic architect, Goh Keng Swee, as Education Minister.
Before the 1984 election, Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Keng Swee had also pushed for policies that experimented with eugenics in Singapore, including a policy that favoured children of more well-educated mothers ahead of children of less-educated mothers in primary school placement. However, in response to popular discontent and public criticism of the policy during and after the 1984 general election (which saw the lowest votes for the PAP since independence), Tan as the new Minister for Education announced that the scheme would be scrapped. This announcement followed Tan’s own May 1985 recommendation to the Cabinet to scrap the scheme.
In December 1991, Tan stepped down from the Cabinet to return to the private sector, and rejoined the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer from 1992–95, while retaining his seat in Parliament as a representative for the Sembawang Group Representation Constituency.
Tan married Mary Chee Bee Kiang in 1964. They have four children, three sons and one daughter.
S R Nathan, Former President of Singapore
S R Nathan was born in Singapore on 3 July 1924.
Mr Nathan received his early education in several schools – Anglo-Chinese Primary and Middle School, Rangoon Road Afternoon School and Victoria School.Mr Nathan started working before completing his studies. After the war, whilst working, he completed his secondary education through self-study and entered the University of Malaya (then in Singapore) where he graduated in 1954 with a Diploma in Social Studies (Distinction).
Mr Nathan began his career in the Singapore Civil Service as a medical social worker in 1955. He was appointed Seamen’s Welfare Officer the following year. In 1962, he was seconded to the Labour Research Unit of the Labour Movement, first as Assistant Director and later Director of the Labour Research Unit until January 1966. He continued as a Member of its Board of Trustees until April 1988.
In February 1966, he was transferred to the Foreign Ministry. He served as Assistant Secretary and rose to be Deputy Secretary before being appointed Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs in January 1971.
In August of the same year, Mr Nathan moved to the Ministry of Defence where he was a Director with the rank of Permanent Secretary.
In February 1979, he returned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and became its First Permanent Secretary until February 1982 when he left to become the Executive Chairman of the Straits Times Press (1975) Ltd, the Singapore newspaper company. At various times from 1982 to 1988, Mr Nathan also held directorship of several other companies including the Singapore Mint Pte Ltd, The Straits Times Press (London) Ltd, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and Marshall Cavendish Ltd. He was Chairman of Mitsubishi Singapore Heavy Industries – a Ship-repairing and Engineering joint-venture with the Mitsubishi Group of Japan, from 1973 to 1986.
From 1983 to April 1988, Mr Nathan was Chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board. He was a founding member of SINDA – the Singapore Indian Development Association – and its Term Trustee until August 1999.
In April 1988, Mr Nathan was appointed Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia and in July 1990, became Ambassador to the United States of America where he served until June 1996.
On his return, Mr Nathan was made Ambassador-at-Large and was concurrently Director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at the Nanyang Technological University. He held a directorship in the Singapore International Media Pte Ltd between September 1996 and August 1999.
He resigned as Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies on 17 August 1999 and was elected President of the Republic of Singapore on 18 August 1999. He began his 6-year term from 1 September 1999. On 17 August 2005, Mr Nathan was re-elected and he was sworn-in for his second term of office on 1 September 2005.
Mr Nathan was conferred the Public Service Star in 1964, the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 1967, and the Meritorious Service Medal in 1974.
Mr Nathan, a Hindu, is married to Urmila (Umi) Nandey and has a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.