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Third President: Mr C V Devan Nair History of Presidents

President C V Devan Nair

Mr C V Devan Nair was elected to be the third President of the Republic of Singapore by the Parliament on October 23, 1981. Before this, he led the trade union and is able to form them into a well-knitted and forward looking force with dedication towards welfare of labour under the principle of joint labour. He also initiated the establishment of the NTUC insurance co-operative INCOME, the taxi co-operative COMFORT and the WELCOME chain of co-operative supermarkets.

He is born in Malacca on August 5, 1923 and came over to Singapore when he was 10 years old. He received his primary school education at Rangoon Road Primary School and after that at Victoria School where he passed his Senior Cambridge examination in 1940.

When World War 2 had ended, he started off as a normal teacher at St Joseph's Institution and after some time at St Andrew School. His teaching career led him to become a part of the trade union, taking the post of General Secretary of the Singapore Teacher's Union in 1949. In 1951 he was detained by the British authorities as part of a general drive against anti-colonial activities and remained under detention until April 1953. But once he was released, he became active in the movements of the trade union again.

In 1954 he was one of the convenors of the People's Action Party and became a member of the Central Executive Committee. In 1956 he was again detained by the British and remained in custody until 1959 when the PAP came to power and appointed him Political Secretary to the Minister for Education. But he resigned from his appointment a year later for his passion for teachings brought him back to being a teacher. In the same year, he was appointed the Chairman of Prisons Inquiry Commission and he launched the Adult Education Board, becoming its first Chairman.

In 1961, he helped to find the Singapore National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) and was elected as the first Secretary-General. He also stood for election to the Malaysian Parliament in 1964 and won the seat at Bungsar constituency. He served for five years, establishing the Democratic Action Party of Malaysia in the process. He became its first Secretary-General.

When his service term in the Malaysian Parliament is over in 1969, he returned back to Singapore and resumed his post as the Secretary-General of NTUC with the mission to modernise and expand the labour movement. He became its first president in 1979. He was also president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, Asian Regional Organisation, from 1976 to October 1981.

In 1979 Mr Nair stood for election in a by-election for the Anson constituency and won. He stood for election again in the 1980 General Election, and retained his seat as MP for Anson. He resigned in October 1981 when he became President of the Republic of Singapore.

In recognition of Mr Nair's achievements and his leadership of the labour movement, he was awarded the Public Service Star in the 1963 National Day Honours. In 1976, the University of Singapore (now the National University of Singapore) conferred on him an Honorary Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa).


 Courtesy of the Government of Singapore