Devan Nair (1923~2005)


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Devan Nair, the son of an Indian immigrant I.V.K. Nair from Kerala, India) was born in Malacca, Malaysia. He and his family migrated to Singapore when he was 10 years old. When he was young, he received his education first at Rangoon Road Primary School and then at Victoria School where he passed his Senior Cambridge examination in 1940. Devan Nair joined Lee Kuan Yew’s People’s Action Party in 1954.

He was the only PAP member to win in the Malaysian general election, 1964, winning the Bangsar constituency, near Kuala Lumpur. He stayed in Malaysia after the Separation, forming the Democratic Action Party.

He returned to Singapore to lead the labor union movement and founded the National Trades Union Congress. He entered Parliament in 1979 by winning the Anson seat in a by-election and retained the seat in the 1980 general election.


Photo Credit: Flickr.

Devan Nair resigned the seat in 1981 to accept the largely ceremonial office as the President of Singapore. On 23 October 1981, Devan Nair became the 3rd President of Singapore till 28 March 1985. Nair resigned in unclear circumstances. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stated in Parliament that Nair resigned to get treatment for alcoholism, a charge Nair denied. According to Nair’s counterclaim, he resigned under pressure when their political views came into conflict and Lee threatened to seek a motion in parliament to oust him as president.

In 1995, Nair, with his family, migrated to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Nair died 10 years later on 6 December 2005.

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