Three public service veterans top this year’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

Three Singaporeans with a long record of public service have been conferred the Distinguished Service Order, one of the Republic’s top national honors, 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 honors 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 organizations 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 recognized 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 honor 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.



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