Nearly 500 receive top awards from President Halimah for their service to Singapore

President Halimah Yacob awarding the Order of Nila Utama ( First Class ) to Mr Eddie Teo Chan Seng, chairman of the Public Service Commission, at The Investiture of the 2017 National Day Awards on Nov 5, 2017.
President Halimah Yacob awarding the Order of Nila Utama ( First Class ) to Mr Eddie Teo Chan Seng, chairman of the Public Service Commission, at The Investiture of the 2017 National Day Awards on Nov 5, 2017.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman Eddie Teo has set the ethos for Singapore’s public service over the past decade, said a citation for the 70-year-old, who received a top national honour on Sunday night (Nov 5).

Mr Teo also championed the drive for greater diversity among scholarship recipients, it said, crediting him for his strategic input in areas ranging from intelligence and security to defence and diplomacy throughout a career in public service that spanned nearly 50 years.

For his "sustained and outstanding contributions", Mr Teo was conferred the Order of Nila Utama (First Class) - one of Singapore's top national honours - by President Halimah Yacob on Sunday night (Nov 5). He is the only recipient of the award this year.

He was among 497 people who received their National Day Awards from Madam Halimah at the ceremony at the Institute of Technical Education College Central in Ang Mo Kio.

Mr Teo, a President's Scholar, started his career with the Security and Intelligence Division in 1970. He later held the positions of director of the Internal Security Department, Permanent Secretary for Defence and Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister's Office.

He was cited for expanding and sharpening the intelligence services' capabilities, to provide timely and relevant insights on developments impacting Singapore's external and internal security, and for raising performance standards in the civil service.

He was also Singapore's High Commissioner to Australia from 2006 to 2008 before being appointed to the PSC.

In his latest role, he changed the mold of scholarship recipients to bring those with different strengths, skills and experience into the public service, and introduced the PSC Scholarship (Engineering) this year.

"In all his appointments, Mr Eddie Teo displayed the ability to get to the nub of an issue and to communicate this clearly and succinctly. He demonstrated sharp analytical skills, deep insights into complex issues and a keen sense of people's motivations and characters," said the award citation.

Only a small group of people have been conferred the Order of Nila Utama. They include former deputy prime minister Toh Chin Chye, Ambassador-at- Large Tommy Koh and Mr J.Y. Pillay, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers.

Mr Teo told reporters he was grateful for such a high honour, and found special meaning in receiving it from Madam Halimah.

This was because the first national award he received – his President's Scholarship – was from Singapore's first Malay president Yusof Ishak. "And now my last national award is from President Halimah Yacob, the second Malay president. So that’s really quite fantastic," he said.

Two people were awarded the Distinguished Service Order on Sunday: former ambassador to Japan Chin Siat Yoon and Singapore Management University (SMU) board of trustees' chairman Ho Kwon Ping. Seven others received the Meritorious Service Medal.

Mr Chin, who served in Japan for five years before retiring in June, is credited with playing a key role in forging closer ties with Japanese political and business leaders.

For instance, he set up then-President Tony Tan's state visit to Japan last year, which, coming just seven years after the last state visit by then-President S R Nathan, was a special exception reflecting the excellent bilateral relations.

He was also the longest serving Ambassador to China. During his 14 years there, he contributed to the success of the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, as well as the Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Ecocity.

Mr Ho, the founding chairman of SMU since 2000, has grown it from a pure business school to include other disciplines and research opportunities.

He emphasised an entrepreneurial spirit and social responsibility among students, and many alumni are now young leaders and entrepreneurs here and abroad.

"Mr Ho's vision and leadership of SMU have helped to redefine the university landscape in Singapore," said the citation.

The National Day Awards are given out annually to recognise different forms of service to Singapore.

This year, more than 4,300 people were honoured, including public servants, community and grassroots leaders and educators. They each receive a medal which can be worn at national and important functions.

Top Honours

ORDER OF NILA UTAMA (FIRST CLASS): Mr Eddie Teo, chairman of the Public Service Commission

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE ORDER: Mr Chin Siat Yoon, former ambassador to Japan; and Mr Ho Kwon Ping, chairman of the Singapore Management University board of trustees

MERITORIOUS SERVICE MEDAL: Professor Bertil Andersson, Nanyang Technological University president; Mr Bobby Chin, member of the Council of Presidential Advisers; Mr Patrick Lee, Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations secretary-general; Justice Lee Seiu Kin, Supreme Court Judge; Mr Ravi Menon, Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director; Mr Bob Tan, chairman of the Institute of Technical Education board of governors; and Mr Phillip Tan, National Council of Social Service vice president