What you need to know about lawyer Murali Pillai, PAP's candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election

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PAP candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election Murali Pillai was introduced on Monday by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. Both gave their take on the fight against SDP chief Chee Soon Juan.
PAP's Murali Pillai will contest in the upcoming Bukit Batok by-election. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Lawyer Murali Pillai was announced on Monday (March 21) afternoon as the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for the upcoming Bukit Batok by-election.

Mr Pillai, 48, looks set to enter into a straight fight against Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan, who stated his intention to contest before a walkabout in the single-member constituency on Sunday (March 20).

Here's what you need to know about the long-time party activist, who joined the PAP in 2001.

Who he is

Mr Pillai with his father P.K. Pillai, who died in 2007, in a 1996 photo. PHOTO: K MURALIDHARAN PILLAI

The son of unionist P.K. Pillai, who was detained during Operation Coldstore, a major crackdown on communists and leftists in 1963.

Previously the branch secretary at PAP's Bukit Batok Branch from 2007 to 2011, he was appointed the chairman of the party's Paya Lebar Branch on May 1, 2012.

Mr Pillai is married to Dr N. Gowri, who has been in the teaching profession for more than 20 years. The couple have four children - twin sons and two younger daughters.

Previous GE experience

PAP's candidates for Aljunied GRC (from left) Chua Eng Leong, Shamsul Kamar, Yeo Guat Kwang, Victor Lye and Murali Pillai, greeting supporters at Toa Payoh Stadium. PHOTO: ST FILE

Part of the PAP's five-member Aljunied GRC "suicide squad" - where he contested alongside veteran MP Yeo Guat Kwang, unionist Shamsul Kamar, insurance firm director Victor Lye and senior bank officer Chua Eng Leong - that lost narrowly to the Workers' Party (WP) in last year's general election.

The team polled 49 per cent of the vote share, with Mr Pillai, beating WP heavyweight Chen Show Mao by about 300 votes in his Paya Lebar ward.

Why he is the candidate

He is the head of commercial litigation at renowned local law firm Rajah & Tann, with over 100 lawyers reporting to him.

Former Cabinet minister and PAP chairman Lim Boon Heng, who was the Aljunied GRC team's adviser during GE2015, previously described him as the "heavyweight" of the team.

During his stint as branch secretary, he helmed committees such as Bukit Batok's Indian Activities Executive Committee and its Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle.

Educational background

A Hwa Chong Junior College alumnus, he graduated with an honours law degree, and later a Masters in Law from the National University of Singapore (NUS) Law School. He also has a double masters in Business Administration from the NUS Business School and University of California, Los Angeles.

Other interesting things about him

Prior to his law career - he was called to the bar in 1996 - Mr Pillai was an assistant superintendent with the Singapore Police Force, primarily conducting investigations into white-collar crimes.

He is also currently the legal adviser and trustee to a number of social, welfare as well as religious organisations of various faiths.

What he cares about

Inclusivity and accountability.

In his own words, before GE2015

"I don't know how long my political career will last. It could be 10 days, (but) I'm not fazed by the odds. I will fight this election with all my heart."

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