Order of Nila Utama (First Class)

Ex-SNEF president lauded

Mr Stephen Lee had a key role in shaping employment policies as Singapore National Employers Federation president from 1988 to last year.
Mr Stephen Lee had a key role in shaping employment policies as Singapore National Employers Federation president from 1988 to last year.ST FILE PHOTO

They spent their careers shaping Singapore into what it is today. And as the nation celebrates its Golden Jubilee, the pioneer-generation contributors who have helped to make it happen are being recognised with top honours at the National Day Awards.

Joining a small group of Singaporeans who have been conferred the Order of Nila Utama (First Class) - one of Singapore's highest state awards - is Mr Stephen Lee.

The 68-year-old former president of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) was nominated by the Ministry of Manpower in recognition of his contributions and commitment to industrial relations, tripartism and the Singapore economy.


As president of the federation from 1988 to last year, Mr Lee played a key role in shaping employment policies to benefit both employers and employees.

"He also contributed significantly to the National Wages Council, where he pushed for wage reform, by restructuring wages from a seniority-based wage structure to a flexible and performance-based wage system today," a spokesman for the ministry said.

Mr Lee said that winning the award "is a recognition of the contribution by SNEF in building a strong tripartite partnership in Singapore". He added: "There are new challenges facing the tripartite partners. The long-term objectives however, remain the same - the provision of good-quality jobs for our workers and the equitable sharing of the fruits of our economic success."

Among those who have been conferred the Distinguished Service Order this year are Dr Liu Thai Ker, chairman of the Centre for Liveable Cities advisory board, Mr Tee Tua Ba, non-resident ambassador to Switzerland, and Dr Tan Wee Kiat, chief executive officer of Gardens by the Bay.

The National Day Awards will be given out at an investiture ceremony later this year.

For Dr Liu, the award came "as a totally pleasant surprise".

The former head of the Housing Development Board, who pioneered the building of high-rise homes, counts his time there as the most rewarding in his career.

"I often bump into total strangers who thank me for giving them a good home," said Dr Liu, 77. "That is a very heartwarming experience."

Former Commissioner of Police Mr Tee, 73, credited his award to the teams he has worked with.

"In the early days, the police force was not respected by the people," he recalled.

"During the colonial times, people even called the police 'running dogs'. But through community policing, we have managed to cultivate a relationship with the public to turn the police force's image from a negative one into a positive one."

Dr Tan, who previously headed the National Parks Board for 16 years, said that turning Singapore into a "city in a garden" is one of his proudest achievements.

"I've always felt very grateful to work in my dream job," said the 72-year-old.

"To be recognised for what I do on top of it is icing on the cake."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2015, with the headline 'Ex-SNEF president lauded Order of Nila Utama (First Class)'. Print Edition | Subscribe