Former MP and lawyer Alvin Yeo, 60, dies after two-year fight with cancer

Mr Yeo had an illustrious career specialising in various fields, including banking and corporate disputes and construction-related matters. PHOTO: MARCUS TAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Lawyer and former Member of Parliament (MP) Alvin Yeo died at home on Saturday morning (July 30) after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 60.

He was an MP for Hong Kah GRC from 2006 to 2011 and for Chua Chu Kang GRC from 2011 to 2015.

Law firm WongPartnership, where Mr Yeo was the chairman and senior partner, announced his passing in a statement, saying it was mourning the passing of its co-founder.

Details about his death were kept brief.

Fellow lawyers and politicians paid tribute to Mr Yeo.

Mr Yee Chia Hsing, who succeeded Mr Yeo in Chua Chu Kang GRC in 2015, said in a post on Facebook: "It's with much sadness that I received news that former Nanyang MP, Mr Alvin Yeo, had passed on this morning after battling cancer for the last two years."

He added: "Residents remember him fondly and he is the perfect gentleman."

Incumbent Chua Chu Kang MP Low Yen Ling, who worked with Mr Yeo when she joined in 2011, said Mr Yeo was like a big brother to her.

Ms Low, who is also the Minister of State for Trade and Industry, as well as Culture, Community and Youth, said: “We had regular lunches before Covid-19. When I received news that he was battling cancer two years ago, I stayed in touch with Alvin, cheering him on and keeping him in my prayers.”

She added: "I often looked forward to listening to his thoughtful and insightful speeches in Parliament. His example as a caring MP and colleague would always stay fresh in my heart and mind."

In a tribute on Facebook, Mr Alex Yam, an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, highlighted Mr Yeo's accomplishments as a lawyer, including his appointment as senior counsel of the Supreme Court in 2000 at the age of 37 - the youngest ever.

Mr Yam said: "While he towered over everyone with his height, he was gentle at heart, a big brother who guided and treated me with great kindness."

He added: "I found out towards the end of 2020 that he was ill. He was undergoing treatment then and yet he remained positive, saying that he looked forward to meeting up with a few of us in 2022 when he was fully recovered."

Since being called to the bar in 1988, Mr Yeo had an illustrious career specialising in various fields, including banking and corporate disputes and construction-related matters.

He advised and dealt with many landmark disputes, said WongPartnership, including defending a US$282 million (S$390 million)  claim for a major bank in Singapore’s largest private banking suit.

He also represented the firm as counsel for the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in the first of such cases to be handled by a Singapore firm. He successfully defended a claim over the seizure of shares in a mining company with more than US$1.5 billion in assets. 

Mr Yeo was inducted into the Hall of Fame by Legal 500 in 2021.

WongPartnership founder, Senior Counsel Wong Meng Meng, described Mr Yeo as a partner, confidante and adviser to him when they set up the firm in 1992.

Mr Wong said: "(He is) completely unflappable, and always looking after those who work with him."

He added: "After I stepped down from managing the firm, he took it to greater heights, raising the size from about 100 lawyers to its current size of about 300. We will miss him greatly."

Another colleague at the firm, Mr Chou Sean Yu, described Mr Yeo as a hardworking lawyer and a sociable man who enjoyed life and could hold a conversation with anyone about any topic.

An avid Arsenal fan, Mr Yeo would make time to watch football matches, said Mr Chou, 52, recalling watching live football matches in England with him.

Mr Chou added: "He had a very casual mannerism and everyone in the firm would call him 'Alvin', setting the tone for us at work. He was extremely approachable and the door was always open to anyone."

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