1978 - 1987

He escorted Miss Universe contestant to hospital

As Singapore marks 50 years of National Service, The Straits Times speaks to five Home Team national servicemen who served in each decade.
DAC (NS) Chai served as honorary aide-de-camp to the president for nine years.
DAC (NS) Chai served as honorary aide-de-camp to the president for nine years.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Civil servant Lionel Chai vividly remembers the first and only time Singapore hosted the Miss Universe pageant.

Behind the glitz and glamour of the 1987 event, Mr Chai, then a full-time national serviceman, worked 16 hours a day for about a month to help ensure that all the activities went smoothly

"Miss Universe was, for a young NS boy, very memorable," he said of the pageant at the World Trade Centre, with some events held all over the island . That year was the second time a Singaporean - Ms Marion Nicole Teo, who was then 19 - placed in the top 10.

While Mr Chai did not interact with Ms Teo, he recalled escorting one of the contestants to hospital. She had a dizzy spell and could not complete her dance routine, he noted, declining to reveal her name.

"Some things happen unplanned, and we had to respond quickly to ensure a safe passage (for the contestants)," he said.

Of other nervous moments, he added: "It was the experience of ensuring that the live telecast worldwide was not disrupted."

As a 20-year-old, he helped plan and execute the security deployment for some 70 contestants from around the world.

"It was a handful," said now Deputy Assistant Commissioner (NS) Chai, 50, who is NS Commander of the Central Division.

"But I had the guidance of more experienced officers."

It was among the first of several deployments for DAC (NS) Chai, who went on to become among the first members of the police's Key Installations Command (Kins) in the 1990s.

Its officers were stationed at locations such as power stations to ensure their security.

"We were the first few groups of officers on the ground," he said, so there were a lot of issues to overcome and they were there 24/7.

While he was due to finish reservist at the age of 50, he recently signed on to a voluntary extension scheme, hoping to contribute more to the country.

With 1,600 NSmen under his care, he frets about their deployment, training and welfare.

"It's not just operation duties that people come here for. It's also about camaraderie," he said.

But NS has been more than about providing security.

He also served as honorary aide-de-camp to the president for nine years, during the tenures of presidents Tony Tan Keng Yam and S R Nathan.

Memories of standing vigil during state funerals bring tears to his eyes. "I think it's something we do for the founders, such as Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Goh Keng Swee and, more recently, Mr S R Nathan. We dedicate our service to them, for what they have done for us. It's an honour to do so."

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'He escorted Miss Universe contestant to hospital '. Print Edition | Subscribe