Late veteran unionist touched lives of many, says PM Lee

Mr Cyrille Tan Soo Leng served as NTUC vice-president, and was also a Nominated MP from 1997 to 1999.
Mr Cyrille Tan Soo Leng served as NTUC vice-president, and was also a Nominated MP from 1997 to 1999.

The late veteran unionist Cyrille Tan Soo Leng dedicated his life to serving the labour movement and Singapore, and touched the lives of many, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

His death is a deep loss to the labour movement and the country, Mr Lee wrote in a condolence letter to Mr Tan's wife, Joanna, which was made public yesterday.

Mr Tan, a retired National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) vice-president, died last Friday at the age of 67, leaving his wife and two sons. His body was cremated yesterday.

In his letter, PM Lee recounted Mr Tan's career in the labour movement, which began in 1981 when he joined the United Workers of Electronic and Electrical Industries (UWEEI) and spanned about 30 years. Mr Tan became its general secretary in 1990, a position he served in for 22 years.

PM Lee said he had the privilege of working with Mr Tan when Mr Lee was adviser to the union. "I learnt much by observing his astute management of union affairs."

Mr Tan was also elected to the NTUC central committee, where he served first as secretary for financial affairs in 1994, and later as vice-president till 2011.

"He was well liked and respected by brothers and sisters throughout the labour movement, because of his sincerity, passion and empathy," PM Lee said.

When he served as Nominated MP from 1997 to 1999, Mr Tan continued to advocate for the labour movement and pushed hard for unions to broaden their representation to include managers and executives, PM Lee said. He added that he was very sorry he could not pay his last respects to Mr Tan in person, as he is currently in Manila for the Asean Summit.

"I hope this letter conveys some of what I feel at this sorrowful moment. My thoughts are with you and your family as we mourn the loss of Brother Cyrille," he said.

NTUC president Mary Liew and secretary-general Chan Chun Sing said in a condolence letter to Mr Tan's wife last Saturday that Mr Tan understood the needs of the man in the street, and the need to protect and advance those interests.

UWEEI general secretary Tan Richard, 52, who took over the position in 2012, said he is grateful for Mr Tan's mentorship.

He said: "There's still more to do. I have to do my best to take the union to greater heights, I cannot let him down."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Late veteran unionist touched lives of many, says PM Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe