Veteran diplomat Tony Kemal Siddique dies of heart attack, aged 80

Mr Tony Kemal Siddique previously served as Singapore's ambassador to a host of European countries. PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

SINGAPORE - Veteran diplomat Mr Tony Kemal Siddique died on Friday night (July 17) of a heart attack.

He was 80, and was most recently Plenipotentiary Representative to the Caribbean Community.

Mr Siddique leaves behind his wife Sharon, their daughters Sophia and Samira, and two grand-daughters, Misha and Roxy.

He previously served as Special Envoy for Arctic Affairs, and was Singapore's ambassador to a host of European countries, including Finland, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Greece.

After retiring from the civil service in 1996, he went into the private sector and founded a strategic advisory firm, where he was executive director.

Mr Bilahari Kausikan, chairman of the Middle East Institute, remembers Mr Siddique as a "legendary foreign service officer" and an "operator par excellence", from whom a generation of diplomats learnt their craft.

Former president S R Nathan - who was then permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs - would appoint Mr Siddique when he "needed the impossible done", said Mr Kausikan.

For instance, Mr Siddique was key for raising the Cambodia vote at the United Nations in the critical first years of the 1980s after Vietnam's invasion, said Mr Kausikan, former permanent secretary for Foreign Affairs from 2010 to 2013.

Mr Siddique succeeded in lobbying for the coalition government of Democratic Kampuchea to retain Cambodia's UN seat, even though the odds were stacked against him.

"In the 2000s, he single-handedly got us observer status in the Arctic Council," he added. Singapore is the only small island observer state in the Arctic Council.

Many of Mr Siddique's colleagues remember him for his extraordinary talent at networking.

Veteran diplomat Verghese Mathews, who was Singapore's former Non-Resident High Commissioner to the Republic of Fiji, said: "Tony was a larger than life personality. Whenever he was present, he would invariably be the centre of attention and lead the conversation. He was undoubtedly the most successful networker I have met. He knew people in all the ministries in Singapore as well as foreign ministries of other countries"

Mr Siddique was also generous with younger diplomats, showing them the ropes of how to write political briefs and interact with their foreign counterparts, said Ambassador-at-large Ong Keng Yong.

Mr Ong shared that Mr Siddique taught him how to stay sharp amid the "flurry of activity" common at diplomatic conferences.

"He taught us how there will always be private chit-chat and deal making on the sidelines, and we must always stay alert to counter those moves," he said.

Mr Siddique was buried at the Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery on Saturday afternoon.

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