Friday, 10 April 2015

Former Minister of State Bernard Chen dies after short illness

By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 9 Apr 2015

FORMER minister of state for Defence Bernard Chen Tien Lap, who was also active in the labour movement, died of cancer yesterday morning. He was 72.

The cancer in his kidneys and bladder was detected last November when he went for a check-up after he found blood in his urine, said his son Francis, 41, a community engagement manager.

Mr Chen, however, did not respond to chemotherapy and his condition worsened.

Still, he retained his sense of humour and continued to take part in family conversations, said the younger Mr Chen.

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A People's Action Party (PAP) MP from 1977 to 2001, Mr Chen led such single-seat constituencies as the former Radin Mas and, later, was in the West Coast GRC team.

He was active in the labour movement, which gave him two awards, including the NTUC Friend of Labour Award in 1979.

Mr Chen was chairman of the board of directors of NTUC Income from 1977 to 1990, during which the cooperative's assets grew from $28 million to more than $700 million. He was also director of the Singapore Labour Foundation, where he headed recreational projects to improve workers' quality of life.

After he stepped down as minister of state, he entered the corporate world in 1981 as general manager of food and beverage company Fraser & Neave.

He had also been on the board of DBS Bank and security company Certis Cisco.

Following his ill health, he left telecommunications company Ntegrator International and engineering company CNA Group earlier this year. He was their non-executive chairman.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam, in his condolence letter, lauded Mr Chen's "lifelong contributions to Singapore's development in the private, public and people sectors".

A Catholic, Mr Chen was, until the last days of his life, "still involved in helping to raise funds for the redevelopment of Novena Church", Dr Tan said.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who entered politics one year before Mr Chen, described him as "a dedicated, diligent and sincere MP".

Mr Goh said in his Facebook post: "He did not plan for a political career but when called upon, he did not shy away from serving the country."

He also said that when he visited him earlier this month, Mr Chen accepted his imminent death and was satisfied because he had served God and his country.

The younger Mr Chen recalled that, as teenagers, he and his sister would accompany their father to Meet-The-People Sessions.

"He wanted to expose us to issues Singaporeans dealt with. He got along very well with his grassroots leaders and residents. It was more like a friendship."

Mr Chen leaves behind his wife Louisa, 72; daughter Beatrice, 44, a housewife; son Francis; and three grandchildren.

MP Alex Yam, 33, who met Mr Chen when he was a student, said on the PAP's Facebook page: "I remember him as always being kindly and reverent. Our paths would cross again when I became MP for Yew Tee. He was always ready with words of encouragement."

Mr Chen's wake is at Mount Vernon Sanctuary's Grace Hall until Sunday. He will be cremated on Mondayat Mandai Crematorium.

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