Friday, 26 June 2015

Ex-union leader Phey Yew Kok gets 5 years' jail for CBT

Ex-NTUC president and MP Phey Yew Kok charged after 35 years on the run
Phey Yew Kok in court after 35 years on the run
Ex-MP and unionist gave himself up in Bangkok, faces CBT charges here
By Abdul Hafiz, Assistant News Editor And Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, 25 Jun 2015

AFTER more than three decades on the run since being accused of criminal breach of trust (CBT), former MP Phey Yew Kok, who was once one of Singapore's most powerful unionists, has come out of hiding.

On Monday, he gave himself up at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok after 35 years as a fugitive. And yesterday, at the age of 81, a silver-haired Phey again found himself in a Singapore court where he heard the six charges involving $100,000 of union funds - charges first read to him on Dec 10, 1979.

That was just weeks before the former president of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) jumped bail, took a train to Kuala Lumpur and evaded attempts to track him down in Thailand.

He has been on Interpol's wanted list since, longer than any other Singaporean, it is believed.

Those who knew and worked with him told The Straits Times they could not fathom why he chose to abscond, and were just as puzzled at why he chose to surrender now. Two of his sons declined to comment last night.

But Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a statement that he hopes this will "bring closure to a longstanding case involving a person who was holding public office as an MP and a senior union leader", a point shared by NTUC.

In a Facebook post yesterday, PM Lee also said that the attempts to bring Phey to justice showed Singapore's zero tolerance for corruption. "We will not allow any cover-up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government."

Phey had a phenomenal rise after becoming an industrial relations officer with NTUC in 1964.

In 1970, at just 35, he was picked to head NTUC, as well as the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) and the Pioneer Industries Employees' Union (PIEU). Two years later, he was elected MP for Boon Teck on a People's Action Party ticket.

But soon after taking on the role of NTUC chairman in 1979, he was investigated and, by the year end, was facing serious charges, four of which involved CBT. These include having misappropriated a $40,000 and a $25,000 cheque in 1975 while he was Silo general secretary.

In September 1978, he allegedly used $18,000 of Silo's funds to buy shares of Forward Supermarket without ministerial approval - breaching the Trade Unions Act.

If found guilty of CBT, Phey faces up to seven years in jail along with a fine. Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng, who asked that he be remanded at Changi Prison for four weeks, said more charges may be brought.

Clad in a white shirt and khaki trousers, Phey spoke before being told by District Judge Eddy Tham that there was no need to go into details of the charges for now.

"Your Honour, can excuse me?" Phey, whose case has been fixed for a pre-trial conference on July 23, said. "I speak a bit louder because my hearing is very bad. If my memory still does not fail me, I don't think the money was transferred to my personal account."





PM Lee on Phey Yew Kok: Government won't allow cover up even when awkward
The Straits Times, 24 Jun 2015

The Government has maintained a clean and non-corrupt system in Singapore for half a century because it has zero tolerance for corruption, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

When it discovers wrongdoing, it does not hesitate to act, he said in a Facebook post on Wednesday (June 24). "We will not allow any cover up, even when it is awkward or embarrassing for the Government."

Referring to the surrender of former PAP MP and senior union leader Phey Yew Kok, Mr Lee noted that not many might remember Phey.

In 1979, he was charged with criminal breach of trust and misuse of union funds. The following year he absconded while on bail, and became a fugitive from justice, Mr Lee said.

"Two days ago, Phey turned himself in at our Embassy in Bangkok, and today he returned to Singapore. Phey was charged in court this afternoon, and the law will have to take its course."

We have maintained a clean and non-corrupt system in Singapore for half a century because we have zero tolerance for...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday, June 24, 2015


His FB post echoed a statement that his office issued soon after news came that Phey, now 81, was brought back to Singapore on Tuesday night. (June 23)

Phey had jumped bail and fled Singapore on Dec 31, 1979, to escape charges for misuse of union funds. At the time, he had been charged with four counts of criminal breach of trust involving $83,000 on Dec 10, 1979.

He was also charged with two counts under the Trades Unions Act for investing $18,000 of trade union money in a private supermarket without the approval of the minister.

He pleaded not guilty to all six charges, and was released on bail of $100,000 with two sureties.

On Wednesday (June 24), all six charges were re-read to Phey. The prosecution has applied for him to be remanded at Changi Prison for investigations, and more charges will be tendered against him.

A pre-trial conference has been set for July 23.

Mr Chan Chee Seng, 83, who was Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social Affairs when Phey jumped bail and absconded, told The Straits Times: "We were very close parliamentary colleagues before and till this day I still feel it was very silly of him to run away. He should have stayed behind to answer the charges against him. After so many years, he still has to face the consequences of what he did."

"I am glad he is back finally to answer the charges against him and bring closure to the case after more than 30 years," he added.

Mr Lee Khoon Choy, 91, who was Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister Office between 1978 and 1984, was surprised that Phey surrendered himself after so many years. He said: "I thought he won't be back after hiding so long in Thailand. I was told he had been in Thailand all these years. I cannot even recall the details of the charges against now."





Phey's return may solve political mystery
Answers sought to questions of why he fled and how he evaded capture
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 25 Jun 2015

WHEN Phey Yew Kok fled Singapore to escape prosecution in 1979, he was aged 45, a second- term MP and one of the three most powerful union leaders in the country.

Yesterday, at age 81, the man infamous as the fugitive who stayed on the run from the Singapore authorities longer than anyone else looked almost nondescript as he stood in the dock listening to the charges he faced in 1979 being read out to him again.

His unexpected return to Singapore took many veteran union leaders and retired MPs by surprise yesterday and brought back questions they had long wondered about.

Topping their list is: Why did he flee the country? One more question has been added to that list: Why has he returned now?

"His arrest and disappearance created a big buzz at that time," said retired National Trades Union Congress president John De Payva, 66, last night.

Added retired NTUC vice-president Cyrille Tan, 65: "Many people wondered what happened and why he absconded."

Retired journalist George Joseph, 65, who covered the labour beat for The Straits Times, recalled the shock across the country because Phey was a rising star in the People's Action Party (PAP) and a top union leader trusted by the political leadership.

"There was a sense of disbelief that it could happen to a PAP MP like him," said Mr Joseph.

Even Phey's former parliamentary colleagues could not fathom why he jumped bail after being charged with criminal breach of trust.

Mr Chan Chee Seng, 83, who was Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social Affairs when Phey absconded, said: "We were very close parliamentary colleagues and, to this day, I feel it was very silly of him to run away. He should have stayed to answer the charges against him. After so many years, he still has to face the consequences of what he did."

Mr Chandra Das, 76, who was chairman of NTUC FairPrice from 1993 to 2005, said Phey's re-arrest was astonishing news. "There was no inkling that it would happen," he said.

Mr Lee Khoon Choy, 91, who was Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office between 1978 and 1984, was equally surprised that Phey surrendered himself after so many years.

"I thought he won't be back after hiding so long in Thailand. I was told he had been in Thailand all these years. I cannot even recall the details of the charges against him now," said Mr Lee.

Mr Joseph feels the authorities may not be "baying for blood" now as Phey's alleged offences took place so long ago. "He has already paid a price in having to be away from his family for 35 years."

What people want to know now is "what happened to him in the past 35 years and what prompted him to return", he added.

Phey's return will solve one of of the most intriguing political mysteries in Singapore, on how such a high-profile figure was able to run away and evade the law for so long, said Mr Joseph.

When The Straits Times visited the homes of Phey's two sons last night, both declined to comment.

Mr David Phey Teck Ann, 52, is the chief operating officer of the Weekender Group, which publishes the weekly lifestyle paper Weekender.

When asked if he had seen his father since his return on Tuesday, he would only say: "I'm not able to have a conversation with you."

His older son, Mr Phey Teck Moh, 53, is listed as the director of investment and advisory company Xpanasia. He was previously Asia-Pacific corporate vice-president for Motorola Solutions, and president and chief executive of Pacific Internet before that.

He, too, would not comment.

Phey's trial will be watched closely by many, especially those seeking the long-awaited answers to their questions.

Said Mr Chan: "I am glad he is back finally to answer the charges against him and bring closure to the case after more than 30 years."

Additional reporting by Leong Weng Kam and Yeo Sam Jo





HE SHOULD HAVE STAYED TO ANSWER CHARGES

'We were very close parliamentary colleagues and, to this day, I feel it was very silly of him to run away. He should have stayed to answer the charges against him. After so many years, he still has to face the consequences of what he did.'

- Mr Chan Chee Seng, 83, who was Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social Affairs when Phey jumped bail in 1980.



NO COMMENT

'I'm not able to have a conversation with you.'

- Mr David Phey Teck Ann, one of Phey's sons, when approached by The Straits Times for a comment last night at his home.



LEAVE IT TO DUE PROCESS

'As long as there are reasonable prospects of bringing Phey Yew Kok to trial, nothing should be done which can be said to jeopardise the process of law.'

- Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at a March 3, 1982 parliamentary session where opposition MP J.B. Jeyaretnam called for the charges against Phey to be withdrawn and a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter instead.




What Lee Kuan Yew said about Phey Yew Kok...
Posted by Singapore Matters on Thursday, June 25, 2015





A 'god in the labour movement' who fell to earth
By Fiona Chan Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 25 Jun 2015

HE WAS a rising star in the People's Action Party (PAP) in the 1970s, a second-term MP for Boon Teck who headed the labour movement and three of its most influential unions.

But the man once described as a "god in the labour movement" by a subordinate may not have been immune to mortal temptations.

Ten years after becoming president of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) in 1970 at the youthful age of 35, Phey Yew Kok was charged in December 1979 with misusing more than $100,000 in union funds and investing union money in a private supermarket without approval.

His sensational fall from grace was matched only by the shocking news of him jumping bail in January 1980. It caused his two bailors to forfeit $95,000 of the $100,000 they had put up.

When Phey failed to show up in court on Jan 7, officers from the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) were sent to keep a 24-hour watch on his house in Lorong Ong Lye off Upper Paya Lebar Road, his office and other places he frequented.

A warrant was obtained for his arrest and Interpol was alerted to look out for Phey, who was last seen in a "very emotional and upset state" at home on Dec 31, 1979, by his wife and lawyer.

His passports were cancelled, but not before he had left Singapore by train for Kuala Lumpur and then Bangkok, where the CPIB lost his trail. Some reports later placed him in Taiwan.

After his escape, Phey was dismissed as NTUC chairman - his role had changed in May 1979 - and secretary-general of the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) and the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU).

He had resigned from the three top posts in December before going missing, but his resignation was put on hold on the recommendation of his mentor Devan Nair, who was also NTUC president.

The Singapore Air Transport Workers' Union (Satu), a third union run by Phey, also dismissed him as its secretary-general in 1980. Less than two years later, members of both Silo and PIEU voted to wind up the huge omnibus unions.

It was a sad end to the stellar career of Phey, now 81, a former primary school teacher from a Teochew family in Pontian, Johor.

In 1964, he became an industrial relations officer with the NTUC while working as an accounts clerk at Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, the predecessor of Singapore Airlines. He joined Satu and was named treasurer of the 10,500-strong union in 1966.

After displaying good organisational and fund-raising skills - as well as a crucial proficiency in Mandarin that allowed him to communicate with blue-collar workers - Phey was made Satu president within a few years.

In 1970, he headed Silo and PIEU - which together had about 80,000 workers - plus NTUC.

With the dispute-prone workers in Jurong, Phey was "very successful in his own quiet way", recalled former president and unionist S R Nathan in his memoirs.

Under his leadership, Silo and PIEU "developed a reach well beyond the expectations of earlier NTUC leaders", Mr Nathan added. Silo went from 5,300 members in 1970 to 60,000 by 1979.

But Phey's success was not without pitfalls. While some knew him as a humble, honest and friendly man who championed the ordinary worker, others saw him as ambitious and arrogant.

In 1970, he was attacked twice by hired thugs and left with a 7.5cm scar on his face after being slashed by a razor.

Still, he went on to become a PAP MP for Boon Teck, a seat he won in 1972 and again in 1976.

By then, Phey had become a high-profile union spokesman who, among other things, urged employers to extend the retirement age from 55 to 60and campaigned for better wages and welfare for workers.

By 1978, he was also controlling the largest collection of NTUC-related cooperative ventures, including 19 supermarkets, an import and export division and even the Big Splash water park.

Many thought he would go on to greater heights in the Government. Instead, his alleged criminal breach of trust and subsequent flight from justice became a political issue, not least because he was Mr Nair's protege. A friend of his told The Straits Times in 1980 that "to Devan, he could do no wrong".

The Phey affair was later cited, in a 1988 White Paper on Mr Nair's resignation as president, as the first of three occasions of Mr Nair's alcoholic tendencies.

Opposition politicians used the Phey case to argue that the PAP had questionable judgment of character and did not do enough to track him down, with opposition veteran J.B. Jeyaretnam even implying there was a cover-up.

In turn, PAP leaders pointed to Phey as proof that the ruling party would not shy from investigating any corruption, even if it involved a high-profile party member.

"All that needs to be done was done," said then Home Affairs Minister S. Jayakumar in Parliament in 1989. "There is still a warrant of arrest for him and there is no period of limitation on his offence."




Former NTUC president and MP Phey Yew Kok turned himself in at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on Monday. He had jumped...
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, June 24, 2015





Nathan surprised when Phey was charged
Former president brought the ex-MP into NTUC in the 1960s
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 26 Jun 2015

FORMER president S R Nathan, who talent-spotted Phey Yew Kok and brought him into the national labour movement's fold in the 1960s, said yesterday he was surprised and disappointed by how things had turned out for the former MP and unionist.

Recalling events in 1979, he said he found out Phey was charged with misusing union funds of more than $100,000 by watching television news on the night of Dec 10, 1979.

"I just wondered, what prompted him to do it? It surprised me that somebody like him could have committed such an offence," said Mr Nathan, 90.

He noted that Phey was then chairman of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) as well as chief of two omnibus unions: Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) and Pioneer Industries Employees' Union (Pieu). He was stripped of all three positions after he jumped bail on Dec 31, 1979, and fled the country.

Then on Monday, after 35 years, the fugitive turned himself in at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok and was taken back here the following day to face charges of criminal breach of trust - an unexpected turn to an equally unexpected saga.

Had Mr Nathan not talent-spotted him in 1963, Phey might not have risen so quickly in the labour movement.

Back then, Mr Nathan was director of the NTUC's Labour Research Unit.

He recalled: "The first time I met him, he was a representative of the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines Union. He came with a Eurasian lady who was the head of it. They had some dispute. He was quiet. She did all the talking."

But something about the soft-spoken Phey caught his attention, and Mr Nathan chose to have him seconded to the NTUC as an industrial relations officer (IRO).

"It was just a gut feeling that when he's made up his mind, he can do it," said Mr Nathan, adding that he saw Phey display these leadership qualities and people skills in his time at NTUC.

Phey was part of a new team of Mandarin-speaking IROs tasked with recruiting members from Jurong's new factories, to thwart efforts by pro-communists who were trying to do the same.

He did well, but chose to leave after a year because some in the NTUC viewed him as a competitor, Mr Nathan said.

Later, when the late NTUC co-founder Devan Nair wanted someone to strengthen the NTUC's presence in Jurong industrial estate, Mr Nathan thought of Phey. "The NTUC leadership had many persons of Indian origin. And they couldn't reach them," he said, referring to the workers who were mostly Chinese. "I told Devan that he (Phey) might be the best, because he was in fact, the best."

Mr Nair agreed and Mr Nathan asked Phey to return to the NTUC. Phey agreed and did very well in the labour movement.

"Jurong was difficult. The left wing was really strong and he went in to try and organise workers to join him. He and his band of helpers worked really hard. He got the ground completely on his side," Mr Nathan said.

Under Phey, membership in Silo and Pieu swelled. Silo, for instance, went from 5,300 members in 1970 to 60,000 by 1979.

After Mr Nathan left the NTUC for the Foreign Affairs Ministry in 1965, he watched Phey's rise and fall from a distance.

Asked if he had one question for the now 81-year-old Phey, he replied: "Why did you do it?"





Tough union leader's rise and fall
CBT charges led to downfall of Phey, who was highly regarded for his ability to rally workers
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 28 Jun 2015

Throughout the 1970s, when labour relations in an industrialising Singapore were marked by strife between jealous factions, Phey Yew Kok helped create a united front for workers, and strengthened the foundations of tripartism.

Then the MP from the People's Action Party (PAP) ran away after being charged with misappropriating union funds, forcing an overhaul of the way unions were run to ensure no one man would have so much control again.

After 35 years as a fugitive and, to the shock of many who knew and worked with him, Phey returned last week to face justice at the age of 81, surrendering himself at Singapore's embassy in Bangkok. The Sunday Times looks at his rise and fall, and the impact on the country.

Meteoric rise to power

Little is known about Phey's personal life. He was born in Johor, married a school teacher and had three children. He began working life as a teacher, but soon joined the now-defunct Malaysia-Singapore Airlines as an accounts clerk.

He rose through the ranks and, by 1966, was a planning officer in the airline's engineering department. That year, he took his first step into union work.

He was elected treasurer of the Singapore Air Transport-workers Union (Satu) and three years later was its president. But it was not until March 1970 that his union career really began to take off.

At that time, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), founded in 1961 by PAP stalwart C.V. Devan Nair to give workers a voice, set up the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo).

Its role was to win over industrial workers from left-wing unions. A man was needed to head the new outfit, and Phey was chosen.

With his Chinese education background and fluency in Hokkien and Teochew - the dialects of the working class - the NTUC hoped he would be able to rally the Chinese ground.

That April, he was elected NTUC president at the age of 35, the youngest to hold the post.

Before the year was up, Phey's power was considerably strengthened when he was made secretary- general of the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU), which was set up by NTUC to woo workers in the factories then sprouting up in Jurong.

So by the end of 1970, and in less than a year, Phey was heading not just the two largest unions then, but also the fledgling national labour movement.

Reining in bus workers

The union ground at that time was fractious. Media consultant George Joseph, 65, who covered the labour beat for The Straits Times in the 1970s, recalls the mood then.

"The manufacturing sector was growing and NTUC needed to win over workers," he said. "The situation was volatile, union leaders had to be tough and they had their own power bases."

Strikes and fights were not uncommon. Union leadership was personality-driven and Phey had several close shaves - and the scars to show for them.

For instance, a riot took place at the PIEU office in 1974 when a university student leader and workers fought with union officers over failed union talks.

In 1969 and 1970, Phey received death threats and was attacked twice. In the first assault, outside the Satu Building, he was stabbed in the thigh.

The second involved two youths who claimed to have been paid $400 to slash Phey with a razor outside his home. The attack left a three-inch scar on his right cheek - which NTUC and Satu eventually paid $3,000 to have removed in Japan.

A cabin hand and two cleaners with MSA were eventually found guilty of both assaults.

But none of this slowed the rising union star.

One of his biggest successes was to rein in bus workers - who were an undisciplined lot in the 1960s and 1970s. They did not stick to schedules, were known to continue drinking beer and smoking as commuters waited, and moving off even before passengers had completed boarding. There were numerous such complaints.

In 1974, Phey's Silo signed an unprecedented wage pact with Singapore Bus Services (SBS) to give 8,500 bus workers a pay hike that would cost $1 million a year - provided they wore uniforms, underwent courtesy courses and were punctual.

The workers toed the line and bus services improved.

Phey was credited with the turnaround through the three-way partnership between unions, employers and the Government - and that was well before tripartism became a buzz word. He was even made an SBS director.

As his standing in labour circles strengthened, Phey was thrust into a new arena - politics.

In the 1972 General Election, the PAP fielded him as its candidate for Boon Teck, which is now part of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. He won and held the seat in the next election.

Retired storekeeper Lee Ah Bak, who is in his 70s and lives in Toa Payoh Lorong 5, recalls Phey the politician: "He spoke Teochew and he came from a humble background. We felt he could understand our problems when we were resettled from our farm to Toa Payoh. We liked him."

Phey also used bold methods to attract union members. In 1978 and 1979, six landed homes, complete with cash for furnishing, were given away as prizes in union lucky draws.

Childcare centres were set up, a travel arm with new tour coaches was formed to cater to workers, a canteen business was established and cooperative supermarkets were opened to ensure the working class had access to affordable staples in a bid to counter alleged "profiteering" by some private retailers.

By 1978, there were 18 PIEU and Silo supermarkets, which turned in a record $724,490 profit that year. Satu, PIEU and Silo also spent $4.25 million to buy the Big Splash water theme park at East Coast Park.

A $4 million building called Unity House was being built in Jurong to house the two unions. Phey even had an international basketball tournament in his name - the Phey Yew Kok Cup - which drew top-flight teams from the region.

Silo became the richest union in Singapore with $7 million in assets. PIEU was No. 2 with $4 million. Phey was at the helm of both.

Then came the criminal charges.

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) started probing Phey in the middle of 1979, and his downfall was swift.

The probe

In April 1974, Silo had sold its

union car for $8,000 but the money was credited into Phey's account.

This was uncovered in the CPIB probe. When Phey was confronted with it in September 1979, he claimed it was an error and said he had returned the money to the union soon after the sale.

But the CPIB found that the money was given back only in 1979, after its investigations had begun, and that Silo treasurer Yoon Mei Yoke had fabricated evidence to help Phey cover up the act.

The CPIB probe expanded and, on Dec 1, 1979, Phey was arrested.

Two days later, NTUC announced that Phey had resigned as secretary-general of PIEU and Silo.

On Dec 10, he was charged with criminal breach of trust and offences related to the alleged misuse of $100,000 of union funds.

These include having misappropriated two cheques - for $40,000 and $25,000 - in 1975 while he was Silo general secretary. In September 1978, he allegedly used $18,000 of Silo's funds to buy Forward Supermarket shares without ministerial approval, breaching the Trade Unions Act.

Forward Supermarket, which was later renamed Savewell, was a private chain which Phey had a hand in setting up.

He was scheduled to return to court on Jan 7, 1980. But on New Year's Eve, he took a train to Kuala Lumpur, then went to Bangkok, and nothing more was known of him - until last week.

In the wake of his disappearance, nine of his former staff members were tried and convicted.

During their trials, the court heard details including how Phey ran the union businesses with an iron fist.

His cousin Phay Yew Jan described how he was left on his own to run NTUC Travel Services and that the only person he consulted was Phey, who had virtually sanctioned all that he did.

Savewell supermarket chairman Wong Say Hong told the court he had been instructed by Phey to transfer goods from Silo supermarkets to the new chain.

The aftermath

Phey's mentor Devan Nair said he took "moral responsibility" for the state of affairs at PIEU and Silo.

He said of Phey: "He was, in a very real sense, a protege of mine. I had spotted him, and put him on the road to responsibility and power in the trade unions.

"It is an error to take even the apparent best of your trade union colleagues on trust all the time, and to have therefore failed to closely monitor his actual performance. I must confess to this error, which I hope my successors will avoid."

NTUC sent in teams to take over Silo, PIEU and Satu's books and assets, and set them in order.

Unity House was sold to National Iron and Steel Mills. A new management team took over Big Splash.

The Silo and PIEU supermarkets continued to run, but they eventually merged with NTUC Welcome to form NTUC FairPrice in 1983.

But most importantly, the NTUC rewrote union Constitutions so that charismatic leaders like Phey would not have free rein. Instead, the unions' power was to be entrusted to elected committees, not individual leaders.

And these elected committees can throw out individuals.

"This is designed to prevent personality cults in the labour movement," an NTUC official was reported to have said when the changes were announced.

Silo and PIEU, which had more than 100,000 members in total, were split into nine industry unions such as the United Workers of Electrical and Electronic Industries, National Transport Workers Union and Singapore Industrial and Services Employees Union, which are household names today.

In 1986, Silo and PIEU were finally wound up.

Last week, Singapore's best known fugitive finally came out of hiding, putting the Phey Yew Kok saga in the spotlight once more.





Nine caught up in Phey's net
By Tee Zhuo, The Sunday Times, 28 Jun 2015

Nine people were dealt with in court, mostly for criminal breach of trust (CBT), in the wake of the Phey Yew Kok scandal.

LEE SIN PIN

He was general manager of the Silo Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society's supermarkets. On Dec 31, 1980, he was sentenced to between five months and a year in jail on four counts of CBT. He misappropriated goods worth $212,000 belonging to Silo.

Witnesses said invoices for goods and delivery orders originally made out for Boon Teck PAP - Phey's constituency - were later changed to Savewell.

Savewell, a private supermarket chain, was Phey's brainchild but it had difficulties in getting supplies.

Boon Teck PAP was put on the invoices to obtain the goods at cost. But the goods eventually ended up at Savewell's outlets in Bedok, Clementi and Ang Mo Kio, not Silo's emporiums.

Witnesses said when they asked why they had to work on a Sunday to do the deliveries, they were told Savewell's management did not want to attract publicity.

LEOW GEOK KOON

The Silo operations manager was convicted of CBT on the same day as Lee and was jailed for eight months. He misappropriated goods worth $81,000.

Leow and Lee later appealed, but lost. Both said they were "only following instructions" from Phey.

WONG SAY HONG

The Savewell Supermarket chairman, who was previously Silo's purchasing manager, was sentenced to between four and 10 months' jail on four counts of abetting Lee and Leow.

He said money for Savewell came from Silo's staff funds, and insisted that he saw the former as part of Silo.

PHAY YEW JAN

Phey's cousin was general manager of NTUC Travel Services. He was sentenced to eight months' jail in 1980 on each of five charges of misappropriating $19,000 which he used to buy a colour TV set, and to pay rent and his wife's hospital bills, among other things. The jail terms were concurrent. A further 44 charges involving $49,000 were taken into consideration.

His lawyer said that since NTUC Travel was set up in 1974, Phay was left on his own to run it and the only person he consulted was Phey, who was executive director of NTUC Travel and authorised all the transactions in the charges.

IRENE YEO CHOOI LAN

She was the first woman to be elected vice-chairman of NTUC, in 1979. She was fined $4,500 for forging rebate vouchers as Silo secretary. The Straits Times reported that she "wept in the dock". Yeo filled the vouchers with fictitious reference information in order to buy goods from Silo and PIEU supermarkets for herself.

Her lawyer claimed that she faked the vouchers to prove to Phey that there were flaws in the system, and that even his trusted aides could abuse their positions.

TAN AH MENG

A branch chairman of the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU) overseas textile branch, he was fined $2,000 on a CBT charge involving nearly $2,000.

ONG THIAM SENG

Another PIEU branch manager, he was fined $1,200 for CBT involving $36.

YOON MEI YOKE

Silo's general treasurer was jailed four months for fabricating evidence.

EDDIE KAN MUN LEONG

The accountant told the CPIB that he received a letter from Phey in April 1979, when in fact he got it in June that year. He was fined $1,000.






JBJ asked about Phey again and again
Opposition MP sought inquiry, Mr Lee accused him of smear attempt
By Tee Zhuo, The Sunday Times, 28 Jun 2015

It was March 3, 1982, and Parliament was in session. Barely minutes into the first item on the agenda, one of the legendary exchanges between the sole opposition MP J.B. Jeyaretnam and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was already under way.

The lawyer and MP for Anson had called for the appointment of a commission to look into the details surrounding the disappearance of Phey Yew Kok, the powerful unionist and People's Action Party (PAP) MP who had absconded after being charged with criminal breach of trust.

Mr Lee shot down the idea, saying any such inquiry would be prejudicial to the charges Phey was facing and that Mr Jeyaretnam's intention was "really to create a smear that there has been a cover-up".

The following are edited extracts from their exchange that day:

Mr Lee: "As long as there are reasonable prospects of bringing Phey to trial, nothing should be done which can be said to jeopardise the process of law.

"The Member for Anson is inviting me to investigate the facts, or to appoint a commission to investigate the facts, of a criminal case which is sub judice... However, not to be the Government's own legal officer, I asked for the opinion of the Attorney-General. In a written opinion, he has advised against the appointment of a commission of inquiry."

Mr Jeyaretnam: "As I understand it, it would be contempt of court to inquire into it while proceedings are pending before a criminal court, but the trial has not begun as yet.

"It is, in my view, always open to the prosecution to withdraw for the moment the charge against Mr Phey and that he be discharged not amounting to an acquittal and then an inquiry held, and when Mr Phey is apprehended and brought into this country he can be freshly put on trial on those charges. Would the Prime Minister like to consider that?"...

Mr Lee: "As I understand it, I am now being asked to suggest to the Attorney-General to go into an elaborate subterfuge.

"In other words, the Member for Anson, in putting his question which is really to create a smear that there has been a cover-up, knew that he was suggesting something improper and had come prepared for an answer that this was being thwarted because it is sub judice, and therefore he proposes that we withdraw the charge; warrant will lapse; commission of inquiry is held, Phey's trial in effect is held by the commission of inquiry; all the issues involved are prejudged; the commission reports, charges are then re-introduced; warrants for arrest are re-issued.

"Is that what is being seriously suggested that a government should require its Attorney-General to do because a Member of the Opposition wants to satisfy his curiosity?"...

Mr Jeyaretnam: "Mr Speaker, Sir, I was not attempting smears. I would ask the Prime Minister not to impute too readily motives to the Opposition Member. The terms of inquiry of the commission can be drafted in such a way as to exclude any inquiry as to the guilt or otherwise of Mr Phey. The inquiry can be directed as to how - I have set out some of the matters on which the inquiry can be conducted, and that is whether accounting and correct accounting and audit practices, procedures, had been followed and whether anybody else was aware of the manner in which these monies were being taken from the amounts held by these unions."...

Mr Lee: "What he really wants to know is whether there has been a cover-up, whether anybody has been let off. I am prepared to have such a commission without touching the evidence against Phey because such an inquiry will be a credit to the Government.

"It will show how thoroughly and impartially an investigation was conducted against a very senior and close associate of several ministers in the Government and of the President, and how it was relentlessly pursued until no evidence was left unturned and that he was not allowed to get away and abscond because the Government was afraid it would open up more horrendous skeletons in the cupboard. That is what I am offering, but without touching the evidence against Phey. Are you wanting that inquiry because I am quite happy to have it?"

Mr Jeyaretnam: "If the Prime Minister will let me know the terms of reference of this commission that he proposes to appoint, then I will answer him."

Mr Lee: "I am offering the Member a commission to investigate any alleged cover-up. He is alleging the cover-up. Write it out without touching on the facts relating to Phey Yew Kok's charges, and he will have his commission."

Mr Jeyaretnam would continue to highlight in Parliament the Government's failure to capture the PAP's black sheep, questioning ministers on Phey's whereabouts again and again over the next few years.

On March 16, 1983, he tried to push then Home Affairs Minister Chua Sian Chin to publicly reveal the country Phey was last known to be in, but Mr Chua said the information had to be kept confidential so as not to tip off the fugitive.

He asked again in 1984 about the progress in the hunt for Phey, and in 1986, he asked Minister of State for Home Affairs, Dr Lee Boon Yang, if the police had "given up all hope" of finding him. Dr Lee replied that the warrant of arrest was still in force.

In 1998, Mr Jeyaretnam posed the same question again in Parliament. And the answer from Minister of State for Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee this time was that the case was still alive.





As Savewell supermarkets closed, Sheng Siong was born
By Tee Zhuo, The Sunday Times, 28 Jun 2015

As one fell, another rose from its ashes. If not for events tied to the Phey Yew Kok saga, there may well not have been a Sheng Siong supermarket today.

As Savewell supermarkets - which Phey had a hand in setting up - began closing down in 1985 because of financial troubles, Mr Lim Hock Chee was operating a pork counter at one outlet in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.

When Mr Lim was offered the retail space, he and his family pooled their money and took a leap of faith - and the first Sheng Siong store was born.

Today, FairPrice, one of Sheng Siong's main competitors, is all that is left of the cooperative supermarkets of that era.

FairPrice itself was born from a supermarket chain of two short-lived omnibus unions - the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) and the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU).

At its peak, Silo ran about 20 emporiums and supermarkets, including one branch at Changi Airport.

One of the more iconic ones was an emporium in Kallang Bahru, now the site of a restaurant, stores and, of course, a FairPrice outlet.

After Phey, who was the chief of both unions as well as the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), fled the country on Dec 31, 1979 to escape charges that he misappropriated money, supermarkets run by Silo and PIEU were merged with NTUC Welcome to form NTUC FairPrice.

The cooperatives were the brainchild of then Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee.

NTUC Welcome was the first cooperative supermarket chain. The first branch was officially opened in 1973 by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, and supermarkets under Silo and PIEU followed.

The Government's aim was to make daily necessities affordable to ordinary Singaporeans, especially at a time of soaring food prices due to the oil crisis.

In 1974, the consumer price index had shot up by 22.3 per cent.

NTUC Welcome's first chairman Baey Lian Peck was given $250,000 in capital by then Environment Minister Lim Kim San with the advice: "Keep prices low, fight inflation, but don't lose money doing it!"

To cut costs and lower prices, NTUC Welcome dealt directly with suppliers and curbed profiteering by middlemen. It also gave members rebates of 3 per cent to 6 per cent for purchases at its outlets.





Done wrong? No govt link can save you
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 29 Jun 2015

IF YOU commit a wrongdoing, you are unlikely to go scot-free, regardless of your status or links with the Government, Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

"Whether you are connected to the Government or not, whether you are the chief of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) or not... if you do something wrong, it is likely that you will be caught, and the system will proceed against you," he said.

Mr Shanmugam, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, spoke at the launch of an exhibition on the history of public transport in Yishun. He was commenting on former MP and union leader Phey Yew Kok, who fled after he was charged with misusing more than $100,000 in union funds in 1979.

Last Monday, Phey, now 81, gave himself up after 35 years and was charged the next day.

"This wasn't just any MP, he was handpicked to lead the entire trade union," said Mr Shanmugam. "He was very senior and was close to many ministers."

Mr Shanmugam said corruption can never be eliminated, but the Government has a system that "substantially reduces" it.

"Most people don't even think of being corrupt. And for those who want to go down that road, whoever they are, however powerful, they will be charged. And then the courts will decide if they are guilty or not," he added.






Phey Yew Kok faces 28 new charges
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 24 Jul 2015

Former NTUC president and Member of Parliament Phey Yew Kok was yesterday charged with 28 new offences - nearly all of which pertain to when he was one of Singapore's most powerful unionists in the 1970s.

A fugitive from justice for over three decades before surrendering last month, the 81-year-old now faces a total of 34 charges involving more than $450,000 - nearly five times the $100,000 in union funds he was originally charged with misappropriating in 1979.

The fresh charges mostly involve criminal breach of trust, but also include abetting the fabrication of evidence, abetting the provision of false information to a public servant, and misappropriating more than $200,000 in supermarket goods.

It is also alleged that he spirited money from the International Metalworkers Federation and Boon Teck Education Centre, and even a donation of about $17,700 intended for the Industrial Accident Relief Fund. The new charges also include one of absconding while on $100,000 bail.

He had been scheduled to return to court on Jan 7, 1980, after being first charged the month before, but on New Year's Eve, he took a train to Kuala Lumpur, then went to Bangkok. Nothing more was known of him - until he unexpectedly gave himself up at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on June 22.

The silver-haired Phey appeared in court yesterday through a video link to hear the new charges. He is currently in remand at Changi Prison, where he is expected to remain at least until his case is heard in court on Sept 3.

No bail was offered. He was represented by lawyers from Tan Rajah & Cheah - senior counsel Chelva Retnam Rajah, partner Chen Chee Yen and associate Andre Teo.

Mr Chen said that they were engaged by Phey himself, but declined to say when. He added that they had yet to meet their client but would see him soon.

Phey enjoyed a meteoric rise in the labour movement after joining the National Trades Union Congress as an industrial relations officer in 1964. Six years later, he was appointed NTUC president at the age of 35. He was elected MP for Boon Teck constituency in 1972.

But after a Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau probe, he was arrested and then charged on Dec 10, 1979. The earlier charges include misappropriating two cheques - for $40,000 and $25,000 - in 1975 while he was general secretary of the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo). In September 1978, he also allegedly used almost $18,000 of Silo's funds to buy shares in a private supermarket without ministerial approval, breaching the Trade Unions Act.





* Ex-union leader Phey Yew Kok gets 5 years' jail for CBT
He admits to 12 of 34 charges; in all, he misappropriated more than $450,000
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent and Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

Phey Yew Kok, once Singapore's most powerful unionist before absconding after being charged with criminal breach of trust, has been sentenced to five years in jail, finally bringing to a close a criminal trial which began in 1979.

Yesterday, the 81-year-old former National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) chairman and People's Action Party (PAP) Member of Parliament, half-blind and hard of hearing, cut a frail figure in the dock as he pleaded guilty.

His lawyer later said Phey was well aware of his abuse of trust, which was something he was "very ashamed about and sorry".

Clad in a white T-shirt and brown trousers, Phey admitted to 12 of 34 charges, including 10 counts of criminal breach of trust involving $243,878. In all, he misappropriated more than $450,000 over a period of six years.

Deputy Presiding Judge Jennifer Marie said in her brief grounds of decision that instead of valuing and safeguarding the trust given to him, Phey saw fit to exploit it.

"The facts reveal that Phey, like a serial criminal, systematically and with deliberation over a period of six years, perpetrated these offences. He had no qualms in trying to evade detection and had the temerity to instigate his staff to fabricate false evidence," she said.

"His remorse, belatedly, does not displace the serious and aggravating nature of his offences and I attach little significance to this," said the judge, adding that his conduct deserved the "utmost censure of the Court".

It was front-page news when he was hauled to court to face charges in December 1979.

But the even bigger shock came when he failed to show up in court on Jan 7 the following year. He had fled Singapore on Dec 31, 1979, by taking a train to Kuala Lumpur, where he flew to Thailand. He remained a fugitive until his surrender at the Singapore Embassy in Bangkok on June 22 last year.

No other criminal has ever remained at large for as long as he has, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng.

It was also revealed yesterday that as a fugitive, he could not stay in one place for long, and had to take up odd jobs, such as pig farming and hawking.

As his health got worse, it became harder for him to find a job. In those 35 years, Phey, who has three grown-up children and two granddaughters, never saw his family. According to his mitigation plea, he surrendered because he did not want to die in a foreign land, and wanted to make amends with his family.

None of his family members was present in court yesterday.



The bulk of the offences were committed when he helmed the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) and the Pioneer Industries Employees' Union (PIEU).

As general secretary, he had de facto power and control over the running of the two unions and their finances. "Such was the accused's position that he was seen, as union members put it, as a union 'god'," said DPP Tan.

The prosecutor accused him of treating a joint Silo-PIEU staff fund as his own "private slush fund" and "repeatedly dipping his hand into the cookie jar for his own benefit".

Phey also invested funds from Silo and PIEU in Forward Supermarket, later renamed Save-Well Supermarket, without the approval of the Finance Minister.

To supply Save-Well with goods, he, together with three others, clandestinely siphoned $210,859 worth of goods from the Silo Multi-purpose Cooperative Society.

His co-accused had previously been given jail terms of between four and 12 months each.

He used his position as the MP for Boon Teck to launder the goods through the PAP Boon Teck Branch. As MP, he was also accused of misappropriating funds meant for an education centre for three- to five-year-olds in his constituency. When he was being investigated in 1979, he instigated Silo general treasurer Yoon Mei Yoke to fabricate false evidence in an attempt to exonerate himself.





Former NTUC chairman and ex-MP Phey Yew Kok, 81, pleaded guilty to 12 charges on Friday. These included committing 10...
Posted by The Straits Times on Thursday, January 21, 2016






Phey 'led a miserable life' and lived in fear while on the run
He took up odd jobs such as pig farming, had no regular income and worried about getting caught every day
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

Little was known of how Phey Yew Kok had spent his days since fleeing to Kuala Lumpur on New Year's Eve in 1979 - until now.

Yesterday, Phey, now 81, pleaded guilty to 12 charges and was sentenced to five years in jail, backdated to June 23 last year.

In mitigation, Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah said Phey "led a miserable life" away from his family during 35 years on the run.

In Thailand, the former chairman of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and former MP for Boon Teck had no identity card, passport or regular income.

Each day, he worried about being arrested. Unable to stay in one place for long out of fear of being recognised, he took up odd jobs such as pig farming, hawking and cleaning grease traps to support himself.

But as he got older, finding a job became increasingly difficult.

He started losing vision in his right eye over 10 years ago and did not have enough money to seek medical attention.

His last job, said Mr Rajah, was as a watchman for a godown, but it grew difficult for him to stay on as he began losing sight in his left eye, along with his sense of hearing.

Now, he is completely blind in his right eye and unable to see out of the top half of his left eye. He also suffers from severe hearing impairment. But the jail term is not expected to adversely affect his health.

He is "not the same man" who left Singapore over three decades ago, said his lawyer.

Phey, who is married with three children, had decided to surrender himself at the Singapore Embassy in Thailand on June 22 last year, in the hope of spending his last days with his family rather than in a foreign land.

Being away during his children's formative years, he hopes to mend relations with them, according to his lawyers. He also wishes to meet his two granddaughters.

Phey stood alone in court yesterday, flanked by two guards. He listened with a solemn, unchanging expression as the charges were read. None of his family members was seen in the gallery.

He was represented by Senior Counsel Rajah, partner Chen Chee Yen and associate Andre Teo of Tan Rajah & Cheah.

In mitigation, his contributions to the fledgling labour movement were also highlighted.

In 1970, the NTUC set up the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) to win over industrial workers from left-wing unions. Phey was chosen to head it and the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU), which was set up to woo factory workers in Jurong.

His fluency in Teochew and Hokkien and Chinese education background helped him communicate effectively with blue-collar workers in the Jurong Industrial Estate.

Former president and unionist S R Nathan wrote in his memoirs that under Phey's leadership, Silo and PIEU "developed a reach well beyond the expectations of earlier NTUC leaders".

Phey's lawyers said that, with hindsight, Phey regrets absconding and is "ashamed and sorry" for what he did. His actions have let down the union movement "which he was wholeheartedly committed to".









He misused funds to pay for house, generated fake invoices
By Elena Chong, Court Correspondent, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

Phey Yew Kok used misappropriated union funds to pay in part for a new house, a district court heard yesterday.

With full control over the running and finances of two of Singapore's biggest unions, the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) and Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU), Phey, now 81, committed a myriad of offences from 1973 to 1979, such as generating fake invoices so he could transfer money into his personal bank account.

At least $60,000 went to fund the purchase of a house in Lorong Ong Lye. Phey alone managed the Silo/PIEU Staff Fund, set up to give monetary awards to permanent employees who had completed five years' service or loans, and its accounts.

Contributions to the staff fund came from a part of the monthly salaries of the employees in the two unions.

In February 1974, Phey negotiated a scheme with Singapore Bus Services on behalf of Silo under which SBS would contribute $1 million annually for incentive payments to bus workers.

SBS would pay $250,000 to Silo every quarter and that money would be used to distribute incentives in the form of cash, goods and vouchers from the Silo Multipurpose Co-Operative Society (Silo MPCSL) to the bus workers.

By January 1975, SBS had paid $750,000 into Silo's main bank account, of which $680,081 had been used in incentives, leaving a surplus $69,919.

On Feb 24 that year, Phey directed a fake invoice to be issued by the Silo MPCSL supermarket division to Silo, stating that $40,000 was required to buy vouchers for bus workers. Instead, the money was deposited in the staff fund account. A cheque was then issued from this account to Phey, who deposited it into his personal bank account. He later used the money to pay for the house and lawyer's fees for the purchase.

That same day, Phey directed another fake invoice be issued from the Silo MPCSL supermarket division to Silo for $25,000, purportedly as reimbursement for purchase of vouchers issued to bus workers.

The $25,000 cheque was similarly deposited into the staff fund account and Phey later withdrew it and used it to pay for his house.

In January 1976, under his direction, a cheque for $15,000 was made out to his wife from the staff fund account and deposited into her personal account.

Phey also misappropriated $6,000 from Silo that was purported to be a loan to the assistant general secretary of Silo to buy a car. When he was questioned by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau regarding this, he asked the general treasurer of Silo to falsify a receipt to corroborate his story.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Kiat Pheng said Phey adopted multiple methods, such as layering of transactions, in committing the offences to make them hard to detect.





Swift rise to power and fall from grace
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

Former chairman of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Phey Yew Kok was once described as a "god in the labour movement" and enjoyed a meteoric rise to power.

In the 1970s, he helped to create a united front for workers, also strengthening the foundations of tripartism.

But soon after becoming NTUC chairman in 1979, he was investigated for malpractices and fled after being charged with misappropriating union funds.

Now 81, Phey pleaded guilty to 12 charges yesterday after living 35 years as a fugitive.

• Phey grew up in poverty and worked to support himself through school.

• He was an English teacher for two to three years before joining the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines as an accounts clerk.• 1966: He became treasurer of the Singapore Air Transport Workers Union (Satu)

1968: He became president of Satu.• 1964: He was seconded to NTUC as an industrial relations officer.

• 1970: He became president of the NTUC at age 35, and was the youngest to hold the post.

• 1970: He was also elected general secretary of both the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) and Pioneer Industries Employees' Union (PIEU), which represented a total of around 80,000 workers.

• 1972: Phey contested the general election as a candidate of the People's Action Party and became the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Boon Teck. He successfully stood for re-election four years later.

• 1979: He became NTUC's chairman.

• 1979: The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) started investigations against Phey for malpractices in Silo and PIEU.

• 1979: He was arrested and charged in December, and released on bail of $100,000 with two sureties.• 1979: On Dec 31, Phey absconded to Malaysia and, eventually, Thailand.

• 2015: On June 22, he surrendered himself at the Singapore Embassy in Thailand.• 2015: On June 23, he was repatriated to Singapore and has since been held in remand.

• 2016: Yesterday, January 22, he pleaded guilty to 12 charges, with 22 remaining charges taken into consideration for sentencing. He was sentenced to 60 months in jail, backdated to June 23 last year.





End of a chapter in Singapore's union history
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent and Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 23 Jan 2016

The conviction, and sentencing, of former National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) chairman and MP Phey Yew Kok closes a chapter in Singapore's union and political history, said unionists and former MPs who knew him.

"Whether you are a parliamentarian or not, you have to answer for your actions," said Mr Chan Chee Seng, 84, who was Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social Affairs when Phey jumped bail in 1980.

Phey was elected MP for Boon Teck in the 1972 General Election. He was still an MP when he fled Singapore in 1980.

His Boon Teck seat was subsequently contested and won by the People's Action Party's Liew Kok Pun in the 1980 General Election. The former single-seat constituency is now part of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC.

Unionists told The Straits Times that the case showed the importance of having union leaders with integrity.

"He was before my time, so I've no recollection of him," said retired NTUC president John De Payva, 67. "In general, union leaders need to be honest. The level of integrity has to be high."

Before Phey's arrest by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau in December 1979, he was one of the most powerful union leaders in Singapore, holding the post of NTUC chairman and heading two large unions and their supermarket chains.

His meteoric rise started in 1966, when he was elected treasurer of the Singapore Air Transport-workers Union (Satu), his first union leadership position.

In March 1970, the NTUC set up the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (Silo) to win over industrial workers from left-wing unions.

Phey was hand-picked to head the union because of his ability to organise workers.

A month later, he was elected NTUC president at the age of 35, the youngest to hold the post.

Later that year, he was also elected secretary-general of the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU), which was set up by NTUC to woo workers in the factories then sprouting up in Jurong.

After Phey fled Singapore, the NTUC sent in teams to take over Silo, PIEU and Satu. NTUC also rewrote union Constitutions to entrust power to elected committees and not individual leaders, to prevent charismatic leaders like Phey from having free rein.

Mr G. Muthukumarasamy, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers, said Phey had disappointed union leaders.

"He shouldn't have taken union money and left," said the 65-year-old, who met Phey in the 1970s as a young union leader. "The sentence is long, but what is wrong is wrong."

When contacted on the phone last night, Phey's son, Mr David Phey Teck Ann, who works in a lifestyle magazine group, said: "It is inconvenient to talk. I do not have any comment."


No comments:

Post a Comment