Thursday 8 August 2013

PM Lee pays tribute to S Dhanabalan for leading Temasek and as minister

PM: Singapore lucky to have leaders like Dhana
Retired Temasek chairman searched his conscience to 'do the right thing'
By Robin Chan, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2013

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong led the tributes to newly retired Temasek Holdings chairman S. Dhanabalan last night, saying Singapore has been fortunate to have had leaders like him who led with conviction and dedication.

Mr Dhanabalan's strong conviction was what made him valuable as a Cabinet minister, Mr Lee said, as he was prepared to voice his disagreements with policies and also searched his conscience to "do the right thing".

Speaking at a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton hotel to mark Temasek's 39th anniversary, Mr Lee told the audience of 350 guests: "Singapore has been lucky to have had stewards like Dhana to take care of our affairs. They believe in what they are doing. They dedicate their hearts and souls to the task."

Mr Dhanabalan stepped down as Temasek chairman last week after 17 years at the helm of the investment company. That marked the end of a career spanning over five decades in the private sector and in politics, 15 of them as a minister from 1978 to 1993.

Mr Lee recalled how Mr Dhanabalan had long resisted the idea of Group Representation Constituencies, as he felt that people would vote based on a person's character and abilities rather than on race.

But he eventually concluded that it would be many years before race "would cease to matter in Singapore", and that it was important to safeguard minority representation in Parliament.

In 1990, when the Government was drafting a Bill on maintaining religious harmony, Mr Dhanabalan helped the Cabinet work out a "practical and reasonable approach" to a highly sensitive issue. His support for the Bill helped it to be accepted by religious groups and the public. "This was his value as a minister - he spoke and acted out of conviction, and people knew that."

The Prime Minister's remarks come after his recent statements about the need for Singapore to get its politics right if it is to succeed. This, he had noted, included being able to draw into Government good people prepared to take decisions in the nation's long-term interest.

Last night, Mr Lee also described Mr Dhanabalan as a "good friend and trusted colleague", and an "able minister and wise adviser". He retired from politics in 1992, but when both deputy prime ministers were diagnosed with cancer, he returned to serve for a year, before joining Temasek as chairman in 1996.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam highlighted how Mr Dhanabalan helped establish a sound and effective governance system at Temasek.

Mr Dhanabalan, who turns 76 tomorrow, said he was "overwhelmed" by the tributes and quoting the Bible, said "we have only done what we should do".


Sometimes a matter would raise core issues of values and principles, and Dhana would search his conscience to try to do the right thing.

For example, the idea of GRCs to ensure minority representation in Parliament. Dhana resisted this for a long time, because he felt that Singaporeans should and would vote for or against a person based on his character and his abilities and his policies, regardless of what his race is...

But eventually he concluded that it would be many years before race would cease to matter in Singapore, and that we did need some safeguard to ensure minority representation, and he said so publicly...

And this was his value as a minister - he spoke and acted out of conviction, and people knew that.


Your personal values and professional principles have shaped the Temasek ethos.

I have also been the beneficiary, as someone who entered politics long after you did, of your thoughtful advice and guidance on many other matters to do with Singapore - and always delivered with the humility that we all associate with Dhana.


In business, in politics, in the community, Dhana has set the highest standards. He has lived by them all his life. He has earned the right to bid farewell, proud of his achievements and deserving of his praise.

I know he is a modest man, and he does point to the work of others who've helped shape Temasek to be what it is today.

On behalf of the many here, who deservedly share in his success, we simply want to say to Dhana that what was done could not have been done without your leadership, your courage and your commitment.

Sound governance system is Dhana's key legacy: Tharman
Temasek is kept accountable, and has ownership of its decisions
By Alvin Foo, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2013

NEWLY retired Temasek Holdings chairman S. Dhanabalan leaves behind as his most important legacy a sound and effective system of governance at the Singapore investment agency.

That was the assessment of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also in charge of the Ministry of Finance, which is Temasek's shareholder.

This framework allows for the Temasek board to be accountable to the Government for its long-term performance, and also for clear ownership of responsibility by Temasek for its investment decisions, Mr Tharman said.

"Together with the board and management, Dhana moulded an ownership mindset in Temasek - which above all means thinking long-term rather than focusing on short-term bets," Mr Tharman said at Temasek's 39th anniversary dinner last night.

He spelt out the Government's approach - to ensure that people of sound character and judgment are appointed to the board.

"We are careful not to have any role or influence in Temasek's investment decisions," Mr Tharman added.

And this has been the right approach, as it means Temasek can make commercial assessments without having to second-guess the Government, and the Government avoids being in a position where it is endorsing or vetoing a deal, or is seen to be doing so.

"This alignment in our thinking on the governance of Temasek remains an important advantage for the future. The Government holds the board accountable for Temasek's performance over time. Temasek has the flexibility to seize opportunities when they arise, and to take calculated risks aimed at growing the value of its portfolio over the long term," Mr Tharman said.

This approach was possible only because there are capable and trusted people on the board who work with the management to look after the Government's long-term interests, he added.

"Without Dhana in Temasek as chairman, the Government would not have found this confidence," Mr Tharman said.

This governance framework is especially significant, as Temasek operates at the "higher end of the risk spectrum of the nation's reserves". The Monetary Authority of Singapore, GIC and Temasek engage in different investment strategies, and take different degrees of risk.

Mr Tharman also noted that Temasek's governance framework has enabled management decisions which have produced good returns.

Newly appointed Temasek chairman Lim Boon Heng also spoke at the dinner, saying that the three core principles of long-term over short-term, the larger institutional good over individual interest and the habit of thinking and building for future generations "will continue to guide us, as they have guided previous generations of board, management and staff".

Man of humility pays tribute to others
By Elgin Toh, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2013

AFTER the tributes had poured in, when it was finally Mr S. Dhanabalan's turn, he chose to give credit to everyone else.

True to his reputation for being a man of humility, he said he was "overwhelmed" and in turn paid tribute to Temasek Holdings' management team and the pioneer leaders he learnt from. He repeated that appointing Ms Ho Ching as the chief executive of Temasek was "the most important and significant decision" that he had taken and "which gives me the most satisfaction".

"This is not just a conventional statement that I want to make because it's expected of me. I truly mean it from my heart, that I don't deserve a fraction of what was said," he said. "It is a great privilege for me to have been a member of the board of directors of Temasek, guiding the management team led by Ho Ching."

Mr Dhanabalan also credited pioneer ministers Hon Sui Sen and Howe Yoon Chong for teaching him "the preparedness to act without detailed direction and the courage to exercise entrepreneurship".

"Even today, it astounds me that Mr Hon in 1960, leading a team of very young people... entrusted us to do what has made Singapore what it is today," he said.

Turning to his successor, former labour chief Lim Boon Heng, Mr Dhanabalan said the two share a common set of values and a person's value system is what will ultimately determine "the fortunes, performance and character of an institution".

Though retired, he hopes to continue to be engaged in "doing what I can, to make our society and community better".

"Most of what I hope to do will be at a very individual, local, small level, like helping a person to up a step or to cross a small hurdle. I'll find that significant."

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