Saturday, 26 April 2014

Leaders pay tribute to former MP Dixie Tan

Pioneer woman MP remembered for her dedication and natural warmth
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 25 Apr 2014

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong was among several political leaders who paid tribute to the late Dr Dixie Tan yesterday, pointing to her dedication as an MP and her role in promoting special education.

Mr Lee noted that she had entered politics at the same time as he did, in 1984, when for more than a decade, the MPs were all men.

Together with Dr Aline Wong and Mrs Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, they were the only women MPs elected that year.

"Far from being intimidated by their male colleagues, all three more than held their own, and stood out in the House," Mr Lee said in a condolence letter to her husband, Dr Tan Ngoh Chuan, 83.

Dr Tan had died of brain cancer on Wednesday. She was 78. She also left behind a son, two daughters and a grandson.

Recalling her quiet self-confidence, and natural warmth and concern for others, PM Lee added: "She knew her mind and spoke softly, but with conviction.

"She pressed for what she believed in and felt passionately about, and ministers took her points and requests seriously."

Mr Lee and other leaders also stressed that she worked hard as an MP for Ulu Pandan, from 1984 to 1991. Mr Lee noted that she entered politics even though her sons, Russell and Kenneth, who had intellectual disabilities, needed her care.

"She fulfilled her public as well as family duties amply." he said.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said she had to close her cardiologist practice as a result of her MP work.

"We found her apolitical, but imbued with a sincere desire to serve," Mr Goh said in a Facebook post.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam recalled how she "participated constructively in the development of government policies, especially in the areas of health and education", including in the Advisory Council for the Disabled in 1988, which he chaired as education minister then.

"Dixie was an inspiration for all Singaporeans, and her passing away is a loss for our country," he said in a condolence letter.

Her wake is at Mount Vernon Sanctuary Grace Hall today and tomorrow. The funeral service will be on Sunday at Paya Lebar Methodist Church.

Former PAP MP Dixie Tan, 78, dies
Cardiologist and advocate for children with special needs had brain cancer
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2014

FORMER Member of Parliament Dixie Tan, whose entry into politics in 1984 brought an end to 14 years of an all-male Parliament, died yesterday of brain cancer.

She was 78.

The cardiologist, who with her husband performed Singapore's first successful heart valve operation in 1971, struggled with the cancer for two months, her daughter Jacinta, 49, told The Straits Times. She died in Singapore General Hospital just after midnight.

"We have had a huge outpouring of love from people throughout her short illness. Her Christian faith gave her strength and peace," said the youngest of Dr Tan's four children, who is a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Swansea University in Wales.

Dr Tan, MP for Ulu Pandan for seven years until 1991, was one of three women the People's Action Party fielded in 1984.

The other two were university lecturer Aline Wong and trade unionist Yu-Foo Yee Shoon. Dr Wong became a senior minister of state, and Mrs Yu-Foo, a minister of state. Both have since left politics.

Among the challenges that Dr Tan faced was caring for her two sons, who were intellectually disabled.

When she could not find a suitable school for the two boys, she helped found the Association for Educationally Subnormal Children in 1976. It was later renamed the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN).

Yesterday, Dr Wong spoke of Dr Tan's strength of character, which she said was partly why she was selected for politics: "She could stand so strong and firm despite her two children" being intellectually disabled.

As an MP, Dr Tan was a strong advocate for children with special needs. She urged the Government to provide education to equip the children for jobs and to live independently, and to train teachers in special education.

The importance of studying the arts and the humanities was also a common theme in her parliamentary speeches.

But her political career was not without controversy.

When she took 10 months of study leave in 1990 to get a diploma in family and marital therapy in London, Ulu Pandan residents felt neglected.

The PAP nearly lost the ward in the 1991 general election. Mr Lim Boon Heng, former Cabinet minister and now Temasek Holdings chairman, won it by a narrow 56.4 per cent of the votes against Singapore Democratic Party's Ashleigh Seow.

Later in 2001, Dr Tan said in an interview: "I concluded that I was never cut out to be a politician, and there were also government policies I disagreed with but could not speak out against in Parliament because the government Whip was not lifted."

After she retired from politics, she became a family and marital therapist at family service centres for 10 years.

Dr Wong, who knew her for almost 40 years and visited her after her younger son, Kenneth, died last year, said: "She never complained about her lot, never was bitter. She always said it was God's will."

Dr Wong, who had visited Dr Tan on Tuesday afternoon, said she had been "in a coma for a few days".

Dr Tan is survived by her husband, Dr Tan Ngoh Chuan, 83; son Russell, 54, daughters Grace, 50, and Jacinta, 49, and grandson Christian Lim, seven.

Her wake will be held at Mount Vernon Sanctuary Grace Hall tomorrow and on Saturday. Her funeral service will be on Sunday at Paya Lebar Methodist Church.


Dr Dixie Tan was a brave soul who broke the all-male dominance in Parliament, and was the forerunner of a list of women Members of Parliament since then. I remember her as a kind, gentle lady who did her best to serve her constituents.

- Former Cabinet minister Lim Boon Heng, who took over Dr Tan's Ulu Pandan ward after a narrow win at the polls in 1991


When I met her a few months ago, she was very peaceful and amiable. When faced with life's challenges, she handles them with grace, perseverance and courage. Although her husband and herself are renowned heart surgeons, she has a heart for the people. After leaving politics, she... gave free counselling and helped several charities. Her charitable spirit and tenacity in life is something the younger generation can learn from.

- Former minister of state Yu-Foo Yee Shoon, who became an MP in the same year as Dr Tan, in 1984

1 comment:

  1. Dr Dixie Tan is a great lady with an admirable spirit of charity and generosity. I had the opportunity of working on a short project with her. In the course of my work with her, I found that she is unassuming, clear minded and has a heart of gold for the under privileged people in society. I will always treasure the memory and the opportunity of knowing her and working with her to advance the lives of people with special needs.