Devan Nair

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His Excellency
C. V. Devan Nair
C V Devan Nair.jpg
3rd President of Singapore
In office
23 October 1981 – 27 March 1985
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (1959–1990)
Preceded by Benjamin Henry Sheares
Succeeded by Wee Kim Wee
Member of Parliament
for Anson
In office
Preceded by P. Govindaswamy
Succeeded by J.B. Jeyaretnam
Personal details
Born Devan Nair Chengara Veetil
(1923-08-05)5 August 1923
Malacca, Straits Settlements
(now Malaysia)
Died 6 December 2005(2005-12-06) (aged 82)
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Nationality Malaysian
Political party People's Action Party
Spouse(s) Avadai Dhanam
Children 4
Profession Labour unionist
Religion Hinduism

Devan Nair Chengara Veetil, also known as C. V. Devan Nair (Malayalam: ദേവന്‍ നായര്‍; Malacca 5 August 1923– Hamilton, Canada 6 December 2005), was a Singaporean politician, as a member of the People's Action Party who became the third President of Singapore. He was elected by the Parliament of Singapore on 23 October 1981, and served as President until his resignation on 28 March 1985.


Nair was born in Malacca, Malaysia, the son of an Indian immigrant I.V.K. Nair, from Thalassery, Kerala. He and his family migrated to Singapore when he was 10 years old. When he was young, he received his education first at Rangoon Road Primary School and then at Victoria School where he passed his Senior Cambridge examination in 1940.


Initially, a member of the Communist Anti-British League, he joined Lee Kuan Yew's People's Action Party (PAP) in 1954. He was the only PAP member to win in the Malaysian general election, 1964, winning the Bangsar constituency, near Kuala Lumpur. He stayed in Malaysia after the Separation, forming the Democratic Action Party, but returned to Singapore to lead the labor union movement and founded the National Trades Union Congress. He entered the Singapore Parliament in 1979 by winning the Anson seat in a by-election and retained the seat in the 1980 general election, but resigned the seat in 1981 to accept the largely ceremonial office of President. This resulted in a by-election of the Anson seat which was then won by opposition leader J.B. Jeyaretnam, the first time in Singapore since 1972 when an opposition party candidate won a Parliament seat.


On March 28, 1985, Nair resigned in unclear circumstances. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stated in Parliament that Nair resigned to get treatment for alcoholism, a charge Nair hotly denied. According to Nair's counterclaim, he resigned under pressure when their political views came into conflict and Lee threatened him to a game of chess to then oust him as president. Nair also alleged that he was fed drugs to make him appear disoriented and that rumours were spread about his personal life in an attempt to discredit him. In 1999, an article about the case in the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail resulted in a libel suit by Lee.[1] Some claimed that the suit was thrown out of court after Nair's counterclaim.[2] However, in a letter to the New York Times, it is said that Lee agreed to discontinue the suit only when two of Nair's sons issued a statement, reported in the Globe and Mail on July 1, 2004, maintaining that Nair was no longer mentally competent to give evidence in court.[3] The Globe and Mail statement concluded that "having reviewed the records, and on the basis of the family's knowledge of the circumstances leading to Mr. Nair's resignation as President of Singapore in March, 1985, we can declare that there is no basis for this allegation (of Mr Nair being drugged)."[4]


Nair and his wife migrated first to the United States in 1988 where they settled in Gaithersburg, Maryland and then later in Bloomington, Indiana where Mr. Nair consulted under the auspices of the AFL-CIO. They later moved to Hamilton, Ontario where they lived for the rest of their lives. His wife, Avadai Dhanam, died on April 18, 2005 in Hamilton. Nair, who had developed dementia died on December 7 of the same year in Hamilton, Canada. His last request that he had conveyed to his children was to be buried in the country he loved and served, Singapore. However, that has not been fulfilled and Mr. Nair's body now rests in a grave in Hamilton, Canada.[citation needed]


Nair is survived by his daughter, three sons, and five grandchildren. His eldest son, Janadas Devan, is a senior editor with the Singapore newspaper The Straits Times. His second son, Janamitra Devan, was the former Vice President of the International Finance Corporation,[5] and the World Bank. His third son, Janaprakash Devan died in Melbourne, Australia in 2010. His only daughter, Vijaya Kumari Devan continues to reside in Hamilton, Ontario.

Once during his political action during the 1950s, Devan Nair was detained in a Singapore prison by the British government. There, he read the writings of Sri Aurobindo, particularly the Life Divine and became his lifelong admirer and disciple. He visited Pondicherry and nearby Auroville a number of times and wrote and spoke on Sri Aurobindo's vision in the United States, Canada and other countries.


Political offices
Preceded by
Benjamin Henry Sheares
President of Singapore
Succeeded by
Wee Kim Wee
Parliament of Singapore
Preceded by
P. Govindaswamy
Member of Parliament for Anson
Succeeded by
J.B. Jeyaretnam
Government offices
Preceded by
Seah Mui Kok
Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress
Succeeded by
Lim Chee Onn
Preceded by
new position
Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress
Succeeded by
ST Nagayan