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Murali Pillai

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Murali Pillai
முரளி பிள்ளை
Pillai in 2021
Minister of State for Transport
Assumed office
1 July 2024
Prime MinisterLawrence Wong
MinisterChee Hong Tat
Preceded byChee Hong Tat
(As Senior Minister of State)
Minister of State for Law
Assumed office
1 July 2024
Prime MinisterLawrence Wong
MinisterK. Shanmugam
Preceded byRahayu Mahzam
(As Senior Parliamentary Secretary)
Member of Parliament
for Bukit Batok SMC
Assumed office
9 May 2016
Preceded byDavid Ong
Majority2,712 (9.60%)
Personal details
K. Muralidharan Pillai

(1967-10-30) 30 October 1967 (age 56)[1]
Political partyPeople's Action Party
SpouseN. Gowri
Alma materNational University of Singapore (LLB, LLM, MBA)
University of California, Los Angeles (MBA)
  • Politician
  • lawyer

K. Muralidharan Pillai SC (Chinese: 穆仁理, pinyin Mù Rén Lǐ; Tamil: முரளி பிள்ளை, romanized: Muraḷi Piḷḷai; born 30 October 1967),[1] better known as Murali Pillai, is a Singaporean politician and lawyer. A member of the governing People's Action Party (PAP), he has been the Minister of State for Transport, Minister of State for Law since July 2024 and Member of Parliament (MP) representing Bukit Batok SMC since May 2016.

Pillai previously worked in the Singapore Police Force[1][2][3] before he became a practising lawyer in 1996. He is currently a partner in Commercial Litigation practice at Rajah & Tann.

Pillai joined the People's Action Party (PAP) in 2001 and was the branch secretary to Ong Chit Chung, Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok. He was part of a five-member PAP team who contested and narrowly lost[4] to the Workers' Party in Aljunied GRC during the 2015 general election. In 2016, Pillai was once again fielded in as a PAP candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election. He won 61.2% of the votes, securing his position as a Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok SMC. He is also an advisor of Bukit Batok SMC Grassroots Organisation.

Early life and education


Pillai's father, P. K. Pillai, was a trade unionist detained during Operation Coldstore in 1963. The elder Pillai died in 2007.[5]

Pillai attended Newton Boys School, (now Monk's Hill Primary School), Monk's Hill Secondary School and Hwa Chong Junior College.[1] before graduating from the National University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Laws with honours degree.

He subsequently went on to complete a Master of Laws degree and Master of Business Administration degree at the National University of Singapore. He also obtained a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.[5]

Pillai played hockey as a student and had represented his school. He was also once President of Raffles Hall in NUS.[1]


While serving his National Service, Pillai was a platoon commander in the 2nd Guards Battalion of the Singapore Army. In 1992, Pillai joined the Singapore Police Force[1] as an Assistant Superintendent of Police, primarily involved in investigations into white-collar crimes.[2][5] He completed his National Service obligations in 2017 as Deputy Superintendent (NS) upon reaching age of 50.[1]

Pillai was called to the Singapore Bar in 1996.[5] In 2014, he defended Choo Wee Khiang, a former PAP Member of Parliament, against his corruption charges.[6]

Pillai was the head of commercial litigation at Rajah & Tann[2] at the time of the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election. He then stepped down from his post in an effort to better balance his work commitments and political responsibilities. He was appointed Senior Counsel in 2020.[7]

Political career


A member of the PAP since 2001, Pillai served from 2007 to 2011 as the branch secretary at PAP's Bukit Batok branch.[5] Then, Pillai served as the branch chairman of PAP's Paya Lebar branch from May 2012 to 2016.[4][8]

2015 general election


Pillai contested in the 2015 general election in a PAP team for Aljuined GRC.[4] Although the PAP team was ahead by around 300 votes in Pillai's ward of Paya Lebar within Aljunied GRC,[5] the team gathered only 49.05% of the votes and lost to the team from the Workers' Party which consists of Low Thia Kiang, Pritam Singh, Sylvia Lim, Muhamad Faisal Manap and Chen Show Mao which garnered 50.95% of the votes.[4]

2016 Bukit Batok By-election


On 12 March 2016, David Ong, the PAP Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok SMC, resigned, citing a "personal indiscretion".[9] When the PAP announced on 21 March 2016 that Pillai would be their representative for the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election, Pillai was appointed branch chairman of PAP's Bukit Batok branch.[4] Pillai was formally nominated as a candidate on 27 April 2016, the only other nominated candidate being Chee Soon Juan of the SDP.[9]

During his campaign, Pillai chose the Mandarin nickname of "Ah-Mu" (阿穆).[3] He pledged that if he won, he would upgrade infrastructure around Blocks 140 to 149 of the SMC, which would cost S$1.9 million.[10] Pillai later clarified that this potential S$1.9 million project is "part of" the S$23.6 million masterplan announced by David Ong during the 2015 general election.[11]

Pillai's campaign manifesto focused on three domains: jobs, social mobility and the elderly.[12][13][14][15][16]

Pillai defeated the Singapore Democratic Party's candidate Chee Soon Juan and secured 61.21% of the votes to win the Bukit Batok by-election on Polling Day.[17] He was sworn into parliament on 9 May 2016.

After the 2018 cabinet reshuffle, Pillai was appointed Chairperson of Home Affairs and Law Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) in the 14th Parliament.[18] He continued to serve as Chairman until 1 July 2024 where he relinquished the Chairmanship to Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim after taking office as Minister of State.

2020 general election


On 30 June 2020, after submitting his nomination papers for the election, Pillai claimed on social media that there was an online attack against his son, who was convicted of an offence.[19] It was alleged that it was a deliberate attack on his candidacy.[19] Chee, his election opponent from SDP, criticised the attack.[19]

During the campaign period, Pillai was criticised by Chee Soon Juan from the Singapore Democratic Party for the fulfilment, delays, and safety issues in his constituency projects.[20] Pillai was also publicly criticised by one of his constituents on Facebook for being unempathetic to her housing issues, suggesting to her that marriage was the solution to her issues.[21] Pillai still won the election with 54.80% of the valid votes.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pillai was criticised by Chee for allowing a gathering of seniors to take place. Pillai attended the event in his position as the adviser to Bukit Batok's Grassroots Organisations. Pillai defended against the criticism by saying that precautions were in place for the dinner.[22]

On 13 May 2024, Pillai was appointed to minister of state in the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Transport. He is one of two backbenchers who were promoted to an office, the other being Shawn Huang.[23]

In parliament


In his eight years as an MP, Pillai has focused mainly on helping to close significant gaps in Singapore society and the country’s laws. This has resulted in such progress in government policies as:

  • Encouraging employers in Singapore to hire more than 2,300 ex-prisoners under the Government of Singapore’s Jobs Growth Incentive during the Covid-19 pandemic.[24] This has since become a permanent policy known as the Uplifting Employment Credit;[25]
  • Equipping prisoners with mental illness with better coping skills by giving them access to regular psychiatric care while they are in jail;[26]
  • Convincing the Health Ministry to review the limits for claims under the national medical insurance scheme more regularly so that claimants are not out of pocket;[27]
  • Studying how the government might cover nursing home and palliative care costs for its pensioners;[28]
  • Granting concessionary maid levies to families with intellectually challenged members, including those with autism;[29]
  • Encouraging the state’s recognition of notable family milestones such as 50th wedding anniversaries through schemes like the Golden Jubilee Wedding Celebrations, which began in 2018;[30]
  • Studying how prosecutors might release more documents to help defenders prepare their clients’ cases better;[31]
  • Easing the verification of documents for use by Singaporeans overseas by having the government pass the Apostille Act 2020, making Singapore a signatory to The Hague Apostille Convention;[32]
  • Re-examining clauses in laws not related to national security that prevent the courts from reviewing certain government actions;[33]
  • Increasing the productivity and accountability of MPs and civil servants with the use of available technology;[34] and
  • Preventing traffic fatalities, especially for motorcyclists, by deploying safety technology such as collision alerts.[35]

Pillai officially relinquished his Chairmanship of the Government Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs and Law to Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim on 1st July 2024,[36] the same day he was officially sworn in as Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Law.

Personal life


Pillai married his educator wife, N. Gowri, in 1996. The couple have twin sons, and two younger daughters.[5][37]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Murali Pillai" (PDF). People's Action Party. 21 March 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "K. Muralidharan Pillai". Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b Wong, Casandra. "All in a day's work for 'Ah Mu': Painting walls, playing a piano, doing push-ups". Today. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kotwani, Monica; Lim, Linette. "Murali Pillai named PAP candidate for Bukit Batok by-election". Channel News Asia. Archived from the original on 25 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "What you need to know about lawyer Murali Pillai, PAP's candidate for the Bukit Batok by-election". The Straits Times. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Ex-STTA chief cleared of three remaining corruption charges". The Straits Times. April 30, 2014.
  7. ^ Low, Dominic (2020-01-06). "Three new Senior Counsel appointed, including MP Murali Pillai". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  8. ^ "Murali takes on Chee on being a 'full-time MP' for Bukit Batok". Channel News Asia. Archived from the original on 2 May 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  9. ^ a b Tham, Yuen-C (27 April 2016). "Bukit Batok by-election: PAP's Murali Pillai and SDP's Chee Soon Juan confirmed in straight fight". The Straits Times. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  10. ^ Sim, Walter (24 April 2016). "Murali unveils Bukit Batok infrastructure plans, Chee says he wants to 'focus on the campaign'". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  11. ^ "PAP's Murali on upgrading plans for Bukit Batok". Channel NewsAsia. 28 April 2016. Archived from the original on 1 May 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  12. ^ Laura Philomin (26 April 2016). "Murali's Bukit Batok manifesto focuses on jobs, elderly, social mobility". Today Online. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  13. ^ Lee, Pearl; Chong, Zi Liang (2 May 2016). "Candidates outline job plans in response to residents' concerns". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  14. ^ Lee, Pearl (4 May 2016). "Murali hoping to start youth mentoring scheme". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  15. ^ Justin Ong; Lianne Chia (26 April 2016). "Bukit Batok by-election: PAP candidate Pillai to focus campaign on elderly". Channel NewsAsia. Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  16. ^ Lee, Pearl (5 May 2016). "Eldercare plans meant to meet future needs: Murali". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  17. ^ "PAP's Murali Pillai wins Bukit Batok by-election". Channel News Asia. Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  18. ^ Au-Yong, Rachel (2018-05-04). "PAP's Government Parliamentary Committees get new leaders after Cabinet reshuffle". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  19. ^ a b c Baharudin, Hariz (2020-06-30). "Singapore GE2020: Murali Pillai criticises attack on his family made 'minutes after' nomination papers filed". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  20. ^ "Bukit Batok resident calls out PAP's Murali Pillai for SMC problems; SDP raises questions about the part-time MP's track record". The Online Citizen Asia. 2020-06-30. Archived from the original on 2021-06-24. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  21. ^ Cai, Candice (2020-06-28). "PAP's Murali Pillai reaches out to Bukit Batok resident who criticised his lack of empathy". AsiaOne. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  22. ^ Cheng, Kenneth (15 March 2020). "MP Murali Pillai defends organisers' decision to hold dinner for seniors, says precautions were in place". TODAYonline. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  23. ^ Chin, Soo Fang (2024-05-13). "MPs Murali Pillai, Shawn Huang promoted to political office". The Straits Times. ISSN 0585-3923. Retrieved 2024-05-13.
  24. ^ Ang, Rosalind (10 January 2023). "2,300 ex-offenders hired through Jobs Growth Incentive: Tan See Leng". The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  25. ^ "What is the UEC". Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore. 20 June 2024. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  26. ^ Lam, Lydia (15 June 2019). "Justice, mercy and a long road to recovery: An in-depth look at criminals with mental illness in Singapore". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 20 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ Khalik, Salma (16 January 2019). "Parliament: MOH to review MediShield Life claim limits more regularly, about once every three years". The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. ^ "Extending Post‑retirement Medical Benefits for Government Pensioners". Singapore Public Service Division. 7 November 2023. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  29. ^ Goy, Priscilla (11 July 2016). "Parliament: Murali calls for more efforts to promote acceptance of special needs kids". The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. ^ "Steps Taken to Continue to Celebrate Couples' Golden Jubilee Wedding Anniversaries Despite COVID-19". Singapore Ministry of Social and Family Development. 26 July 2021. Retrieved 21 June 2024.
  31. ^ "Written Answer by Minister for Law K Shanmugam to PQ on Plans To Update Criminal Disclosure Obligations Set Out In Criminal Procedure Code 2010". Singapore Ministry of Law. 7 February 2023. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  32. ^ "Republic of Singapore Government Gazette, Apostille Act 2020 (No 38 of 2020)" (PDF). Singapore Government Gazette. 11 December 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2024.
  33. ^ Baharudin, Hariz (4 March 2021). "Parliament: Relook how some laws are excluded from judicial review, proposes Murali". The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ Goh, Han Yan (2 September 2020). "Parliament: Murali Pillai calls for IT system to track attendance and questions of MPs in the House". The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  35. ^ Kok, Yufeng (3 August 2023). "Murali calls for safety features like collision warning to be mandated for vehicles in S'pore". The Straits Times. Retrieved 20 June 2024.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  36. ^ https://www.pap.org.sg/news/zhulkarnain-abdul-rahim-to-chair-the-government-parliamentary-committee-for-home-affairs-and-law/
  37. ^ "Living by his father's values". Tabla!. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
Parliament of Singapore
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Bukit Batok SMC

2016 – present