Murali Pillai

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Murali Pillai
முரளி பிள்ளை
Murali Pillai (cropped).png
Pillai in 2021
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 55)[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 (Tamil: முரளி பிள்ளை; 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 Member of Parliament (MP) representing Bukit Batok SMC since 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[edit]

Pillai's father, P. K. Pillai, was a trade unionist detained during Operation Coldstore in 1963. The elder Pillai died in 2007.[5] Pillai married his educator wife, N. Gowri, in 1996. The couple has four children.[5][6]

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]

Police and legal career[edit]

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.[7]

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.[8]

Political career[edit]

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][9]

2015 general election[edit]

Pillai contested in the 2015 general election in a PAP team for the 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 garnered 50.95% of the votes.[4]

2016 Bukit Batok By-election[edit]

On 12 March 2016, David Ong, the PAP Member of Parliament for Bukit Batok SMC, resigned, citing a "personal indiscretion".[10] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

Pillai's campaign manifesto focused on three domains: jobs, social mobility and the elderly.[13][14][15][16][17]

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.[18] 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.[19]

2020 general election[edit]

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.[20] It was alleged that it was a deliberate attack on his candidacy.[20] Chee, his election opponent from SDP, criticised the attack.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]


  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. 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. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  6. ^ "Living by his father's values". Tabla!. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  7. ^ "Ex-STTA chief cleared of three remaining corruption charges". The Straits Times. April 30, 2014.
  8. ^ Low, Dominic (2020-01-06). "Three new Senior Counsel appointed, including MP Murali Pillai". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Murali takes on Chee on being a 'full-time MP' for Bukit Batok". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  10. ^ a b Tham, Yuen-C. "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.
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "PAP's Murali on upgrading plans for Bukit Batok". Channel NewsAsia. 28 April 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  13. ^ Laura Philomin (26 April 2016). "Murali's Bukit Batok manifesto focuses on jobs, elderly, social mobility". Today Online. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  14. ^ Lee, Pearl; Chong, Zi Liang (2 May 2016). "Candidates outline job plans in response to residents' concerns". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  15. ^ Lee, Pearl (4 May 2016). "Murali hoping to start youth mentoring scheme". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  16. ^ Justin Ong; Lianne Chia (26 April 2016). "Bukit Batok by-election: PAP candidate Pillai to focus campaign on elderly". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  17. ^ Lee, Pearl (5 May 2016). "Eldercare plans meant to meet future needs: Murali". The Straits Times. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  18. ^ "PAP's Murali Pillai wins Bukit Batok by-election". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  19. ^ Au-Yong, Rachel (2018-05-04). "PAP's Government Parliamentary Committees get new leaders after Cabinet reshuffle". The Straits Times. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "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. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ 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.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Singapore
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Bukit Batok SMC

2016 – present