S. Dhanabalan

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S. Dhanabalan
சு. தனபாலன்
Minister for Trade and Industry
In office
7 December 1992 – 1 January 1993
Prime MinisterGoh Chok Tong
Preceded byLee Hsien Loong
Succeeded byYeo Cheow Tong
Minister for National Development
In office
1 January 1987 – 31 August 1992
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Goh Chok Tong
Preceded byTeh Cheang Wan
Succeeded byRichard Hu
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
1 June 1980 – 12 September 1988
Prime MinisterLee Kuan Yew
Preceded byS. Rajaratnam
Succeeded byWong Kan Seng
Member of Parliament
for Toa Payoh GRC
(Kuo Chuan)
In office
21 August 1991 – 16 December 1996
Preceded byWong Kan Seng
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of Parliament
for Kallang SMC
In office
23 December 1976 – 14 August 1991
Preceded byAbdul Aziz bin Karim
Succeeded byChoo Wee Khiang (Jalan Besar GRC)
Personal details
Born (1937-08-08) 8 August 1937 (age 84)
Singapore, Straits Settlements
Political partyPeople's Action Party
Spouse(s)Christine Tan[2]
Alma materVictoria School
University of Malaya

Suppiah Dhanabalan DUT (First Class) (Tamil: சு. தனபாலன்; born 8 August 1937),[4] also known as S. Dhanabalan, is a former Singaporean politician.

He was a high-profile political leader in Singapore during the 1980s and has held several cabinet positions during the 1980s and early 1990s under prime ministers Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

He also served as Leader of the House between 1985 and 1987.

Early life[edit]

Dhanabalan was born in 1937 to Arumugam Suppiah, a clerk at a naval base and Gunaretnam Suppiah. He was the third child and the eldest son in a family of three girls and three boys.

Born in a Singaporean Indian family of Tamil descent, he was however raised as a Hindu. Later in his life, he became a devout Christian (Brethren).


He attended Victoria School before graduating from the University of Malaya with a Bachelor of Arts Second Class Honours (Upper Division) degree in economics.

Early career[edit]

Dhanabalan joined the Ministry of Finance as an administrative officer between 1960 and 1968. During his tenure, he helped to established the Economic Development Board and DBS Bank.

He subsequently left the Civil Service and joined DBS as a vice-president between 1968 and 1970. He was later promoted to the position executive vice-president and continue to serve between 1970 and 1978.[5]

Political career[edit]

In the 1976 Singapore general election, Dhanabalan was elected as Member of Parliament for Kallang SMC, as a People's Action Party (PAP) candidate.

During the 1980 Singaporean general election's rallies, Dhanabalan disparaged opposition politician Chiam See Tong on his professional competence.[6] He was subsequently sued by Chiam for defamation and he issued a public apology over it.[7]

Dhanabalan was subsequently promoted to a Cabinet Minister and served in various portfolios, including Foreign Affairs, Culture, Community Development, National Development and Trade and Industry.[5]

When Lee Kuan Yew was preparing for his successor, he identified a handful of ministers he considered suitable for the job, including Tony Tan, Ong Teng Cheong, Goh Chok Tong and Dhanabalan.

In his public account of why he chose them and what he felt were their strengths and weaknesses, Lee said his preferred successor was Tony Tan, who went on to become the 7th President of the Republic of Singapore. He felt that while the other three were all of prime ministerial calibre, each had a particular weakness: Goh was too stiff, lacking eloquence in public speaking, and Ong was too closely aligned with the Chinese-speaking masses, lacking appeal to other communities. In the case of Dhanabalan, Lee felt the 76% ethnic Chinese electorate was not yet ready for a prime minister of Indian ethnicity. Lee left the ultimate decision to the second generation ministers themselves, who went on to choose Goh.

Dhanabalan retired from Parliament in 1996.[8]


  • 1960 : Graduated from university and joined the civil service.
  • 1961–1968 : Economist with Economic Development Board.
  • 1968–1978 : Helped to establish the Development Bank of Singapore.
  • 1976–1991 : Member of Parliament for Kallang.
  • 1980–1988 : Minister for Foreign Affairs.
  • 1981–1984 : Minister for Culture.
  • 1981–2005 : Director of Government Investment Corporation.
  • 1984–1986 : Minister for Community Development.
  • 1986–1991 : Minister for National Development.
  • 1991 : Retired from politics.
  • 1991–1993 : Returned to government as Minister for Trade and Industry.
  • 1993–1996 : Chairman of Singapore Labour Foundation.
  • 1996–1998 : Chairman of Singapore Airlines.
  • 1996–2013 : Chairman of Temasek Holdings.
  • 1998 : Appointed a permanent member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights.
  • 1999–2005 : Chairman of DBS Group Holdings.
  • 2004–present : Member of the Council of Presidential Advisors.
  • 2007 : Received the Order of Temasek (Second Class).[9]
  • 2015 : Received the Order of Temasek (First Class)

Career after politics[edit]

Other contributions[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Dhanabalan is a devout Christian (Brethren) and attends a small church in Bukit Panjang – Bukit Panjang Gospel Chapel.[10] He is married to Christine Tan Khoon Hiap, a Chinese Singaporean of Hokkien ancestry and they have one son, Ramesh Dhanabalan, and one daughter, Shandini Dhanabalan.[9]


  1. ^ "Singapore Parliamentary General Election 1976". singapore-elections.com.
  2. ^ "Up, up and up". The New Paper. 27 March 1999. p. 4.
  3. ^ Doraisamy, S (6 July 1999). "From village boy to bank chairman". The New Paper. p. 20.
  4. ^ Corfield, Justin (2 December 2010). Historical Dictionary of Singapore. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810873872 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ a b Teo XuanWei (23 July 2013). "Dhanabalan's illustrious career". TODAY. Singapore. p. 2.
  6. ^ "Dhana apologises to SDP's Chiam". eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  7. ^ "Dhana apologises to SDP's Chiam". eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  8. ^ Joanna HS, Tan. "S. Dhanabalan". Singapore Infopedia. Singapore Government Agency. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  9. ^ a b Singapore, National Library Board. "S. Dhanabalan - Infopedia". eresources.nlb.gov.sg.
  10. ^ "Graduates' Christian Fellowship via WaybackMachine". Archived from the original on 9 December 2004. Retrieved 24 July 2013.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister for Foreign Affairs
1 June 1980 – 12 September 1988
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Culture
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Minister for Community Development
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for National Development
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by