SINGAPORE (AP) - A former president of Singapore, Devan Nair, has died in Canada at the age of 82, a television news station reported Wednesday.
The report by Channel NewsAsia provided no further details regarding the death, but a family friend, Margaret John, confirmed the death and said that he had been ill for some time. "He had a number of ailments," she said, and referred calls to his son in Dallas. Those calls were not immediately returned.
Nair moved to Canada in 1995 and lived in Hamilton.
A legislator and a trade union leader, Nair served from 1981 to 1985 as Singapore's third president, a largely ceremonial post.
When he resigned, then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew claimed in Parliament that Nair had quit to get treatment for alcoholism.
Nair denied Lee's allegation, claiming that Nair's questioning of Lee's government had caused conflict between the two, and that he only stepped down when the prime minister threatened to seek a motion in Parliament to oust him.
In 1999, Lee sued him and a Canadian newspaper over an article that Lee said suggested he had carried out a character assassination of Nair by labelling him an alcoholic.
Nair countersued in 2001, and the suit was dropped.
Lee and Nair were founding members of Singapore's governing People's Action party, and in earlier times had been allies in fighting British colonial rule.
Born in the south Malaysian town of Malacca on Aug. 5, 1923, Nair came to Singapore with his family when he was 10. After the Second World War, he worked as a teacher, marking the start of his involvement with trade unions.
Nair was detained twice by British authorities for anti-colonial activities: once in 1951 for two years, and again from 1956 until 1959.
As a trade union leader, Nair was considered to have shaped Singapore's workers into a restrained but economically effective force that helped the country develop into one of the strongest financial positions in Asia.
© The Canadian Press, 2005
10 Dec 2005
15:43:12 EST Dec 7, 2005