'S'pore is poorer for the loss': Shanmugam at memorial of late Law Society president Adrian Tan

The memorial was held at the Arts House on Jul. 31, 2023.

Fiona Tan | July 31, 2023, 11:03 PM

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A memorial was held at the Arts House on Jul. 31, 2023 evening to honour the late president of The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc), Adrian Tan Gim Hai.

Tan, a partner at TSMP Law Corporation, passed away aged 57 on Jul. 8, 2023, after battling cancer for over one year since his diagnosis in March 2022.

He was also the author of "The Teenage Textbook" and "The Teenage Workbook", which were well-known in the 1980s.

Speeches honouring Tan

Friends, colleagues, schoolmates and people from the law and media industry attended Tan's memorial, organised by TSMP Law Corporation.

Various attendees gave moving speeches to honour Tan.

Shanmugam: "Sadly, his time came too soon"

Describing Tan as a "much-beloved leader and friend" in his speech, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam felt that Tan's time came too soon.

He said Tan made an impact on lawyers, young and old, on people and the broader Singapore society.

Shanmugam recounted that Tan continued to carry out his duties as Law Society President, despite his "not very good" prognosis two weeks before his death and even sounded like he would return to his office.

He inspired young people to join the profession and senior lawyers to cherish their role as mentors, looked at ways to improve retention, and frequently spoke up for the profession when it faced criticism.

"We could not be prouder, or more privileged, than to have had Adrian lead the profession."

Image by Fiona Tan.

He quoted Tan as saying, "There is no higher purpose than for one human being to speak up on behalf of another. It is difficult but a privilege to have the honour of telling another person's story. That's what lawyers do."

For Tan, Law was both a calling and a way to help others by speaking up for them, Shanmugam said.

Shanmugam also spoke about Tan's contributions to society, such as being part of the 2022 panel discussion on the decision in Tan Seng Kee about 377A, which has now been repealed.

Tan also helped many Singaporeans understand important and wide-reaching issues better, Shanmugam said.

This included social media posts on issues ranging from the safety of migrant workers, the criteria for school admissions, and keeping cats as pets in HDB flats, all of which Tan wrote under the persona of the "King of Singapore".

Shanmugam described Tan as a "gifted storyteller", who told a story of courage, emotion, and service, even while battling cancer.

He thanked Tan for inspiring people with his life and said Singapore is poorer for the loss.

To Tan's wife, Shanmugam said:

"We are really sorry for your loss. Your grief is immense. We can only hope that you can take some comfort in knowing that your husband was highly regarded and much loved."

Chief Justice Menon said Tan had a "gift for words" used to inspire people

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon described Tan's contribution to Singapore's legal community and said he had a "gift for words" which he used to inspire people.

"But Adrian didn’t just say words. He was a doer, with a heart that cared especially about those who faced the sort of difficulties that most of us are spared."

Referring to Tan's tenure as the honorary legal counsel for the Singapore Association Of the Visually Handicapped, Chief Justice said Tan made "real and tangible contributions to improve the situation in society".

He recalled the time when Tan realised that visually handicapped persons in Singapore were not able to cast their ballot secretly as they had to convey their voting choice to others for them to fill in the ballots on their behalf.

Chief Justice said this was an issue that many might not notice, much less do anything about, but Tan took it up with the Ministry of Law and helped effect a change so that these individuals could exercise the right to a secret ballot.

Far East Hospitality CEO Kiong spoke glowingly about Tan

Far East Hospitality Management chief executive officer Arthur Kiong shared how he first met Tan when he was a trial witness and the latter prepared him to take the stand.

The pair became fast friends after the trial and even took several trips together with their wives.

Looking back at those fond memories, Kiong said, "We were very happy together."

Kiong spoke glowingly of Tan's qualities, saying he displayed great restraint and never showed anyone that he knew less than he did nor showed off how much he knew.

He said Tan was considerate, patient, sensitive, kind and generous.

Friends grappling with grief

Goh Eck Kheng, who published Tan's "Teenage Textbook", shared with Mothership that he and Tan were big fans of Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".

He revealed that the comedy science fiction franchise, particularly the metaplot of a novel within another novel, inspired Tan's book.

Goh said Tan "was still very busy to the very end" and that the pair had scheduled a June or July 2023 meeting, but it never materialised due to Tan's ailing health and passing.

Commenting that he "still can't believe that Tan is gone", Goh said he plans to hold another memorial with Tan's brother and friends.

Items display showcase glimpses into Tan's life

The memorial also displayed items showcasing glimpses into Tan's life.

Tan's wife, accompanied by TSMP partner June Ho, was noticeably teary-eyed when talking about Tan's denim jacket, embellished with countless pins he had amassed over the years.

R-L: Angelina and Ho. Image by Fiona Tan.

The pins show Tan's journey through the years, first as a young boy at Anglo Chinese School, where he became a budding boy brigadier, and then fast forwarded to his university years, where he represented the National University of Singapore as a debate team member.

They also displayed the things that he was passionate about, such as the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, Genesis, an English rock band that was wildly popular in the 1980s, and interestingly enough, a palmed-size Doraemon stuffed toy and a Batman iron-on patch.

Image by Fiona Tan.

The denim jacket was one of the many items on display in the "Living Room", which housed exhibits from Tan's growing up years and displayed photos of a young (and already cheeky) Tan, with one showing him peeking out from behind a structure.

Image by Fiona Tan.

... and the impact he's left

The other two rooms – The Blue Room and Gallery II – displayed items from Tan's legal years and his contributions to the Art and Literary Scene.

This included a framed article Tan wrote for The New Paper regarding the World Cup titled "An Idiot's Guide to the Weird Cup".

Image by Fiona Tan.

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Top image from K Shanmugam/Facebook