Condolence Letter to Dr Ma Swan Hoo (Wife of the Late Dr Balaji Sadasivan)

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 27 September 2010

PM Lee Hsien Loong wrote a letter to Dr Ma Swan Hoo to express condolences on the passing of her husband, Dr Balaji Sadasivan.


Dr Ma Swan Hoo
98 Gerald Drive
Singapore 799026
 Please accept my deepest condolences on the passing of Dr Balaji Sadasivan.

Balaji distinguished himself in many fields – in medicine, in the community and in public service. He was a successful neurosurgeon who was persuaded to enter politics. I first met him at a tea session, where I found him to be thoughtful and articulate, with a broad interest in Singapore and the world. He stood in the 2001 general election as a PAP candidate in Ang Mo Kio GRC, taking over in Cheng San from Mr Lee Yock Suan. He was thus not only my Cabinet colleague, but also a core member of my GRC team.

Balaji quickly established himself with his constituents and grassroots leaders.  He was friendly, patient and approachable, and could speak several languages, including Mandarin and various Chinese dialects. His sincerity won him the trust, respect and support of his grassroots leaders and residents.

Balaji initiated several major projects to serve residents. He pushed for a 3-Generation Centre to be built next to the Cheng San Community Club, to help senior citizens age actively and gracefully within the neighbourhood. He also built a club-house for neighbourhood committees (NCs) in Seletar Hills estate, to strengthen community bonding among the private estate residents and gradually develop a “kampung spirit”. Balaji once remarked to me how after his division was renamed Cheng San-Seletar, residents in Seletar Hills related much better with the GRC. The NCs have done well, especially in the “Community in Bloom” programme, for which they have won Gold and Platinum awards.

Balaji was passionate about education and social programmes, in particular for the Indian community. He was Advisor to the Narpani Pearavai, the council for Indian Activity Executive Committees operating at every community club. Through Narpani, he promoted active citizenry and community bonding activities among the Indian community. He was also President of SINDA, and initiated programmes to help disadvan¬≠taged groups, including single mothers and students who were under-performing in schools. SINDA’s Volunteer Development Council and Youth Club were formed when he was President.

His sincerity won him the trust, respect and support of his grassroots leaders and residents.

PM Lee

Balaji served as Minister of State and Senior Minister of State in several Ministries. At the Ministry of Health, he championed HIV education in schools and workplaces, and initiatives to encourage early and regular HIV testing. He was always thinking of ways to improve the situation, and did not shy away from sensitive issues or controversial ideas. He frankly addressed HIV-related stigma in society and the workplace. He chaired the National AIDS Policy Committee, and remained Chairman even after he left the Ministry in 2006.

At the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Balaji was instrumental in getting the National Arts Gallery off the ground. He developed its early concept and positioning, and oversaw an international competition to find the best design ideas for the Gallery.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Balaji ably represented Singapore at many international meetings. He quickly grasped the competing interests and forces at play, gained a shrewd idea of what the game was about, and upheld Singapore’s own interests subtly and resolutely. As Chairman of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board, he skilfully guided the organisation to accomplish much in global health development, pandemic preparedness and non-communicable diseases, enhancing Singa pore’s international standing.

There was a conviction and finality to Balaji. When he first entered politics, we encouraged him to continue seeing patients, to keep his hand in as a surgeon. But Balaji soon gave this up. He explained that it would not be fair to his patients, as his knowledge and skills would not be current. He had weighed the options and decided to switch from medicine to politics, knowing fully the risks and consequences. He would give politics his all. It was a typically clear-minded decision.

Two years ago, Balaji took ill while in the Middle East.  He had been travelling intensively on MFA business. When told of his colon cancer, he received the news calmly, though as a doctor he knew what it meant. He researched the drugs and treatments that he was receiving with scientific detachment, and remained cheerful and positive. He explained to me that he had lived a good life, was blessed with a happy and supportive family and had been able to make a contribution to society. His serenity and acceptance were deeply moving to all his friends and colleagues.

Balaji continued working despite his illness. Earlier this year, he came to see me. He told me that he had put in order arrangements in Cheng San-Seletar, and implemented renewal plans in the grassroots. He asked me to see these plans through if anything happened to him. He also thanked me for having given him the opportunity to serve. I responded that it was for me to thank him for his dedication and contribution. I last saw him two weeks ago in Parliament, when he told me his condition had taken a turn for the worse, and again assured me that he had made the necessary arrange ments in his division. I was very touched that despite his illness, his mind was still on his responsibilities to residents.

Balaji has been a dedicated community leader, a distinguished public servant and a humble and dependable colleague and friend. His untimely passing is a sad loss to all of us.

With my deepest sympathies,

Yours sincerely

CondolenceletterforDrBalaji.pdf (pdf, 101.45KB)