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. Local authorities did not immediately respond when contacted. Nair, who was also a lawmaker and a leader of the trade union movement, served from 1981-85 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.
Nair moved to Ontario, Canada, in 1995. 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 labeling him an alcoholic. Nair countersued in 2001, and the suit was dropped. Lee and Nair were founding members of the ruling People's Action Party, and in the past had been allies in fighting British colonial rule. The party has long held a firm grip on power. Born in the south Malaysian town of Malacca on August 5, 1923, Nair came to Singapore with his family when he was 10. After World War II, 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, reports the AP. I.L.