P Selvadurai

It was a dark moment in the history of Singapore. The Japanese had finally surrendered and the British had taken over. Singapore was reeling from the effects of war and trying to build itself up once again. Singaporeans were faced with a battered British force trying to pick up the pieces once again while the threat of communism lingered in the air. Patience for the British rule was wearing thin and the people of Singapore wanted Independence. A growing group of patriots were drawn to each other to launch Singapore into unchartered waters in the firm believe that we will make it. Little did Mr Selvadurai realise that he would be part of this movement.

Born in Singapore in the year 1933, Mr P Selvadurai had a wonderful childhood prancing around the huge open fields in Monks hill. He describes Singapore as an ideal place for a child, growing up playing with marbles, tops etc. Although he lived through the Japanese war as a child, he had moved to Malaysia at that point in time and was left unscarred by this terrible period in Singapore’s history. His education continued in RI where he played a lot of cricket and learnt carnatic singing while his sister went into traditional Indian dance.

He went on to pursue a law degree at the University of London. It was there that the seeds of nationalistic pride were sown when his path crossed with the early pioneers of Singapore’s nation building.

“Dr. Goh Kim Swee was the leader; he was the inspiring spirit behind what we were doing in London.”

It was 1966. PAP was facing off the left wing Barisan Socialis in parliament. The standoff took a big turn when members from Barisan Socialis resigned and walked out of parliament. This was a pivotal moment in the political history of Singapore with PAP going into elections again. This time the stakes were high as the weary nation had seen a serious of elections and referendums. But new candidates like Mr Selvadurai went house to house to garner support for PAP. In this by election he got in uncontested.

As a bachelor, he put in all his time and effort into his new role without needing to worry about family. But he was still taking a plunge into unchartered waters as a politician. Mr Selvadurai knew that his foray into politics was not going to be a walk in the park. He had to square off against the communist who had infiltrated key unions. But leading the charge was the veteran unionist and politician Mr Devan Nair.

“When we were fighting the communists, we were fighting them in the committees and fighting them in the unions.”

Mr Selvadurai’s heavy involvement at work and politics did not bode well with his mother who felt he was not thinking enough about his own family life. She got his friends to put the pressure on him and soon enough Mr Selvadurai got married to a doctor from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Retirement from politics came in 1984 when Mr Selvadurai stepped back to allow new blood to take over. Although he was not a member of Parliament, he was still actively sought after for his advice especially on union matters.

While his sister Rathi was heavily immersed in the arts scene through her dancing and involvement in the Indian Fine Arts Society, Mr Selvadurai stayed on the fringes and only supported by watching her performances.

But the call to step up to be more involved in the arts scene came knocking one day albeit at the most unexpected of moments.

"It is very satisfying work you know. So, I just went into it, like duck to water.”

Mr Selvadurai has been and is still actively involved in the Indian music and dance scene in Singapore. He also had a hand, as a member of the MICA steering committee in the establishment of the Singapore Arts School.

Besides this, he has also held various other board, management and statutory position in organisations in Singapore. Curiously, he was also invited to join Professor Arthur Lim, the eminent eye surgeon, to set up and be a member of the Singapore National Eye Foundation. This is on top of chairing the research group – Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) and being a board member of the Singapore National Eye Centre.

Literally having had a chance to share the stage with the who’s who of Singapore’s pioneer leaders, Mr Selvadurai feels a tinge of sadness at the passing of these great people. But he is also reassured seeing the new generation forging ahead and building on the foundation laid by them.

"If we look around, Singapore is looking very attractive. Now I can sit back and enjoy whatever is taking place.”

50Faces wishes Mr Selvadurai good health and thanks him for his immense contribution to Singapore.


A dedication to the pioneers in the Indian community.

50Faces brings your stories of ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to our community and nation building.