Murali's father instilled strong values in him

The person who had the most impact on lawyer Muralidharan Pillai was a labourer.

This same person was also a unionist who got jailed in the 1960s.

That man was his father.

Mr Murali, 48, is the son of unionist P.K. Pillai, who was detained during Operation Coldstore, a major crackdown on communists and leftists in 1963. After his release, he worked as a labourer and a security guard, said Mr Murali.

"My late father was a tough disciplinarian. He was very frugal. Even though his shirts were torn, he would just stitch them up.

"He also instilled in me values such as to respect everyone irrespective of their background, the importance of education and to take our responsibilities seriously.

"At one point, he was working as a security guard, as well as a labourer, breaking rocks on the road. He was doing both to support the family," said Mr Murali.

All these made a deep impression on Mr Murali and have shaped his values - the same values he hopes to pass on to his children.

Mr Murali has twin sons in secondary school and two daughters in primary school.

"The best way to pass on values is by example and how you conduct your life. I hope they will be positively influenced," he said.

His youngest daughter, who is in Primary One this year, will be affected by the new changes to the PSLE scoring system.

Mr Murali said he welcomes the change because it ensures that each child be given equal opportunity to excel.

"The PSLE and O levels are just tests and exams to discover and find out what your child is really motivated and passionate about. That must be the main focus.

"It is not about getting the best grades to go to the best schools. If that's going to be the situation, they will always be under a lot of pressure."

Mr Murali said there are now many routes for children," Sota (School of the Arts) and the Singapore Sports School".

"Now this thing about having (wider scoring) bands will hopefully send a signal to parents to not stress the children to be exam smart," said Mr Murali.


He said: "Every one of our children has a special talent and ability.

"As parents, we need to find out what that ability is and be realistic and give them the opportunity to develop the ability and take the focus away from specific exams."

When asked if he was stressed when his sons took the PSLE, he said he practised what he preached and let them develop their own interests.

His children were, and still are, in neighbourhood schools, he said.

Mr Murali was the branch secretary at the People's Action Party's (PAP) Bukit Batok branch from 2007 to 2011.

He was appointed chairman of the party's Paya Lebar branch on May 1, 2012.

He is no stranger to Bukit Batok, having served there as a party activist for many years, including serving under the late Dr Ong Chit Chung.

Fluent in Mandarin, he is a well-known face and is even called "Ah-Mu" by the elderly Chinese residents in that area.

7 facts about Murali

1. He has been a vegetarian since 2007.

2. He studied at Monk's Hill Secondary and Hwa Chong Junior College.

3. His wife, Dr N. Gowrie, is a junior college teacher and is trained in the Indian classical dance, bharathanatyam.

4. He played hockey in school and for the Singapore Police Force when he was an Assistant Superintendant. He also represented the Singapore Cricket Club.

5. He loves reading biographies.

6. Though his mother tongue is Malayalam, he studied Malay in school and is fluent in Mandarin.

7. He won 61.21 per cent of the votes in the Bukit Batok by-election on Saturday, beating the SDP's Dr Chee Soon Juan, who got 38.79 per cent.

This article was first published on May 9, 2016.
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