Presidential candidate Tan Kin Lian’s act of compassion resurfaces amid 2023 election campaign

SINGAPORE: A viral message circulating on private messaging platforms has shed light on a compassionate decision made by Mr Tan Kin Lian, a candidate contesting the Presidential Election 2023.

The message, attributed to an ex-colleague named Peter Pius, recalls the tragic incident of SilkAir Flight MI185 that plunged into the Musi River in Sumatra, Indonesia, on December 19, 1997. The heartbreaking accident resulted in the loss of all 104 souls on board, including 46 Singaporean passengers and crew members.

Central to the message is a decision by Mr Tan, who served as the CEO of the insurance cooperative NTUC Income at the time.

As was standard practice, insurance claims related to plane crashes could be deferred for up to seven years if bodies were neither discovered nor identified.

However, upon learning of the incident and grasping the plight of the families awaiting the claims, Mr Tan exhibited empathy.

He directed the Head of the Claims Department to process the claims as long as there was confirmation of passengers boarding the ill-fated flight, thereby alleviating some of the burden on the bereaved families.

When queried about the veracity of the viral message, Mr Tan confirmed its authenticity.

In response to queries about what had transpired, Mr Tan shared, “I heard about the Silk Air MI 185 crash on the news while I was attending a dinner with my colleagues. I quickly gathered my managers to find a way to address this tragic event.”

He explained that the usual practice is to pay a death claim upon the receipt of a death certificate. He thought that obtaining such a certificate might take a few months, perhaps even longer.

Mr Tan added, “I decided to issue a media release immediately to convey our sympathies for the crew and passengers on the plane. I wanted to assure the families that they wouldn’t need a death certificate to file an insurance claim.”

“They only needed to present evidence that the insured policyholder was on the ill-fated plane, as verified by the passenger list.”

However, he noted that there was a risk that someone might exploit the company’s generous approach and submit a fraudulent claim.

“For example, the claimant might have the same name as a passenger but not actually be the person who was on the plane. I was confident that we could handle any false claims should they arise,” said Mr Tan. Thankfully, such situations never occurred.

Several weeks after the news release, Mr. Tan checked with the claim manager about the number of people who had lodged a claim under their “generous approach.”

He shared his surprise that only a few had done so. “I can’t recall the exact number, but it seemed that the majority of the families weren’t in urgent need of the claim money. Most filed their claims several months later.”

Mr Tan Kin Lian’s leadership at NTUC Income is commendable. Appointed as CEO in 1977, he presided over the insurance cooperative until 2007.

Under his leadership, NTUC Income experienced significant growth. From assets totalling S$28 million in 1977, the cooperative surged to an impressive S$17 billion in assets, catering to over a million policyholders by 2007.

This revelation, spotlighted by the viral message, underscores Mr Tan’s dedication to the well-being of Singaporeans.

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