01 August 2010

Mr Tiwari

On 26 July 2010, Mr Tiwari passed away.  I want to say 'suddenly', but I suppose there is no such things as 'sudden' when it comes to death.  Regardless, it left me in great shock the rest of that day and lingering sadness for the rest of my Munich-Salzburg trip.

Mr Tiwari was the »Principal Senior State Counsel of Singapore and helmed many of our international negotiations.  He was the king of UNCLOS (UN Convention on Law of the Sea) and the man for bilateral issues with our immediate neighbours.  He was recently a WTO panellist for the US-China intellectual property rights dispute and was re-invited by Pascal Lamy to be a panellist for the US-Mexico tuna dispute. I had the good fortune to work under his tutelage on several investment guarantee agreements in my career.

He was one of those old-school bosses - all for the nation, serious about work, and fatherly outside it.  He was very senior in the government, but did not think himself too senior to commute by MRT or invite us junior staff to his house for Deepavali.  He cut a familiar figure in the ASEAN circuit with his Gandhi-like stature, round glasses and signature black backpack.

When I came back from Shanghai, he organised lunch among a couple of us.  After lunch, he and I walked side by side.  The rest were behind.  He wanted to hear what I thought about China.  As I talked, he listened on humbly and intently, and we exchanged views as equals.  Such rare humility, I remember thinking.  I did not even know at that time that he was the one who drafted the agreement that established our diplomatic relations with China. 

When I later wanted him to write my recommendation letter for London, I went through a boss to ask him as I was worried that he might feel bad about saying no.  When I formally dropped him a note, he replied,

"Dear Joanne

Will work on this. Not sure why you thought about my saying "no". I will surely help as far as I can .


S Tiwari"

When I explained that he had worked with so many officers over the years and might not remember me enough to write a reference letter, he returned a feisty and touching reply:

"Surely the girl in Shanghai must have made an impression for me to organise a welcoming lunch!"

This, is the Mr Tiwari I remember.

Post-script: Ms L wrote a lovely tribute of him - read it »here.

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