Methodist leader Nalla Tan dies

DR NALLA TAN (May 12, 1923 – March 27, 2012)

DR NALLA TAN, the first Singapore woman to have served in the World Methodist Council (WMC), died of pneumonia on March 27, 2012.

She was 88 and left a daughter and two sons. She was a widow; her husband, Dr Tan Joo Liang, a general practitioner, died of a heart attack in 1975.

Dr Tan had served the World Methodist Council Presidium from 1976 to 1981. She also served as Chairman of the World Family Life Committee of the WMC for 15 years from 1976 till 1991, organising seminars and workshops on Christian family life.

For her contribution to the WMC, she was awarded the newly-created “Honourable Order of Jerusalem” in 1999. When officials of the WMC met in Jerusalem in December 1998, they decided to recognise the contributions made by former WMC leaders by receiving them into an “Order” created specially for this purpose.

An Honorary Steward of Barker Road Methodist Church, she had also sung in the church choir and was leader of a Bible Study group which met fortnightly at her former Binjai Park home.

A multi-talented woman ahead of her time, the outspoken Dr Tan was a well-known doctor, counsellor, sex educator, women’s rights champion and newspaper columnist, who also enjoyed writing, painting and music. She has published books on poetry and short stories, and was a columnist for e Sunday Times writing on women’s, community health and social issues.

The social activist studied at the Methodist Girls’ School in Ipoh and pursued medicine at the then University of Malaya in Singapore. She was an Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore’s Department of Social Medicine and Health, and was the first woman in South-east Asia to be awarded the Fellow of the Faculty of Community Medicine by the College of Physicians of Britain.

Other awards she had received included the “Outstanding Woman of the Year” from the Business and Professional Women’s association in 1978, and the “Friend of Labour” award from the National Trades Union Congress in 1984.

The funeral service was held at Barker Road Methodist Church (BRMC) on March 30. e Rev Malcolm Tan, Pastor-in-Charge of BRMC, gave the message entitled “No More Tears, No More Pain”. e church service was followed by a short service at the Mandai Crematorium at which the Rev Tan meditated on “ e Blessed Dead”.