Citation for CC Tan Award 2017
This citation was read by then Vice-President Kuah Boon Theng at the Law Society’s annual dinner and dance on 10 November 2017.
It is my privilege and honour to read the citation for the recipient of the CC Tan Award of 2017.
Mr Tan Chye Cheng, or CC Tan as he was fondly known, was the Law Society of Singapore’s very first President. Throughout his long and illustrious professional career, he embodied the finest and noblest traditions of the legal profession – honesty, fair play, gentlemanliness and personal integrity. Since 2003, it has been the Law Society’s tradition each year to recognize and honour a member of our profession who best personifies the model example and ideals set by our very first President.
Our CC Tan Award recipient this year is Mr Peter Cuthbert Low. A former President of the Law Society, Peter was admitted as an Advocate & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore in 1980 and has now been in practice for 37 years. Even before his admission to the Bar, Peter had served as State Counsel and Deputy Public Prosecutor as well as a Military Prosecutor between 1977 and 1981. He subsequently left public service for private practice in 1981 to join Drew & Napier, and today, he is the Managing Director of Peter Low & Choo LLC.
Those who know Peter appreciate his quiet, humble, and down-to-earth ways. Many regarded Peter’s election as President of the Law Society to be somewhat unexpected. After he assumed the post, he was profiled by the Sunday Times as one of the Law Society’s youngest ever presidents (at age 41), and at the time, Peter had spoken fondly of his childhood days growing up in the kampong flying kites, catching spiders and shooting birds. Peter supported himself through law school at the then University of Singapore partly from a scholarship, and partly from savings from his national service days and part-time work as a waiter. You need to understand his humble beginnings, in order to understand the soft spot he has for the underdog. In fact, in the same Sunday Times article in January 1994, he was dubbed “Friend of the Underdog”. I believe Peter may be more proud of that moniker than other titles and positions he has held, and other accolades he has received, over the years.
Once elected President, Peter devoted himself wholeheartedly to his task. As President, he initiated the first Work Plan for the Law Society to set a new direction for its work. He also set out to improve relations between the Law Society and the press. Even before he was elected President, Peter had chaired a committee to review the publicity rules of the Legal Profession which culminated in the Legal Profession (Publicity) Rules of 1992.
Peter has continued to be involved in the work of the Law Society even after he stepped down from Council. In 1995, only a year after he finished his term as President, he served on the first Code of Conduct Committee that was tasked to draft a comprehensive code of conduct for Advocates and Solicitors. The code drafted by this Committee, which is known to us today as the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules, was subsequently approved by the Chief Justice and came into force on 1 June 1998.
Peter remains the only former President to return to Council to serve as Council member, after succumbing to the skillful persuasion of then President Philip Jeyaretnam, SC. But it is a testament to his humble nature, and his sincere desire to promote and serve the interests of his fellow lawyers, that he agreed. Upon his return to Council in 2006, he was immediately asked to Chair an ad-hoc committee to review the proposed amendments to the Penal Code. The committee’s report was subsequently submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs in March 2007. Amongst its recommendations, was to give discretionary power to judges for what were then mandatory death penalty offences.
A firmer believer in access to justice, Peter once said that “people first need access to a lawyer before they can get access to justice. Lawyers can add value to society at large.” He also encouraged lawyers to join the Law Society’s activities and non-legal organizations, to help them grow both personally and professionally. It seems that his passion for serving the profession has rubbed off on his children. His daughter Christine successfully stood for election in our recent Law Society elections, and will soon be starting her second term of service as a Council member.
Peter once said – “I don’t want to be mediocre. I want to be a dedicated professional. That’s why, from the time I started, I’ve always looked out for heroes – senior lawyers who are professionally competent, ethically sound and inspiring”. It is perhaps fitting that as a recipient of the C C Tan Award 2017, he is now being recognized as the type of hero that he himself spoke about.
On this occasion of its Golden Jubilee Celebrations, the Law Society is proud to present the CC Tan Award to Mr Peter Cuthbert Low. May I now invite the President of the Law Society to present this award and welcome the 2017 CC Tan Award recipient, Mr Peter Low onto the stage to receive the award and deliver his acceptance speech.