Singapore parliamentarians paid their tributes to Tamil translator Palaniappan Arumugum, who died on May 4 at the age of 73 after serving the houses for more than three decades.

The House fell silent on Wednesday as MPs marked the death of Parliament translator and offered their condolences to his family members, who were in chambers.

His widow and their son and daughter, along with their spouses, were seated in front of the glass-panelled translation booths where Palaniappan worked for countless Parliament sessions over his 50 years in public service. On his seat was a bouquet of flowers.

Tamil is Singapore’s fourth official language after English, Chinese, and Malay.

Leader of the House Indranee Rajah, delivering a tribute before the day’s official business, said, “We have lost a good friend and a good man. However, we have been enriched by his contributions, the impact of which still remains.

“He may no longer be with us, but his voice can still be heard in the works he translated and in the Tamil language that he loved so dearly and did so much to promote.” Palaniappan, who joined the Parliament Secretariat in September 1990, translated Parliament proceedings from English to Tamil and, occasionally, from Tamil to English, until November 2022.

Besides being a translator, he also took up the role of chief liaison officer for many parliamentary conferences hosted by Parliament.

“Many a time, he went beyond official duties to ensure the foreign dignitaries were well taken care of, and received numerous oral and written compliments,” The Straits Times quoted Indranee as saying in the house.

She added that Palaniappan’s vast experience and expertise in interpretation and translation was highly valued at the national level.

Besides introducing several measures to improve simultaneous interpretation services in Parliament, he was also part of the regular interpretation team for National Day rallies, she said.

Outside of work, he volunteered with the Tamil Language Council for close to 15 years.

He was instrumental in developing a bilingual English-Tamil glossary for the public, as well as an e-glossary for students that has more than a few hundred words that are unique to the Singaporean Tamil context.

In his own time, he also contributed to the building of Tamil vocabulary by starting a Facebook page called ‘Singai Translate Community’, which deliberated with members of the public on how best to translate complex English words and subject matter into the Tamil language.

In recognition of his contributions, he was awarded the Efficiency, Public Service, Long Service, and Commendation medals in 1996, 2001, 2008, and 2011, respectively.

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