Veteran lawyer PE Ashokan dies at 58 after short battle with pancreatic cancer
PE Ashokan, a seasoned solicitor of 30 years, was first diagnosed with cancer about three months ago.
Law firm partner PE Ashokan, known for his work in both the civil and criminal fields over the last three decades, died on Wednesday (Sept 30) from pancreatic cancer.
He was aged 58 and married with three children — two sons and a daughter — aged between 11 and 19.
The veteran solicitor of 30 years, whose full name is Pateloo Eruthiyanathan Ashokan, was first diagnosed with cancer about three months ago.
His funeral is set for this coming Sunday at 6.30pm at the Mandai Crematorium.
His sister-in-law and secretary, Ms Chia Wai Lai, told TODAY that he “passed on quite peacefully” in the Singapore General Hospital.
Ashokan graduated from the National University of Singapore and was called to the Bar in 1990. He joined Withers KhattarWong in 2000 and was most recently a partner in its litigation and arbitration team.
On the firm’s website, Ashokan was described as an advocate of pro bono work who has provided free legal counselling services at community centres and legal clinics for more than two decades.
His clients included multinational corporations, statutory boards and registered societies.
In 2013, Ashokan represented former fund manager Chew Eng Han from City Harvest Church in a high-profile corruption case. Chew was among six church leaders who were later convicted of criminal breach of trust and misuse of more than S$50 million in church funds.
Most recently, he represented the former president and the ex-general manager of the Singapore Recreation Club.
The club had sued them for at least S$3 million — over claims of missing items, bonuses paid and losses for room charges, among others — but a High Court judge dismissed the lawsuit in July.
Beyond the legal field, Ashokan served as a member of the Public Transport Council from 2007 to 2010, a district councillor in the Central Singapore Community Development Council, and a grassroots leader.
‘AFFABLE AND HAD NO AIRS’
Fellow lawyers who spoke to TODAY described him in glowing terms.
Senior Counsel Gregory Vijayendran, president of the Law Society of Singapore, said that his demise shocked the legal fraternity and left some “emotionally devastated”.
He added that Ashokan was a “perfect gentleman” and a prolific goal scorer during football matches in the annual Bench & Bar Games hosted by the Law Society.
“Those sporting qualities crossed over into his conduct of cases in our courts of law. Full of guts and gumption with a ‘never say die’ approach, he proved a worthy opponent yet was always magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat," Senior Counsel Vijayendran said.
“In our WhatsApp lawyer chat group, when we learnt of his passing, the epithets that kept coming up were ‘very nice guy’, ‘honourable gentleman’ and ‘authentic’. These endearing qualities will be the enduring qualities that we will always associate with Ashokan.”
Criminal lawyer Shashi Nathan, Ashokan’s colleague of several years, said that the firm’s employees were “deeply saddened” by the loss of a senior figure who was “always approachable”.
Mr Nathan added that when Ashokan was ill over the past months, he was always chiefly concerned about the well-being of his young team of lawyers.
“You meet a few people like this only a few times in your life… one of the other things that struck me was the friendships he developed with his clients. So many clients have come forward to express their shock and sadness.
“The practice of law can be seen sometimes as a business, but to some lawyers, it is more than a business. It is a calling,” Mr Nathan said.
Mr Nichol Yeo, a partner at Solitaire LLC, recounted that when he was a junior practitioner himself, Ashokan would stop by his office to chat with him and invite him to lunches.
He was a senior lawyer from a different firm and need not have done that, Mr Yeo said.
“He was affable and had no airs at all… His advice has served me well in practice to date. I will always remember him fondly,” Mr Yeo added.
Mr Sunil Sudheesan, president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore, said that Ashokan was a “suave (and) composed gentleman at the Bar”.
The director of law firm Quahe Woo & Palmer added: “I have never known him to be flustered. KhattarWong has lost a stalwart and a good friend.”
- He was a partner in the litigation and arbitration team of Withers KhattarWong
- He leaves behind three young children and his wife
- Fellow lawyers said he was a man with no airs and “full of guts and gumption”
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