PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Singapore's former president S R Nathan, who died at the age of 92, played an important role in keeping the close ties between the city-state and Malaysia on an even keel during a challenging period, said Malaysia's High Commissioner to Singapore Ilango Karuppannan.
"He was in the thick of things and played his role in trying to help stabilise relations between our countries," he said.
Mr Nathan, who was the republic's sixth and longest-serving president, had served as Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia in 1988, during which bilateral matters including the water and railway land issues had not been resolved.
Datuk Ilango, who assumed the role of High Commissioner of Malaysia to Singapore in April, said he met Mr Nathan twice, the first time during a book launch in Singapore in May.
The second was in July when Mr Ilango paid a courtesy call on the former president at his office at the National University of Singapore, where both men chatted for more than an hour.
"He was a very gentle man, someone who made you feel comfortable and at ease almost immediately," Mr Ilango said of the meeting.
In addition to his stint as Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia, Mr Nathan served as ambassador to the United States and as ambassador-at-large.
Mr Nathan was born in Singapore but spent his early years in Muar, Johor, where he still has relatives.
Mr Ilango said he was surprised when Mr Nathan told him that he worked in the Johor civil service for a short time after World War II.
"He said he was still drawing a pension from Johor, and although he did not work there for long, he was still receiving about RM70 a month in pension," he said.
Mr Ilango said Mr Nathan also drove to Malaysia often to visit friends and relatives.
"He also provided me with the registration number of his car as he wanted to apply for a vehicle entry permit in order to drive to Malaysia, but he fell ill not long after that and had to cancel his plans," he said.
Mr Ilango said Mr Nathan did not express any concerns about the current state of bilateral relations during their conversations, as many issues had already been sorted out by leaders from both countries.
"He looked forward to the future of our ties which he said was bright," he said.