Memories of a pioneer leader Excerpts from letters

Ready to give his life for country

I remember attending a talk by Mr Othman Wok in 1997 at the Education Ministry's former headquarters in Kay Siang Road, during which he looked back at some of his experiences in politics.

What impressed me most then was that, despite having long retired from public service, he still took the time and trouble to give a talk to junior civil servants.

When asked after the presentation if he ever feared for his life when he received death threats back then, his response was that he was prepared to sacrifice his life for his country.

Chan Yeow Chuan


A friendly and humble man

I had the privilege of meeting Mr Othman Wok in person more than 10 years ago at Changi Airport.

I approached him, greeted him and asked if he was Mr Othman. He said yes, and we had a brief conversation. Before I left, he thanked me for "remembering him".

I told him: "It is my honour and pleasure."

Ace Kindredzen Lucky Cheong


Look how far S'pore has come

Mr Othman Wok must have been deeply hurt when he was labelled a traitor to the Malay race.

But look at Singapore today.

When Singapore separated from Malaysia, the exchange rate of the currencies of the countries was $1 for RM1. Today, one Singapore dollar is worth about RM3.

Look at the progress all the races in Singapore have made.

Sim Lim Onn


Why 'state-assisted' funeral?

Being part of the pioneer generation, I can fully appreciate how much Mr Othman Wok has done for Singapore, and agree fully that he more than deserves the high public recognition he is being accorded.

However, I am rather uncomfortable with the expression "state-assisted funeral".

I understand that this is an official term which has to be followed.

Can't we find a more refined and appropriate phrase to convey the intent and extent of public recognition of someone deserving a very high, but not the highest, public recognition?

Albert Tan Khin Nguan


A champion of multiculturalism

I salute Mr Othman Wok for being a stout defender and champion of multiculturalism in those days when Singapore was facing tremendous pressure internally and externally.

Multiculturalism is most meaningful when a member of a minority group espouses it. It is at its best when it is backed by deeds such as Mr Othman's.

I hope all of us, young and old, will remember that if Mr Othman had not played his part well as a leader of the minority group, we might not be where we are today.

Phillip Tan Fong Lip


Rest in peace, Encik Othman

I worked as a temporary employee at the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board in 1994 when Mr Othman Wok was on the management board.

I was once asked to take a few cheques for Mr Othman to sign, and I can still remember his humility and friendliness towards junior staff.

He greeted me warmly the moment I stepped into his office, even before I had a chance to greet him. We continued to engage in casual conversation while he read the document attached to each cheque.

When he had finished signing, he piled the documents neatly and returned them to me with both hands.

It is with great sadness that we all mourn the passing of another one of Singapore's founding fathers.

Chua Boon Yiang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2017, with the headline 'Memories of a pioneer leader Excerpts from letters'. Print Edition | Subscribe