S R NATHAN 1924 — 2016

Family, friends attend private cremation service

PM Lee arriving at Mandai Crematorium on Aug 26, 2016.
PM Lee arriving at Mandai Crematorium on Aug 26, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

After thousands of people had paid their respects to former president S R Nathan, his family and friends bade him a final farewell in a private cremation service at Mandai Crematorium yesterday.

Among the 90 people who attended the quiet, dignified service were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mrs Lee, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing.

Mr Nathan's only son Osith led the Hindu funeral rites, which included placing rice and oil on his body, and carrying an earthen pot with water and walking three times around the coffin. As per Hindu custom, holes were knocked into the pot, from which water flowed, and Mr Osith's brother-in-law Cheong Gay Eng sprinkled it around the coffin.

Mr Nathan's grandchildren Kiron Cheong, Monisha Cheong, and Kheshin Cheong then paid their respects.

While there were no announcements that the public could attend, about 15 of them arrived at the crematorium and were allowed to sit down at a neighbouring service hall, where the service was screened live.

Mr Lee Hock Yang, 66, decided to attend as he wanted to say goodbye to a man he regarded as an "old friend".

The retired fruit seller recalled fondly that Mr Nathan would call him "fruit man", and acknowledge him whenever they came across each other.

Once, he said, Mr Nathan rolled down the window of the car he was in to call out to Mr Lee.

He used to sell fruits in a back lane near Mr Nathan's Ceylon Road home in the 1960s.

"I am just a small butterfly, and he was such a big shot, but he would always stop to say hello. That really touched me," said Mr Lee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 27, 2016, with the headline 'Family, friends attend private cremation service'. Print Edition | Subscribe