One question to keep S'pore going

What is the driving motivation or cause for Singapore leaders in the next 50 years?

A few weeks before former president S R Nathan died on Aug 22, he made a request to The Straits Times' editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang.

Mr Han, who was visiting Mr Nathan in hospital then, recalls the latter saying: "When I come out of hospital, let's form a small group to discuss one question: What is the driving motivation or cause for Singapore's leaders in the next 50 years?"

Mr Han agreed to be part of the proposed group, as he too saw that it was difficult to discern these days a "cause to die for" similar to that of Singapore's founding fathers, who were spurred to ensure that Singapore would be a success as a nation after its separation from Malaysia.

Although he died some time after that meeting, Mr Nathan's question will be posed by Mr Han to four of the late president's former colleagues at a dialogue next month. The four are:

•Former minister S. Dhanabalan, who is a member of the Council of Presidential Advisers;

•Professor Cham Tao Soon, who is president emeritus of Nanyang Technological University and founding president of its predecessor, the Nanyang Technological Institute;

IMPETUS FOR NEXT LAP

When I come out of hospital, let's form a small group to discuss one question: What is the driving motivation or cause for Singapore's leaders in the next 50 years?

MR S R NATHAN, to The Straits Times' editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang, while in hospital. His question will be addressed at a dialogue next month.

•Ambassador-at-large Ong Keng Yong, who is executive deputy chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies; and

•Author and former Straits Times editor-in-chief Peter Lim.

The dialogue, on Mr Nathan's achievements and contributions to Singapore, will be with members of The EDB Society and ST readers. It will be held at The Arts House from 4pm on Dec 7.

At the same event, The EDB Society will honour Mr Nathan posthumously with its select Distinguished Fellow of The EDB Society award.

Past recipients of the award include Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who kicked off the first dialogue in the society and The Straits Times' Pioneering The Future series on Nov 26 last year .

Mr Ong Keng Yong, who as a young diplomat worked closely with Mr Nathan, recalls the late president as being so socially savvy that even office boys in various Malaysian government departments knew who he was.

"Mr Nathan was very practical... he made even mundane duties we had suddenly become more important. He was a great morale booster," Mr Ong said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'One question to keep S'pore going'. Print Edition | Subscribe