Meet the people who moved PM

PM's old SAF friend

Three Sundays ago, during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was going around the tables at a break fast session in Teck Ghee when a Malay man stood up and said: "Hello, I'm Omar."

Mr Lee recalled on Sunday: "I looked at him and my mind went back 40 years - 1975, Taman Jurong Camp, Corporal Omar, my vehicle electrician."

Mr Lee cited Mr Omar Haron, 68, as one of his memories that make Singapore his home, and held the retiree up as an example of the many Singaporeans who had made good in one generation, as the country moved from Third World to First.

Mr Omar told The Straits Times that Mr Lee, now 60, was a platoon commander in his battalion in 1975.

This chance meeting with an old friend from the SAF so delighted Mr Lee that he took a picture with Mr Omar and posted it on his Facebook page.

Mr Omar said he left school after Primary 6, doing odd jobs like washing aquariums for the Sultan of Johor and selling satay before joining the army. But all his children made it to university, including the eldest, Abdul Razakjr Omar, 42, now a cardiologist at Raffles Hospital, whom Mr Lee mentioned in his speech.

Mr Omar also has a daughter, 40, who works as a regional manager at a chemical firm, and another son, 32, who is a headhunter for a multinational firm. He said: "I'm a poor man, but the children shouldn't be poor in education."

Spoons and potatoes were the tools he used to teach his children addition and multiplication - coupled with discipline.

He said: "I saw how successful my neighbours were and I didn't want my children to be like me. I was very happy when I saw my son graduate."