State funeral for S R Nathan on Friday

Tributes have poured in for Mr Nathan, who died peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital at 9.48pm yesterday. He had suffered a stroke on July 31, and had been in intensive care since then. He will lie in state on Thursday at Parliament House, wh
Tributes have poured in for Mr Nathan, who died peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital at 9.48pm yesterday. He had suffered a stroke on July 31, and had been in intensive care since then. He will lie in state on Thursday at Parliament House, where the public can pay their last respects.ST FILE PHOTO

PM Lee says ex-president, who died last night, had 'deep sense of duty to nation'

Singapore's longest-serving president, Mr SR Nathan, died peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital at 9.48pm yesterday, said the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

He was 92.

"The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues are sad to learn of the passing of Mr SR Nathan and would like to convey their condolences to his family," the PMO statement said.

Mr Nathan will lie in state on Thursday at Parliament House, where people can go and pay their last respects. A state funeral service will be held on Friday.

Mr Nathan, who turned 92 last month, had suffered a stroke on July 31, and had been in intensive care since then.

TRUE SON OF SINGAPORE

Mr Nathan's life is an inspiration to us all. His was a story of how a young boy strove to triumph over his circumstances and make a contribution to society. He held many public service posts, and occupied the highest office in the land.

Mr Nathan was our longest serving President. He was a warm and approachable President who endeared himself to Singaporeans. He impressed visitors with his knowledge of world affairs, and served with dignity and distinction...

I remember him as a man guided by a deep sense of duty to the nation. He stepped up each time duty called. He was a true son of Singapore.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, in a Facebook post.

Before becoming Singapore's sixth head of state from 1999 to 2011, he had a distinguished 40-year career in public service that spanned the worlds of trade unions, security and diplomacy.

When he was with NTUC's Labour Research Unit in the 1960s, he handled negotiations between trade unions and employers at a time when labour unrest was widespread and pro-communist elements had infiltrated many unions.

As director of the Security and Intelligence Division from 1971 to 1979, he played a leading role in dealing with a terrorist attack. He secured the release of hostages from the hijacked ferryboat Laju by accompanying the hijackers on a flight to Kuwait to guarantee their safe passage.

As ambassador to the United States from 1990 to 1996, he went on talk show Larry King Live to speak up for Singapore when American media attacked Singapore for caning Michael Fay, who had vandalised a series of expensive cars.

But it was as Singapore's President that he became a familiar face to all, endearing himself to many as he recalled their names during his morning walks in the East Coast.

 

His introduction of the President's Challenge to raise money for the poor most reflected his care and concern for the needy.

 

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in his tribute last night: "He was a warm and approachable President who endeared himself to Singaporeans."

Noting that his life "is an inspiration to us all", Mr Lee said: "His was a story of how a young boy strove to triumph over his circumstances and make a contribution to society."

Mr Nathan held many public service posts, and occupied the highest office in the land, Mr Lee said, adding: "He impressed visitors with his knowledge of world affairs, and served with dignity and distinction."

Mr Lee said he had known Mr Nathan for 40 years, "since I was a young officer in SAF".

"I remember him as a man guided by a deep sense of duty to the nation... He was a true son of Singapore," he added.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam said Mr Nathan served with "dedication and distinction" in his long years in public service.

"I had the privilege of working with Mr Nathan from 1996 to 1999 when I was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence," said Dr Tan, adding that Mr Nathan helped set up the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, now called the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

It is ranked among the top think-tanks in the region, he added.

He also said the President's Challenge gained much support and raised over $100 million for more than 500 beneficiaries.

Tributes also poured in from organisations like the Hindu Endowments Board, Hindu Advisory Board as well as people from all walks of life, and religions and races who had benefited from his generosity in time, money and effort.

As Singapore's top leaders and MPs hailed his life, one striking feature stood out: He was a generous mentor.

Calling Mr Nathan "a giant of our times", Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "I've benefited personally from his advice and guidance on many occasions."

Mr Teo also referred to the Laju hijack and said: "His courage, fortitude and dignity in dealing with difficult issues is an inspiration to all of us."

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, addressing Mr Nathan directly in his tribute, said: "When I joined the labour movement, you took time to share with me your perspectives and experiences."

Mr Chan, who is also Minister in the PMO, added: "Your wisdom and selfless contributions will always inspire us to do more for Singaporeans and Singapore."

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim remembered that despite getting on in years, Mr Nathan's concern for the Malay/Muslim community's progress was "sharp and strong".

When, in the 1980s, he was executive chairman of The Straits Times Press - the predecessor of Singapore Press Holdings - he introduced weekend seminars and overseas study programmes for promising journalists and editors to improve the standards of journalism, he recalled.

"He also held the strong belief that our newspapers must reach out to people from every community and background. Serving the news to a multiracial and multilingual population was key," Dr Yaacob said.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, in a moving tribute, said: "I have met few people who lived and breathed Singapore the way he did. His fondness for friends of every race and from all walks of life. His complete absence of airs. His love of food. And his remarkable memory of events in our history, small and big, and of everyone he had met along the way."

Mr Nathan leaves his wife Urmila, son Osith and daughter Juthika, and three grandchildren.


Correction note: The original version of this article stated that Mr S R Nathan was Singapore's first elected president. This is incorrect. We are sorry for the error.


 

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Ministers, close family friends turn up at SGH to pay their respects

An exceptional life spurred on by call of duty

Pioneering civil servant

President for all people

A last meeting with Nathan

• In memory of S R Nathan: Tributes and news in straitstimes.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2016, with the headline 'State funeral for S R Nathan on Friday'. Print Edition | Subscribe