A nation bids farewell to S R Nathan who gave his 'best years and more' to Singapore

The State Funeral for former president S R Nathan was held at the NUS University Cultural Centre where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Prof Tommy Koh and others gave eulogies.
The gun carriage carrying the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan moving past City Hall, on Aug 26, 2016.
The gun carriage carrying the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan moving past City Hall, on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
The procession carrying the late former president S R Nathan's carriage making its way past City Hall on Aug 26, 2016.
The procession carrying the late former president S R Nathan's carriage making its way past City Hall on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
The gun carriage carrying the late former president S R Nathan's flag-draped coffin leaving Parliament House, on Aug 26, 2016.
The gun carriage carrying the late former president S R Nathan's flag-draped coffin leaving Parliament House, on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The pallbearers standing to attention as the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan is placed on the gun carriage on Aug 26, 2016.
The pallbearers standing to attention as the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan is placed on the gun carriage on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
The pallbearers bringing the late former president S R Nathan's coffin out of Parliament House to lay on the gun carriage on Aug 26, 2016.
The pallbearers bringing the late former president S R Nathan's coffin out of Parliament House to lay on the gun carriage on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The family of the late former president S R Nathan watching as the pallbearers carry his coffin out of Parliament House on Aug 26, 2016.
The family of the late former president S R Nathan watching as the pallbearers carry his coffin out of Parliament House on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: CHONG ZI LIANG
People lining up outside One Fullerton to pay their final respects as the gun carriage carrying the late former president S R Nathan goes past, on Aug 26, 2016.
People lining up outside One Fullerton to pay their final respects as the gun carriage carrying the late former president S R Nathan goes past, on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA
People gathering along Upper Cross Street to pay their final respects to the late former president S R Nathan on Aug 26, 2016.
People gathering along Upper Cross Street to pay their final respects to the late former president S R Nathan on Aug 26, 2016.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Staff from the State Courts lining the street to witness the procession and pay their final respects to the late former president S R Nathan on Aug 26, 2016.
Staff from the State Courts lining the street to witness the procession and pay their final respects to the late former president S R Nathan on Aug 26, 2016.PHOTO: TIFFANY GOH FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Staff of NTUC gathering outside the NTUC building to pay their last respects to the late former president S R Nathan on Aug 26, 2016.
Staff of NTUC gathering outside the NTUC building to pay their last respects to the late former president S R Nathan on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
The procession carrying the body of the late former president S R Nathan arriving at the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.
The procession carrying the body of the late former president S R Nathan arriving at the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
The portrait of the late former president S R Nathan being brought into the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.
The portrait of the late former president S R Nathan being brought into the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
People attending the state funeral of the late president S R Nathan at the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.
People attending the state funeral of the late president S R Nathan at the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Mrs Urmila Nathan, the wife of the late former president S R Nathan, arriving at the University Cultural Centre for his state funeral, on Aug 26, 2016.
Mrs Urmila Nathan, the wife of the late former president S R Nathan, arriving at the University Cultural Centre for his state funeral, on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
PM Lee Hsien Loong delivering his eulogy, at the state funeral for former president S R Nathan, at University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.
PM Lee Hsien Loong delivering his eulogy, at the state funeral for former president S R Nathan, at University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Mrs Urmila Nathan, seated next to Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary, cries during the state funeral for her husband, the late former president S R Nathan, at the University Cultural Centre, on Aug 26, 2016.
Mrs Urmila Nathan, seated next to Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his wife Mary, cries during the state funeral for her husband, the late former president S R Nathan, at the University Cultural Centre, on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The pallbearers saluting as they prepare to carry the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan out of the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.
The pallbearers saluting as they prepare to carry the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan out of the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The pall bearers carrying the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan out of the University Cultural Centre, on Aug 26, 2016.
The pall bearers carrying the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan out of the University Cultural Centre, on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
The pall bearers carrying the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan into the Mandai Crematorium, on Aug 26, 2016.
The pall bearers carrying the coffin of the late former president S R Nathan into the Mandai Crematorium, on Aug 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - A ceremonial gun carriage carrying the casket of the late former president S R Nathan left the Parliament House on Friday (Aug 26) afternoon.

Within Parliament House, the coffin bearer party - comprising nine uniformed personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force - had mounted Mr Nathan's casket onto their shoulders, and placed it on the 25-pounder gun carriage.

The cortege went past landmarks of significance to the late former president, such as City Hall, Fullerton Hotel and NTUC Centre.

People, who had braved the haze to gather along North Bridge Road, clapped as the carriage passed outside Parliament House. Some shouted "thank you, sir!".

"He was a very great man who has done a lot and sacrificed a lot for the country. He had a lot of valuable advice that youngsters should follow. We're losing great men one by one, last year was Mr Lee Kuan Yew. We need to cherish their hard work  for the country," said Ms Nirmala Palanniandi, 40, a human resource executive.

Minutes later, the carriage passed the first landmark, the City Hall, where Mr Nathan, Singapore's longest-serving President, reviewed the National Day Parade in 2000, 2005 and 2010.


The procession carrying the late former president S R Nathan's carriage making its way past City Hall, on Aug 26, 2016. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

The second landmark is the Fullerton Hotel. Formerly the Fullerton Building, it is where Mr Nathan worked as a Seamen's Welfare Officer at the Marine Department early in his public service career.


People lining up outside One Fullerton to pay their final respects as the gun carriage carrying the late former president S R Nathan goes past, on Aug 26, 2016. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

This marked the beginning of his career in labour relations and diplomacy.

The carriage then wended its way to NTUC Centre at Marina Boulevard. Between 1962 and 1965, Mr Nathan was the assistant director of the Labour Research Unit within the newly formed National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

Then, industrial unrest was widespread and communists were attempting to take over the labour movement. He helped win over the unions to the government-backed NTUC, which become the country's main trade union movement.

About 300 NTUC staff gathered to pay their respects as the cortege went by.


Staff of NTUC gathering outside the NTUC building to pay their last respects to the late former president S R Nathan, on Aug 26, 2016. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Mr Hans Goh, 46, deputy director of membership department of NTUC, was in the Scout's Association when Mr Nathan was the chief scout. He called Mr Nathan a "fatherly figure" and a "very unassuming gentleman".  

Mr Goh said: "He would walk right up to you and you don't feel threatened by him; you just feel drawn to him. He remembers you - that's the beauty of it."

Ms Tan Chor Khim, 57, from the Health Promotion Board, said she met Mr Nathan at a union leaders dialogue he specially requested to be held on May 19 this year. Mr Nathan was in a wheelchair and when Ms Tan asked to take a photo with him, he shook her hand, and asked her if he should stand so the photo would look nicer, she said.

At Queenstown MRT station, people gathered there shouted "goodbye, Mr Nathan".

The procession ended at the University Cultural Centre (UCC) of the National University of Singapore.


The funeral procession arriving at the University Cultural Centre on Aug 26, 2016. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

On arrival at UCC, the gun carriage was received at the main foyer by a Line of Honour, comprising 48 servicemen from the SAF Military Police Command. 

The servicemen, lined on both sides of the entry way, inverted their weapons and bowed their heads as a mark of respect as the gun carriage passed. This "Resting on Arms Reversed" signifies the highest form of respect the SAF can pay to the deceased.

The coffin bearer party then carried the casket into UCC to the solemn strain of the Dead March From Saul by G.F. Handel performed by the SAF Military Band. His family followed.

As the casket entered the UCC Hall, musicians from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra struck up J.S. Bach's Air from the Overture No. 3 in D Major. The coffin bearer party then placed it on a bier for the remainder of the service.

 

Head of Civil Service Peter Ong, the master of ceremony, began the service by playing a Tamil song Mr Nathan liked.

"It is about a dollmaker who collects sand, water clay and other material from different parts of India to make a doll. Mr Nathan saw that as a metaphor for how various races and heritage that came to our shore created the Singapore we know," he said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the first of seven to deliver a eulogy to the former president. He paid tribute to Mr Nathan for putting the nation above self time and again, recounting how he risked his life in the Laju hostage incident in 1974, and helped build up Singapore's diplomatic corps among other achievements.

Mr Nathan was Ambassador to the United States in 1994 when Singapore sentenced American Michael Fay to caning for vandalism, sparking a US media campaign against the caning.

"Singapore needed to get our point of view across. Mr Nathan went on the talk show Larry King Live. He was grilled, but defended our position with conviction, and persuaded quite a few Americans that what Singapore was doing was not wrong," recalled Mr Lee.

He also said he was impressed by how active and focused Mr Nathan was even at 92. He wrote a four-page letter to Mr Lee recently, to pass on a message from a friend.

"Quietly and without fuss, he gave his best years and more, to Singapore," he said.

Long-time friend Jennie Chua spoke about Mr Nathan's commitment to social service and recounted personal anecdotes about Mr Nathan.

He wrote personalised, handwritten letters to many friends and those who worked with him, she said. He would also accede to every request for a photo with him.

He was so popular at events that "a short walk to the door as he departed an event could take up to 45 minutes", she said.

The others who spoke were Ambassadors-at-large Tommy Koh and Gopinath Pillai; labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing; former senior minister of state Zainul Abidin Rasheed; and businessman and friend of Mr Nathan, Mr Ramaswamy Athappan.

 

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Mr Nathan's son Osith and PM Lee laid two wreaths at the end of the ceremony. The state flag and accoutrements were then handed by President Tan to Mr Osith.

The Last Post, played by a lone bugler, was sounded. More than 1,900 people at the state funeral service stood for a minute of silence. 

After the service, Mr Nathan made his final journey to Mandai Crematorium for the private cremation service.