Singapore's second chief of defence force (CDF), retired Lieutenant-General Ng Jui Ping, died of an illness at the age of 71 yesterday.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Mr Ng was among the inaugural batch of commissioned officers trained locally after answering an advertisement in 1966 to be one of Singapore's pioneer career soldiers.
"I will remember him most from my own time in the army, when he was first my Commanding Officer, and later when I worked beside him - I learnt much from him as a leader and a colleague," PM Lee wrote. "He was a valued comrade and friend, who always led by example, and gave his all to serve the nation."
In a condolence letter to Mr Ng's wife, PM Lee wrote that Mr Ng set the right culture and tone for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), then a new organisation.
He also outlined his close relationship with Mr Ng which continued after the latter's retirement in 1995 to join the private sector.
"I am deeply saddened today, not just because Singapore has lost one of its true sons, but also because I have lost a dear friend," said PM Lee.
Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean wrote on Facebook that Mr Ng was CDF and chief of army during a period of transformational change in the SAF. Mr Ng became chief of army in 1990 before serving as CDF from 1992 to 1995, taking over from Lieutenant-General Winston Choo.
"His views were always sharp and incisive. Above all he was a leader who was mission focused and got things done," wrote Mr Teo, who visited Mr Ng three weeks ago.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that when Mr Ng broke the bad news about his illness to their circle of friends, it was with "the same stoic equanimity and dignity that he approached difficulties through his life".
"He remained jovial and refused to focus on his own poor state. When Ivy and I visited him in the last week before he passed on, he had become wasted and was already very weak," wrote Dr Ng, referring to his wife Ivy Ng.
"Yet, he made it a point to sing high praise for the nurses and doctors who were looking after him. He was particularly thankful that his pain was controlled."
PM Lee, Mr Teo and Dr Ng were among visitors to the wake yesterday, being held at the Garden of Remembrance in Old Choa Chu Kang Road until the funeral on Sunday.
The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said Mr Ng had emphasised "leadership by example" where commanders at various levels personally led and executed training.
In 1990, he established a Warrant Officer Corps to train, groom and appoint non-commissioned officers to command positions, similar to the officer corps, Mindef said.
He was also involved in the pioneering of the second-generation SAF and redefined SAF's strategies and capabilities to enable an integrated and more effective armed forces, the ministry added.
He was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Gold) (Military) in 1991, and the Meritorious Service Medal (Military) in 1995.
Mr Ng, who is understood to have suffered from pancreatic cancer, is survived by his wife Esther, two daughters and five grandchildren.
The Straits Times understands Mr Ng will be accorded a military-assisted funeral, which includes military personnel acting as coffin bearers, a lone bugler and the draping of the national flag over the coffin.