From the archives: Remembering Othman Wok, one of Singapore's founding fathers, 1924-2017

Ministers, family and ex-colleagues of Mr Othman Wok pay tribute to the the former cabinet minister who died on Monday (April 17) at the age of 92.
Mr Othman Wok on Nomination Day in 1976.
Mr Othman Wok on Nomination Day in 1976. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Former People's Action Party (PAP) Old Guard Othman Wok died on Monday (April 17) afternoon at the age of 92

Mr Othman, who served as the first minister for social affairs, was an MP for Pasir Panjang constituency from 1963 to 1981. 

The Straits Times delves into the archives for a better look at the man best remembered for championing multi-racialism in Singapore. 

Othman Wok's quick action saved lives 

Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, accompanied by Mr Othman, tours troubled areas to meet community leaders during the racial riots of 1964. PHOTO: ST FILE

This article was first published in The New Paper on June 8, 2015

The 1964 riots, the worst racial violence in modern Singapore, saw 23 people killed and 454 injured.

And the quick thinking of Mr Othman probably saved many lives during the turbulent period.


Why we must build on pioneers' legacy

Mr Othman gives away some of his old personal items to the Malay Heritage Centre in 2001. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

This article was first published in My Paper on May 14, 2012

While he is not a household name for many young Singaporeans, Mr Othman is not bothered about being recognised. 


In a three-hour interview with My Paper, Mr Othman - who was part of Singapore’s first Cabinet led by former prime minister and People’s Action PAP founding member Lee Kuan Yew stressed the importance of building on the groundwork that has brought Singapore this far.


How the PAP won over the Malays

This article was first published in The Straits Times on May 30, 2009

The PAP had achieved a historic victory on June 3, 1959. It had won 43 out of the 51 seats in the island’s first legislative assembly election and was to form the first Government helmed by locals in colonial Singapore.

Mr Othman recalls the jubilant scenes at the Padang as he introduced the party's new leaders.


He tells his life story through biography

Mr Othman holds up a copy of his biography, Never In My Wildest Dreams, in 2000. PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

This article was first published in The Straits Times on May 19, 2001

As a young man, Mr Othman thought he would live an ordinary life, working as a radio technician and keeping the same job till his retirement.

But he became a journalist with the Malay-language paper Utusan Melayu, and that changed his life because it led him into politics.


Once an MP, now he's a 'JC'

Mr Othman works on the typewriter he used to churn out ghost stories for Utusan Melayu in the 1950s as his granddaughter Indriana looks on. PHOTO: ST FILE

This article was first published in The New Paper on April 23, 2000 

Othman Wok has a smile on his face as he says: "I work from the morning till 2 pm. After that I become JC."

JC? Before I can guess he laughingly explains: "Jaga cucu" (Malay for "baby-sitting the grandchildren").


The story of Singapore's race relations as seen through his eyes

Mr Othman holds up a 2010 photo of himself and one his great-grandsons, Daniel, during a 2012 interview at his Beach Road office. PHOTO: ST FILE 

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 25, 1997

Give people a chance and they will live in peace, but beware the few politicians who would exploit race issues for their own purposes - that's where trouble almost always begins.

This is the message from a former Government minister, Mr Othman Wok, whose family lineage can be traced back to the first landing of Sir Stamford Raffles, and whose own life here has been deeply involved with improving race relations.