Remembering Othman Wok: He was always humble and kind, says Abbas Abu Amin

Some 600 guests gathered at the Victoria Concert Hall on Wednesday to remember Mr Othman Wok who died on Monday at the age of 92.
Mr Abbas Abu Amin, former MP for Pasir Panjang, delivers his eulogy at the memorial service of Mr Othman Wok on April 19, 2017.
Mr Abbas Abu Amin, former MP for Pasir Panjang, delivers his eulogy at the memorial service of Mr Othman Wok on April 19, 2017. PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - When Mr Abbas Abu Amin contested in the Pasir Panjang constituency in the 1980 General Election, pioneer Cabinet minister Othman Wok was there to support him.

Mr Othman personally walked the ground and spoke to residents to persuade them to vote for his People's Action Party (PAP) colleague.

While Pasir Panjang was a PAP stronghold, campaigning was difficult as the pro-communist Barisan Socialis - formed by a breakaway group from the PAP - was a formidable force then.

"But I saw up close how Encik Othman connected easily with his grassroots leaders, villagers and residents," said Mr Abbas in his tribute to Mr Othman who died on Monday, aged 92.

With the support of Mr Othman and former Cabinet minister Ahmad Mattar, "we were able to continue taking care of Pasir Panjang residents", Mr Abbas said.

Delivering his speech in Malay, Mr Abbas also recounted several other traits about Mr Othman.

He said Mr Othman was "one who could not stay idle", and had volunteered to take part in the National Day parades alongside fellow officers from the People's Defence Force (PDF), despite being a minister.

The PDF was a volunteer body that served Singapore during the Confrontation years and the racial riots in the 1960s.

Mr Othman was also a great storyteller, and Mr Abbas said he enjoyed reading his horror stories in the 1950s, when Mr Othman was then a journalist with Utusan Melayu.

"He knew how to immerse the reader in the story, and help them to connect emotionally," he said.

As he grew older, Mr Othman kept active and often played soccer at Farrer Park. Said Mr Abbas: "I was impressed by his energy and enthusiasm, and how he continued to stay grounded and connected. Many people liked to approach him, and talk to him."

Young Singaporeans could learn several lessons from Mr Othman's and other founding fathers' legacies, Mr Abbas added.

"Persevere in whatever you do, and do it well. Be patient, be sincere and work hard to achieve your goals," he said.

"Encik Othman and our founding fathers overcame many challenges - through periods of economic instability and racial riots - to build a strong and harmonious Singapore. We can and must build on their legacy."