SINGAPORE - The late former president S R Nathan defended Singapore's interests without fear or hesitation, showing the world it is a country which cannot be bullied by bigger powers, said Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh.
In his eulogy at the state funeral service at the University Cultural Centre on Friday (Aug 26), Professor Koh spoke about three enduring contributions which Mr Nathan had made.
First, he transformed Singapore's foreign ministry to a first rate one in just two years.
When Mr Nathan returned in 1978 as the ministry's first permanent secretary, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had given him a mandate: transform the ministry into a first class one.
"Mr Nathan recruited bright young officers to join him. He demanded discipline, hard work and high competence. Most of all, he demanded loyalty and dedication to duty," said Prof Koh.
"However, behind that tough exterior, there was a warm and kind heart."
Second, Mr Nathan "taught us to be courageous and to defend Singapore's interests without fear or hesitation".
Prof Koh spoke about how Mr Nathan defended Singapore's position in the face of vicious attacks when Singapore caned American teenager Michael Fay for vandalism in 1994. Mr Nathan was then Singapore's Ambassador to the United States.
"Because of his example and precept, although Singapore is a small country, it is a country which cannot be bullied by bigger countries, not even the major powers."
Third, as Singapore's longest-serving president, he played the role of the country's "super ambassador".
"He was able to convert his huge global network of friends into a global network of friends of Singapore," said Prof Koh.