SINGAPORE: Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim hailed the late politician Othman Wok as a "multicultural icon" after the 92-year-old's passing on Monday (Apr 17).
Speaking to reporters after paying his respects at Mr Othman's house, Dr Yaacob said: "You see the way he interacted with others at ease, and how he was comfortable with people of different backgrounds ... It was his life."
He also spoke about the legacy left behind by Mr Othman, a former Cabinet minister and one of Singapore's first generation of leaders.
"As you know, he was a member of the founding fathers and therefore he laid the foundation for modern Singapore," said Dr Yaacob. "And that's something we can never forget because without him and the other founding fathers, we wouldn't have modern Singapore."
"The other thing which is much closer to my heart is the foundation he laid for a modern and progressive Malay-Muslim community," added Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.
Mr Othman's efforts in developing the likes of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) as key institutions within the Muslim community allowed "us to lead a very vibrant and socio-religious life", he said.
"And of course, developing the Mosque Building Fund and now there are 26 mosques in all the heartlands."
Added Dr Yaacob: "But what I will remember him personally for is the way he was able to balance his roles as both a community and national leader.
"In both, he brought to bear the ethos that has been associated with him and the founding generation - that respect for multi-racialism, respect for meritocracy and really respect for society where every community has a space to thrive and develop as best as they could.
"He's always reminded us not to forget to continue to be tolerant and understanding of one another and live peacefully with each other."
Dr Yaacob also lauded Mr Othman's courage during Singapore's separation.
"He was one who saw through some of the extremist forces that were at play at that time, to realise that a better future lies for Singapore through a society where we respect one another.
"He fought not only for the Malays but for everyone in Singapore."