SINGAPORE: President Tony Tan Keng Yam said he will always remember the late S R Nathan as a "courageous, approachable and honourable gentleman who was deeply committed to Singapore". "His heart for the people of Singapore is an inspiration for me and for all Singaporeans," he wrote in a condolence letter to Mrs Nathan dated Aug 24.
Dr Tan, together with his wife Mary, attended the private wake for the former President at Mr Nathan's family home on Wednesday afternoon.
Dr Tan's letter to Mrs Nathan is reproduced below:
On behalf of the people of Singapore, Mary and I would like to convey our most heartfelt condolences to you and your family on the passing of your beloved husband, Mr S R Nathan.
Mr Nathan lived through an extraordinary period in Singapore’s history and was one of our pioneers who had been intricately involved at various stages of our history in building the foundations of today’s Singapore. He had an outstanding career in public service spanning more than five and a half decades since the 1950s. He rose from humble beginnings to become the sixth and longest serving President of Singapore.
Born in 1924, Mr Nathan received his early education in several schools before his formal education was disrupted during the war years. But with fortitude, he attained a distinction in Diploma in Social Studies from the University of Malaya in 1954. Mr Nathan began his career in the Civil Service as a medical social worker in 1955 and was appointed Seamen’s Welfare Officer in 1956. In these roles, he championed social service and workers’ welfare with commitment and conviction.
Mr Nathan served with dedication and distinction each time he was called upon to take on leadership positions in various agencies and ministries, including the Labour movement, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Defence. He embodied the values of public service in his actions. Mr Nathan demonstrated utmost courage during the Laju hostage crisis in 1974 when he and a team of officials bravely volunteered to take the place of some people who had been held hostage by the Palestinian and Japanese Red Army terrorists, and successfully negotiated with the terrorists. I had the privilege of working with Mr Nathan from 1996 to 1999 when I was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence. He helped set up the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, served as its first Director and established the groundwork for the Institute to grow into the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. With the foundation he put in, the School is now ranked among the top think tanks in strategic and international affairs in the region.
For his distinguished services, Mr Nathan was conferred the Public Service Star in 1964, the Public Administrative Medal (Silver) in 1967, the Meritorious Service Medal in 1974 and the Order of Temasek (1st Class) in 2013.
After retiring from the Civil Service in 1982, Mr Nathan became the Executive Chairman of the Straits Times and was later appointed Singapore’s High Commission to Malaysia and Ambassador to the United States. As a steadfast diplomat, Mr Nathan helped Singapore deal with a difficult interlude in foreign relations with the United States at that time.
Mr Nathan also played an active role in uplifting the Indian community when he was Chairman of the Hindu Endowment Board and founding member of SINDA and its term trustee till 1999.
Mr Nathan became the sixth President of Singapore in September 1999 and served two six-year terms. He was a fearless defender of Singapore’s interests abroad, and a passionate nation-builder at home. During his term of office, Mr Nathan continued to champion social causes by initiating the President’s Challenge in year 2000. The President’s Challenge gained much support from the community and raised over $100 million for more than 500 beneficiaries during Mr Nathan’s two terms in office.
I will always remember S R as a courageous, approachable and honourable gentleman who was deeply committed to Singapore. Whether as a steadfast diplomat or as a resolute advocate for social causes, S R’s lifetime focus was always on how Singapore can be a better home for Singaporeans. His heart for the people of Singapore is an inspiration for me and for all Singaporeans.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time of mourning.
TONY TAN KENG YAM