Singaporeans pay tribute to S R Nathan
Young and old, people from all walks of life and across Singapore streamed to the Istana yesterday to pen their memories and tributes to Singapore's sixth and longest-serving president: Mr S R Nathan.
Some, like student Olivia Chi, 21, went as early as 6.30am to write their condolence messages, while in the East Coast, close friends and relatives visited his Ceylon Road home to pay their last respects at the private wake of Singapore's second elected president, who died on Monday night, aged 92.
To Ms Chi and many young Singaporeans, he was the president they grew up with, whose portrait would beam down at them during school assemblies, and who would wave at them at National Day Parades.
As one in her generation wrote on a condolence card: "I was too young and too unaware to know the great things you did for us Singaporeans.
"Now I know, albeit too late, that you have brightened our little red dot in the huge world out there."
Others, such as retiree Teh Ai Tee, 64, went with their grandchildren to give a final salute to the Singapore statesman.
"As president, he was Singapore's dependable anchor, but he was also a grandfatherly figure - always warm and approachable," she said.
Through the day, people paid tribute to the many causes he had championed, and the myriad ways he had helped improve people's lives.
Social worker Ong Pei Ni, 32, remembered fondly the annual tea receptions at the Istana he hosted for social workers. "I will always remember his calm and steady demeanour, but also how he could be firm and assertive when he needed to," she said. "This balance is something social workers like me aspire to achieve."
Dr H.M. Saleem, a vice-president of Muslim welfare group Jamiyah, said it was grateful to Mr Nathan for his suggestions on fostering community service. The group was one of numerous voluntary bodies he had close links with through the President's Challenge, a yearly fundraising drive he launched in 2000.
NTUC president Mary Liew and secretary-general Chan Chun Sing paid tribute to Mr Nathan's contribution to the labour movement, in a letter to his widow Urmila Nandey.
"His indomitable and fearless fighting spirit in the 1960s, when he was with the National Trades Union Congress' Labour Research Unit, helped win over workers and unions' trust, including pro-communist unions," they said.
Mr Nathan also gave his all in negotiating for workers, and encouraged union leaders to stay rooted to the cause, be close to the ground, and to keep up with the times. "He showed union leaders what it meant to stand tall against irresponsible employers and be a responsible labour movement that prized cooperation over confrontation, and tripartism over self-interest," they added.
Mr Nathan's lifelong dedication to Singapore also served as a rallying call at the President's Scholarship Award ceremony yesterday.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam urged the next generation of public servants to build on his example.
"We continue to need leaders with resilience, commitment and foresight, who will build on the foundations laid for us," he said.
Those who wish to pen tributes to Mr Nathan can do so at the Istana.
People who wish to pay their last respects can do so at Parliament House, where Mr Nathan's body will lie in state, from 10am to 8pm tomorrow, ahead of the State Funeral Service on Friday afternoon.
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