Politicians pay tribute to Mr S R Nathan on Facebook

Tributes reveal how Mr Nathan inspired and guided these younger politicians.

Jonathan Lim | August 22, 2016, 11:30 PM

Former president SR Nathan passed away peacefully on Aug. 22, 2016.

News of his passing came at around 10pm, and within an hour, politicians started to pay tribute to him with posts on their Facebook pages.

We collate what has been written so far:

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong:

Deeply saddened by the passing of Mr SR Nathan today. He passed away peacefully at the Singapore General Hospital, surrounded by family and loved ones, three weeks after suffering a stroke.

Mr Nathan’s life is an inspiration to us all. His was a story of how a young boy strove to triumph over his circumstances and make a contribution to society. He held many public service posts, and occupied the highest office in the land.

Mr Nathan was our longest serving President. He was a warm and approachable President who endeared himself to Singaporeans. He impressed visitors with his knowledge of world affairs, and served with dignity and distinction.

I have known Mr Nathan for 40 years, since I was a young officer in SAF. I remember him as a man guided by a deep sense of duty to the nation. He stepped up each time duty called. He was a true son of Singapore.

My condolences to Mrs Nathan and the family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you in this time of grief.


President Tony Tan:

Mary and I are deeply saddened by the passing of former President S R Nathan.

Mr Nathan had an outstanding career in public service. He rose from humble beginnings to become the sixth and longest serving President of Singapore.

Mr Nathan began his career in the civil service as a medical social worker in 1955. In his long public service, Mr Nathan served with dedication and distinction, including years in leadership positions in the Labour movement, Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs and Defence.

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, which is now the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. The School is ranked among the top think tanks in the region.

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.

As President of Singapore, Mr Nathan championed social causes by initiating the President's Challenge in 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 of office.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs Nathan and Mr Nathan's family during this time of mourning.



Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam:

What a life he led! From the time he ran away from home at 16, to his early job as a clerk in Muar, then as medical social worker, later unionist serving the seafarers, through a life of public service: culminating as President of the nation he was utterly devoted to.

I have met few people who lived and breathed Singapore the way he did. His fondness for friends of every race and from all walks of life. His complete absence of airs. His love of food. And his remarkable memory of events in our history, small and big, and of everyone he had met along the way.

He was active to the end, and never lost his human touch. Just in the last few months, he was sending letters to me and others with his sharp observations and advice on various issues, and always in his beautiful hand-writing. When I last saw him at his home, for lunch, he was in a mellow mood. He had recalled that I had liked the sambal udang the last time we had lunch, and made sure it was served again.

We can never forget S R Nathan, his love of life, and his immense contributions to the nation he was devoted to.


Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean:

I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mr Nathan.

He was a giant of our times and together with his generation, helped secure the peace, harmony and stability we enjoy today. His courage, fortitude and dignity in dealing with difficult issues is an inspiration to all of us. He risked his life in exchange for the safe release of the hostages back to Singapore during the Laju hijack.

Always defending Singapore’s interests, he made friends and managed the challenging periods of our bilateral relationships when he served as our top diplomat to Malaysia and the US.

He came from humble beginnings, gave his best in the many key appointments he served, and rose to the highest office in the land. His humility and compassion for others touched many hearts. He also showed us that respect, understanding and tolerance for other faiths is essential to preserve our racial and religious harmony. I’ve benefited personally from his advice and guidance on many occasions.

Thank you Mr Nathan for a lifetime of service to Singapore. Our thoughts are with you and your family.

May you Rest in Peace.


Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim:

Former President SR Nathan was a man of dedication, strength and empathy. He embodied the phrase ‘society above self’, and many of us knew him as one who dedicated his life to serving Singapore and its people. I last met Mr Nathan at the book launch of Majulah! 50 Years of Malay/Muslim Community in Singapore. As always, he was appreciative of efforts to capture the history and memories of the various communities in Singapore. Despite getting on years, his concern for the Malay/Muslim community’s progress was sharp and strong. He urged the community to stay focused on developing in tandem with other communities. He was ever ready to assist where he could because he believed that no one should be left behind.

Many would also know that Mr Nathan once served as the Executive Chairman to the Straits Times Press in the 80s. To improve the standards of The Straits Times, he introduced weekend seminars and overseas study programmes for promising journalists and editors. He also held the strong belief that our newspapers must reach out to people from every community and every background. Serving the news to a multi-racial and multi-lingual population was key, as the news and stories would become conversation starters between Singaporeans of different communities.

We have lost a great man, cherished by many. My deepest condolences to Mrs Nathan and your family for your loss. ‪#‎yaacobibrahim‬


Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli:

‪#‎masagos‬ grieve with the nation over the passing of our longest-serving President of Singapore, Mr S R Nathan. The first time I met Mr Nathan was early in his Presidency, at a function organised by Jamiyah Singapore. I was not yet an MP then. During the function, I noticed that Mr Nathan was going up and down the stage - I think over 10 times - to take photos with guests and the performers, including a troupe from Johor. I remember thinking to myself that was no way to treat our President. It was later that I found out that Mr Nathan had specifically requested this, which surely made the invited guest and performers feel special!

In office, he was always dignified, befitting the President of Singapore. However, behind the public eyes, he was like a wise grandfather I never had. He always expressed his concern for my community and worried how external influences were dividing us and threatened our culture and identity. It worried him that this could go too far and threaten the multi-racial harmony of Singapore and that of the Malay community.

His last message of his concern for our community was a letter he wrote from his hospital bed a while back. In these times when members of my community are arrested for their terrorist intent and extreme views, it sickened him. He reminisced how he always felt like a family member living among the Malays when he was young. And he reiterated his concerns one last time, expressed poignantly through these words- “Sometimes, I who lived and loved the Malays wonder where we are going”.

Let us all maintain that cohesive and harmonious society that Mr Nathan loved us for. I will continue to work hard so that the Malay community will always be proud to be Singaporeans, to stand united with all Singaporeans for Singapore. I promise!

Thank you, Mr Nathan.


Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin:

Rest in Peace Mr Nathan. :'(

It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of former President Mr S R Nathan today. As a dear friend and visionary leader of the social service sector, Mr Nathan had touched many lives in Singapore.

16 years ago, when Mr Nathan founded the President’s Challenge in 2000, it was with a vision to build a more caring and cohesive Singapore, where each and every one of us would do our part to help the less fortunate around us. Today, the social service sector continues to work and build on the strong foundations that Mr Nathan had laid.

Mr Nathan’s passion for the causes in the social service sector – caring for the disabled, families in distress, vulnerable children and youths and those with mental illnesses – was well known. Truly a “People’s President”, his selfless care and deep compassion for the ordinary man came through each time he met with Singaporeans from all walks of life. Mr Nathan also believed strongly in giving people dignity through earning their own living even as they received help, and was a strong advocate for educating and equipping Singaporeans with skills to earn a living.

I could still remember fondly how Mr Nathan wanted to call on me at my office. He said it was the right thing to do since he is no longer President. Of course, I went to visit him instead. He had willingly shared this thoughts on doing good and serving the needs of the disadvantaged. I was grateful for his generosity and struck by his humility.

Mr Nathan has left us with an indelible legacy. I hope that the warm memories, thoughts and prayers of his friends and those whom he had touched, will bring his family and close friends a measure of comfort at this difficult time. He will be dearly missed, and fondly remembered by all of us.


Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung:

Mr S.R. Nathan passed away this evening (22 Aug 2016).

I got to know him when I was working in the Istana in 2004 and 2005, when he was President of Singapore. He would call me up occasionally to have lunch with him, over Indian Rojak. After he stepped down, we continued to keep in touch. I would visit him regularly at his office at SMU, or at his home. We had many interesting conversations about the past, the present and the future.

After the 2011 General Elections when our team lost in Aljunied GRC, he hand wrote a letter to me, telling me that I should not lose heart. After I informed him I would contest in the 2015 General Elections, he wrote to me again, advising me to take lessons in public speaking because communications was even more important in modern politics. This was his SkillsFuture message to me. I did take lessons after that.

We lost an outstanding Singaporean today. Personally, I have lost a mentor and a teacher. Mr S.R. Nathan will be missed.



PMO Minister and NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing:

Dearest Mr Nathan,

I visited you this evening at the hospital, but it was for the final time.

Words cannot do justice to what you have done for our Labour Movement. Neither can I sufficiently express my gratitude to you as a mentor.

In the early days, you fought for the rights of our workers. They were often the poorest and least taken care of. You touched everyone with sincere, brotherly care. You were always there by our side through trials and tribulations.

Even as you served the nation with distinction in other capacities, we know your heart has always been with us here - in the Labour Movement. I know this. When I joined the Labour Movement, you took time to share with me your perspectives and experiences. You have always made time for the Labour Movement, as recent as May this year when you came back to talk to us despite your health and busy schedule.

We will always remember what you firmly believe in. That in all that we do, we must take care of our working people and our country. You have also showed us how to serve beyond our call of duty - never for ourselves, but always for our fellow Singaporeans and Singapore.

Thank you, Mr Nathan. Thank you for being such a wonderful mentor to me. Thank you for being such a fine example of what it means to be a Singaporean. Your life is an inspiration to me. You continue to inspire many others and, I am sure, for generations to come. Your wisdom and selfless contributions will always inspire us to do more for Singaporeans and Singapore.

Blessed are we whom you have touched. ‪#‎RIPPresidentSRNathan‬.

Mrs Nathan, on behalf of the Labour Movement, I extend our deepest condolences to you and your family.

Chun Sing


Workers' Party Sylvia Lim

It is with sadness that I learn of the passing of President SR Nathan.

President Nathan has been a public servant practically all his life. He believed in Singapore, from the early days before independence when our survival was by no means guaranteed. My father had the privilege of working alongside him in the MID (Ministry of the Interior and Defence), and they became friends for life.

I benefitted from their friendship too. When I became NCMP in 2006, President Nathan was very kind to me and generous with his precious time. He always made it a point to summon me when the occasion presented itself, just to say Hello and to ask how things were going.

I shall miss his warmth and grace.

My family and I send our deepest condolences to President Nathan's family for their loss. May he rest in peace.


Top image from Roslan Rahman Getty Images

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