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       SINGAPORE Next Article: Vigil guards to be mounted for S R Nathan's Lying-in-State  
       one of Singapore’s greatest sons
         Posted on :08:12:48 Aug 27, 2016
       Last edited on:08:16:19 Aug 27, 2016
         Tags: sg

SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong led the tributes at the funeral service for former President S R Nathan on Friday (Aug 26). Describing Mr Nathan as "one of Singapore’s greatest sons", Mr Lee said that the nation has many lessons to learn from Mr Nathan's life. "He overcame extremely trying circumstances in his childhood and rose in the public service through grit, determination and ability, guided by a deep and abiding sense of duty. He put heart and soul into every task assigned to him, including the highest office in the land,” said Mr Lee. He added that Mr Nathan had hoped Singaporeans, especially young Singaporeans, would draw a key lesson from his memoirs, which “is to not give up.” Mr Nathan died on Monday (Aug 22), three weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 92. LAUDING MR NATHAN'S CAREER Before becoming President, Mr Nathan's unique and illustrious public service career spanned diverse fields, from social work and trade unions to intelligence, diplomacy, journalism, and academia, observed Mr Lee. “He played a leadership role in the Indian community. But he was also a President for all Singaporeans, and cared deeply about racial and religious harmony,” he said. Reflecting on Mr Nathan's traits - his integrity, perseverance, and commitment to Singapore - Mr Lee brought up the Laju incident as "(t)he one event that best epitomises Mr Nathan’s qualities". In 1974, two Japanese Red Army terrorists and two terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine tried to blow up the Shell refinery on Pulau Bukom, said Mr Lee. When they failed, they hijacked the “Laju” – a ferry boat operating between Pulau Bukom and mainland Singapore. The Government negotiated a deal with the terrorists to release their hostages in exchange for safe passage to the Middle East. At the time, Mr Nathan, then the Director of Security and Intelligence Division (SID), “risked his life” to lead a team of 13 officials who accompanied the terrorists to Kuwait on a Japan Airlines aircraft, he said. “Not many of today’s generation know of the Laju incident. Those who do probably do not fully appreciate the magnitude of the decision that Mr Nathan and the other 12 made. It took great physical and moral courage,” said Mr Lee. “In an interview near the end of his term as President, Mr Nathan was asked if he thought he would return alive. He said: 'I was not sure. Because what awaited us at the other end was something uncertain.'" MR NATHAN’S ROLE DURING THE 2008 GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS Mr Nathan also presided over the first drawdown of national reserves in Singapore history. This was also the first time that the Government asked the President to approve a proposal to spend past reserves. During the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Mr Lee said he went to Mr Nathan to seek his permission to draw S$5 billion on the protected reserves to fund a S$20 billion Resilience Package. “After careful consideration, Mr Nathan approved the Government’s request. It enabled us to deal with the crisis decisively, and to emerge from it largely unscathed. Mr Nathan proved once again that he was capable of making tough decisions when the need arose,” he said. Mr Lee, who had worked with Mr Nathan for seven years as Prime Minister, also touched on his personal relationship with the former President. “I kept in touch with Mr Nathan regularly. Once in a while he would join me for lunch at the Istana... When I came across an article that I thought would interest him, I would send it to him. He made it a point always to reply, in his beautiful hand, which remained steady all his life,” he said. “In fact, he wrote to me recently, when an old friend of his asked him to pass me a message. He wrote me a four-page note, setting out the matter, explaining the context, and offering to convey my response back to the friend. It could've passed as a staff paper. I thought how lucky he was, to be so active and focussed at 92.” “THE CENTRAL AND BRIGHTEST THREAD” IN MR NATHAN’S LIFE Apart from a remarkable career, Mr Nathan’s love story - spanning 73 years - with Mrs Urmila Nathan was just as “astonishing”, said Mr Lee. “He first set eyes on her in 1942, when she was 13 and he 18. After a courtship of 16 years, braving parental objections, and a two-year separation while Umi studied in Britain, they married in 1958,” he said. Describing the relationship as an inspiration to all, Mr Lee added: “SR loved and honoured Umi all the days of his life. And she in turn was his anchor throughout his career, including the 12 years that he was President, when she supported him with grace, charm and warmth.” In closing, Mr Lee said that Mr Nathan was one who had placed nation before self time and again. “Quietly and without fuss, he gave his best years and more, to Singapore. It is with great sorrow today that we bid farewell to one of Singapore’s greatest sons." - CNA/ll

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