Singapore

Minute of silence in Parliament for S R Nathan

A minute of silence was observed in Parliament yesterday to pay tribute to former president S R Nathan.

In their speeches, several MPs also shared heartwarming anecdotes of their encounters with Singapore's longest-serving president.

MR PRITAM SINGH

MP for Aljunied GRC

I only ever met the president twice - the first during the Cabinet swearing-in ceremony in 2011 and once more, two years later at a LionsXII football game at the Jalan Besar Stadium, just a few games short of the team's crowning as Malaysia Super League champions.

I went to the stadium with my wife, and as we walked along the grandstand section, I heard voices calling out - it took me a while to confirm where they were coming from. I was surprised to see Mr Nathan...

As I made my way to where Mr Nathan was seated, he joked that having recently got married, I appeared to be more interested to sit alone with my wife and had therefore chosen to ignore him when he was calling out to me!

I protested, of course. President Nathan smiled, took my hand and invited my wife and I to sit next to him.

Throughout the match, Mr Nathan did not make things intimidating or uncomfortable...

The most unforgettable incident of the night came shortly before the game ended, where his words were marked by a palpable seriousness.

He said, "You must always look after the interests of Singaporeans and Singapore."

At no point did he raise any doubts or concerns about serving Singapore in a different colour, cause or capacity.

MR MURALI PILLAI

MP for Bukit Batok SMC

My meeting with the late S R Nathan (at the Singapore General Hospital) was just two months back. Prior to the meeting, I did not know him personally.

The first thing he asked me was: How much time do you have for me?

I've never seen anyone with such humility. I told him I was in his hands, and he could take as long as he liked.

After I sat down, he presented me with a bottle of savoury Indian bites.

He told me that Mrs Nathan had specially prepared this for my wife, Gowri, who he learnt is a fellow teacher.

I was put immediately at ease by his kind gesture.

I noticed that to his right, there was a two-page handwritten note titled: Points to cover with Murali.

This was a man who spent the better part of his life serving Singapore and Singaporeans.

He was unwell, at the last leg of his life, yet he took the trouble to spend time talking to me, talking about some issues our country faced.

MR CHRISTOPHER 
DE SOUZA

MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC

I remember a state visit to Istanbul in 2009, Mr Nathan called for a meeting at the end of the trip.

I remember the scene vividly. It was in a small conference room at the hotel which overlooked the calm Bosphorus Strait.

But Mr Nathan's message was far from calm or serene.

He asked why some members left the trip early before it ended.

I remember him saying you may think the socials are unimportant, but they are important...Although the political delegation was not his target audience, his message was nonetheless important to us - for national duties, you better give it your best, nothing less is sufficient.

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