Singapore

Thousands line streets to say goodbye to S R Nathan

S'poreans brave heat and haze for state funeral procession to bid farewell and say: 'Thank you, sir'

Neither yesterday's afternoon heat nor the haze could stop Singaporeans from showing their appreciation and saying a final farewell to Singapore's longest-serving president, Mr S R Nathan, who was known for going beyond the call of duty for the nation.

One of them was Mr Satwan Singh, 68.

The security administrator was on his way to his office at Parklane Shopping Mall when he stopped in front of Parliament House at about 1.30pm.

Mr Singh told the The New Paper: "Even though he was the President, he was such an approachable and humble man.

"I wanted to wish him goodbye."

Standing behind the barricades, he waited for the state funeral procession to begin.

"Singapore has lost a good man," he added.

For Madam Nirmala Palanniandi, standing in the heat and haze was just a small sacrifice to make for the opportunity to say goodbye to a cherished man of the people.

PROCESSION: Mr S R Nathan's cortege on Ganges Road en route to the University Cultural Centre (UCC) at the National University of Singapore. TNP PHOTO: MOHD ISHAK

"He has done so much for the country," said the 40-year-old human resource executive.

"Standing in the haze does not even compare to the sacrifices that Mr Nathan had made."

The former president died peacefully on Monday night at Singapore General Hospital. He was 92.

On Thursday morning, after a two-day private wake in his family home in Ceylon Road, the casket bearing his body was taken to Parliament House, where he lay in state until noon yesterday.

SOLEMN: Mr Nathan's wife, Mrs Urmila Nathan (in wheelchair) looks on as the coffin bearing her husband's body is placed on the 25-pounder gun carriage. TNP PHOTOS: JONATHAN CHOO

At 2pm, the state funeral procession began when a ceremonial gun carriage carrying his casket, accompanied by a convoy of servicemen, left Parliament House for the University Cultural Centre (UCC) in the National University of Singapore.

The coffin bearer party, comprising nine uniformed personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Singapore Police Force, had earlier carried Mr Nathan's flag-draped casket on their shoulders before placing it on the 25-pounder gun carriage.

As part of the sombre ceremony, the procession passed by High Street Centre, where a crowd clapped and shouted: "Thank you, sir!"

The procession made its way past landmarks significant to Mr Nathan's career.

These included City Hall, where he reviewed the National Day Parade in 2000, 2005 and 2010, Fullerton Hotel, where he worked as a seamen's welfare officer at the Marine Department early in his public service career, and NTUC Centre, where he was assistant director of the Labour Research Unit within the newly formed National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

About 300 NTUC staff members gathered to bid farewell as the cortege went by.

The procession then travelled along Ganges Road, where more Singaporeans braved the haze, with many of them wearing masks, to join in the final farewell.

Chatter among a group of Isetan Singapore employees stopped the moment the funeral convoy was spotted in the distance.

Ms Suharni Asmadi, 36, Madam Christine Ng, 47, and Madam Michelle Wang, 53, watched intently as the cortege trundled past them.

Madam Ng said: "Seeing his casket go past was very emotional.

"I didn't think I would get this emotional, but when I saw Mr Nathan go by, my eyes welled up."

Ms Suharni said: "His dedication to the community was very touching. He made it his priority to help the needy and the less fortunate."

GREAT PRESIDENT

Madam Wang said: "He was a great president and it's definitely very hard to accept that Singapore has lost him."

At UCC, the gun carriage was received at the main foyer by a Line of Honour, comprising 48 servicemen from the SAF Military Police Command.

They inverted their weapons and bowed their heads as a mark of respect. The "Resting on Arms Reversed" is the highest form of respect the SAF can pay to the deceased.

The coffin bearer party carried the casket into UCC as the SAF Military Band performed Handel's solemn Dead March From Saul.

At the UCC Hall, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra played Bach's Air from the Overture No. 3 in D Major as the coffin bearer party placed the casket on a bier for the remainder of the service.

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