He was an extraordinary man in our midst.
He leaves behind a legacy of accomplisments, among them the transformation of a trouble-ridden, ethnically divided city to become a country – all in 50 years – where all of us have space and a common destiny to work towards.
He leaves behind the metropolis that, in 1965, he promised the would turn Singapore into.
What he has come to be epitomised by us – his people – and in the eyes of the world, are the stories, yet to be written about him and his accomplishments.
He emerged in our midst in the turbulent political times of the 1950s. His coming into our political scene was a turning point in Singapore’s modern political history.
His considerable stature and personality awed many of us. I vividly recall the first time I came close to him around 1967. I was assigned to take notes for him.
I approached him in awe, but he surprised me, beyond expectations. He approached me, with almost brotherly attention, and correcting my necktie, said ‘Nathan, you must remember you are no longer in the Labour Movement’.
It is a moment, I cherish.
Looking back, I feel he was someone moulded by the politics of his time – the decolonising phase of Asian Political History of the 20th century. He gave us leadership and lived by example.
Like that, there are … many stories and accolades of his contributions to Singapore’s political history and regional politics.
His greatest contribution to us was the strength he gave us, at a time when forces of destruction were seeking to destroy us and turn Singapore to a communist state.
He helped us to stand up and fight back, those disruptive forces, despite the overwhelming strength with which they sought to destroy our society.
We will miss this giant of a man. May his soul rest in peace.
This story was written by Singapore’s former President, S R Nathan.