A Young Blossoming S R Nathan was Almost Sacked by Goh Keng Swee

The year was 1959 and Mr S R Nathan was a seaman’s welfare officer (he was appointed in 1955).

His job was to administer to the needs of Singapore’s seafarers (because, you know, we build this country on being a really good port-of-call).

Part of Mr Nathan’s job was to file complaints on behalf of seafarers.

That year, a Swedish ship fired a local seaman, supposedly for disciplinary issues.

The disgruntled seaman approached Mr Nathan for help, and he duly lodged a complaint over the sacking with the Swedish consulate.

That complaint went nowhere, as the consulate snubbed Mr Nathan.

Being the dutiful chap he was, Mr Nathan wrote a complaint letter to then Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee.

In his memoirs, Mr Nathan said that complaint got Mr Goh hopping mad.

He said that Mr Goh accused him of incompetence, and he later found out that Mr Goh wanted to have him sacked.

Mr Nathan wrote in his memoirs that his hands were tied – he was part of the Singapore government and could only oversee matters pertaining to Singapore.

Fortunately for Mr Nathan, his supervisor explained the situation thoroughly to Mr Goh, and that helped him live another day.

And it’s fortunate for us too, because if his public service career was cut short just as it was about to blossom, it’s very, very unlikely that Mr Nathan would have become president!



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