‘Warm and approachable’: tributes for Singapore's longest-serving president S.R. Nathan who died aged 92

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 10:31am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 10:38pm

Former Singapore president S. R. Nathan, whose colourful career included stints as a spymaster and diplomat, has died in hospital.

The 92-year-old veteran public servant, who was closely associated with Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, was hospitalised on July 31 after suffering a cerebral stroke.

“The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues are sad to learn of the passing of Mr S. R. Nathan and would like to convey their condolences to his family,” the statement said Monday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote in tribute of Singapore’s longest-serving president:

“His was a story of how a young boy strove to triumph over his circumstances and make a contribution to society. He held many public service posts, and occupied the highest office in the land,” Lee said in a Facebook post.

Singapore PM Lee on medical leave after falling ill during televised speech

“He was a warm and approachable president who endeared himself to Singaporeans. I remember him as a man guided by a deep sense of duty to the nation. He stepped up each time duty called. He was a true son of Singapore.”

Nathan started his career as a social worker and rose up the ranks to become ambassador to Malaysia and the United States, two of the most prestigious jobs in the Singapore government service.

It was during his tenure as ambassador that he had to defend Singapore’s caning of an American teenager, Michael Fay, for vandalism in 1994, which caused a serious diplomatic rift with Washington.

Nathan also served as an intelligence chief in the military and held various positions in the private sector.

He was elected to two six-year presidential terms between 1999 and 2011.

Singapore’s president is the head of state but also has the power to protect the country’s reserves, veto senior government appointments, stop executions and review detention orders in internal-security cases.

A state funeral service will be held for Nathan on Friday. Nathan leaves behind a wife, daughter, son and three grandchildren.

More tributes on social media ...