S R Nathan: The Man Who was More Than A Leader

Sr Nathan_Istana_Grayscale

Much has been said about Singapore Former President, the Late Mr S R Nathan, including how he was called “an indispensable man for all seasons…” by the Late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Indeed, as people from all walks of life would testify, Mr Nathan did his best and gave his utmost in every role he played.

Nathan_NTUCCentre_OFC

If you happen to drive along Collyer Quay, past One Marina Boulevard, otherwise known as NTUC Centre, a large signboard in tribute of the Late Mr Nathan has just been put up.

Nathan_NTUCCentre

The words on the board could be missed if you happen to drive past and take a glance.

But the words have a certain deep meaning.

“Remembering S R Nathan: OUR BROTHER-IN-ARMS, WORKERS’ KEEPER, PEOPLE’S LEADER

You might just wonder, “what significance does this have”, and “where do these words come from?”

‘People’s leader’ is quite synonymous with his name as a result of his human touch during his term as the President of Singapore.

But what about ‘Brother-in-Arms’, and ‘Workers’ Keeper’?

Mr Nathan (centre) during a workshop at the NTUC Modernisation Seminar in 1969.
Mr Nathan (centre) during a workshop at the NTUC Modernisation Seminar in 1969.

Not many people know, but Mr Nathan’s involvement with the NTUC go a long way. In 1959, he was co-opted into the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees’ (AUPE) interim Executive Council as its Vice-President.

In 1962, he was seconded to the Labour Research Unit (LRU) as a Assitant Director. The LRU is the predecessor of the current NTUC Administration and Research Unit.

A tradition within the Labour Movement calls for its members and comrades to refer to each other as Brothers and Sisters. And because of his ties with the Labour Movement, he was referred to as a Brother-in-Arms.

Mr Nathan left the NTUC to join the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1966. But he continued to maintain close relations to the Labour Movement, taking part in dialogues with its unionists and other events, the last being a dialogue session on 19 May 2016.

Mr Nathan (second from left) engaging the unionists during a dialogue in May.
Mr Nathan (second from left) engaging the unionists during a dialogue in May.

During the session, he shared many nuggets of lessons about life, workers and the purpose of the Labour Movement, including one where he said:

“We have a duty to be our Brother’s keeper, our Sister’s keeper. Sometimes they’re wrong, you have to hold their hand and go to them. Sometimes they’re unreasonable, you have to be patient. In the Labour Movement, it is not as simple as banging the table, we have a lot of responsibilities.”

Labour Chief Chan Chun Sing’s Facebook page also mentioned Mr Nathan’s dialogue session, where he said:

“We (the Labour Movement) are our brother’s keeper and work together to answer the calling of our country to ensure better lives for all our working people.”

NTUC pays special tribute to its Brother-in-Arms

To honour a Brother-in-Arms, Workers’ keeper and people’s leader, around 750 representatives of the Labour movement, led by NTUC President Mary Liew and Secretary General Chan Chun Sing turned up in full force, as a show of strength to pay their last respects at Parliament House where the body of Mr S R Nathan is lying in state.

Unionists paying their last respects during the lying in state. (Photo credit: NTUC)
Unionists paying their last respects during the lying in state. (Photo credit: NTUC)

It is the 1st organised group to pay its respect at the official lying-in-state at Parliament House.

 

The State Funeral Organising Committee has also announced the route for the Funeral Procession where the casket of Mr Nathan will take. The casket will pass several landmarks which were significant in the life of Mr Nathan, which includes NTUC Centre.

[fbembed]https://www.facebook.com/ChannelNewsAsia/videos/10153867822487934/[/fbembed]

 

 

Image Credits: NTUC This Week, Chan Chun Sing's Facebook.

About the author

Arthur Lee

View all posts

Share your thoughts!