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In the last few days of being President

by: Ravi Philemon/

President S R Nathan has indicated that he will be stepping down as President at the end of his term and that he will not contest the coming Presidential Election due by end August 2011.

I admire President Nathan for having the tenacity to rise from humble beginnings. Coming from a disadvantaged family, President Nathan, completed his secondary education through self-study while working.  Initially armed with only a Diploma in Social Studies, he rose from being a medical social worker, to the highest office in the land; to be the President of Singapore.

Of course, there have been many criticisms of President S R Nathan.  The chief of which is (to me) the fact that he has not granted a single Presidential clemency.  President Nathan is already perceived as the President who sat back and let the Cabinet curtail his powers; I just hope that he will also not be remembered as a president who has never granted a single clemency.

I urge President S R Nathan to consider the plea for clemency from Yong Vui Kong.

I am also reminded of a personal encounter my family and I had with President Nathan in 2003.  We had gone to the Open House at Istana and chanced upon President Nathan.

When I said to my children that he was the President of Singapore, they wanted to shake his hands. I brought them to the President but he was already being thronged by a large group of people. And his security personnel also stopped us from getting too near to him.

President Nathan on seeing that my children just wanted to greet him, asked his security guys to not stop us from getting too near him and he excused himself from the crowd that were around him. Then he not only shook their hands and posed for a picture with them, but also wanted to know what were their names.

At that time, that gesture by the President, meant a lot to my children that for the longest time, they had the photo taken with President Nathan displayed proudly on their study tables.

In the last days of his Presidency, this is what I request of President S R Nathan; that he would clear the way (as he had done for my children) so that a young person like Yong Vui Kong, may have a second chance at life.

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Read the official statement by President S R Nathan HERE.