When Singaporeans who have made major contributions to the country pass away, they are honoured and mourned by the nation, in a way the Government decide after consulting with the deceased’s family.
This was what Minister Grace Fu said on behalf of the Prime Minister at the Parliament on 10 October. in response to questions filed by NCMP Dennis Tan Lip Fong on whether the Cabinet offered the family of the late former President Ong Teng Cheong the choice to hold a state funeral.
Mr Tan asked what was the decision of Mr Ong’s family when offered and if not, what were the considerations by the Cabinet in deciding not to offer a State Funeral to Mr Ong’s family, and also whether the Government will consider honouring all past presidents with a State Funeral when they pass on.
Mr Tan said that the question was listed towards the end of the list during the September 2016 sitting and he had deferred the question to the sitting on 10 October.
Ms Fu said that this issue has been raised before and the Government has explained its position publicly.
She said the decision of how to honour the person, including whether to hold a State Funeral, is made by the Government of the day after consulting the family. Therefore, the appropriate way to do so will vary with each individual.
According to the Minister, it is not feasible to set a formula as to who should receive a state funeral, simply based on the person’s rank or appointment held. When Mr Ong Teng Cheong passed away in 2002, the then Cabinet arranged a State Assisted funeral for Mr Ong after consulting with his family.
The arrangement for the assisted funeral included the following:
- The state flag was flown at half-mast on all Government buildings on 11 February 2002.
- The SAF and Police provided the Coffin Bearer party.
- Vigil guards were deployed as a mark of respect.
- There was an escort band for the funeral march.
- The SAF helped to organise the family wake and crematorium service.
- The Police assisted in crowd and traffic control.
Mr Tan commented that it seems from the answers given that the Government may not necessarily honour all past presidents with a state funeral when they pass on. And asked whether is such a thing as a “state assisted funeral” which is different from a state funeral.
“We are however none the wiser about whether a state funeral was actually offered in respect of the late former President Ong Teng Cheong, and if not offered, what were the actual considerations,” commented Mr Tan.