Mr Othman Bin Wok, one of the signatories of the Separation Agreement and a founding father of Singapore passed away at Singapore General Hospital on 17 April at 12.21 pm.
He was a key member of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Cabinet, during the critical period when Singapore was in Malaysia, and then separated from Malaysia to become an independent republic. He had supported the late Mr Lee in the fight for a multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore, and had become one of Mr Lee’s closest comrades.
The Prime Minister Office stated its condolences in a press release, “The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues are sad to learn of the passing of and wish to convey their deepest condolences to his family,” it said.
The government will accord Mr Othman Bin Wok the honour of being borne on the Ceremonial Gun Carriage for his final journey from Sultan Mosque to Pusara Abadi at the Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery.
Mr Othman Wok will be buried at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery on 18 April. A Memorial Service will be organised by OnePeople.sg on Wednesday, 19 April. The government has ordered the State flag on all government buildings to be flown at half-mast till the completion of the Memorial Service.
Various government agencies also paid tribute to the late Othman Wok. The Ministry of Social and Family Development spoke about his contributions as the first Minister for Social Affairs, as well as his role in initiating the predecessor of the National Council of Social Service.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore honoured him for his ‘greatest legacy’, developing the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA), as well as for establishing the Mosque Building Fund and for setting up the Singapore Pilgrimage Office, Singapore’s first formal system of registration for haj activities.
“The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), along with the Singapore Muslim community, is deeply saddened by the passing of one of Singapore’s founding fathers, Tuan Haji Othman Wok,” it said on its 17 April press release.
MUIS said Mr Othman is well remembered as one of the team of founding leaders who built Singapore amidst the challenging period of Singapore’s early history. As Minister for Social Affairs from 1963 to 1977, he laid the foundation for the administration of Muslim affairs in Singapore while developing the national policies and infrastructure for culture and social welfare for a young nation.
MUIS stated that his greatest legacy was the development of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) together with the late Prof Ahmad Ibrahim. It was AMLA that made the establishment of MUIS, Syariah Court and Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) possible.
Mr Othman also played a big role in establishing the Mosque Building Fund, at a time when resources had to be mobilised to build new mosques for the community as the nation underwent rapid urbanisation. Through this Fund, the community has been able to build 26 new multi-function mosques, offering many programmes for religious learning and social development which benefit the community and beyond till this day. The use of the fund has since then also been expanded to include upgrading of old mosques and religious education.
Yet another notable legacy of Mr Othman was the setting up of the Singapore Pilgrimage Office, Singapore’s first formal system of registration for haj activities, MUIS noted.
“This has helped to establish an efficient and professional management of the haj system that ensure a smooth journey for the Singapore Haj pilgrims,” the statement said.