Singapore leaders posted their condolences and tributes to one of the signatories of the Separation Agreement and a founding father of Singapore, Mr Othman Bin Wok, who passed away on Monday (17 April) at Singapore General Hospital.
President Tony Tan posted his condolences on his Facebook page, stating that the Singapore’s first Malay Minister post-independence made many significant contributions to the social development of Singapore and the welfare of the Singapore Malay and Muslim communities.
Mr President wrote that in his long public service career, Mr Othman Wok made many significant contributions to Singapore.
“He was steadfast in his beliefs during a difficult and crucial period of Singapore’s history. His passion and commitment in helping others, and his impartiality and integrity in serving one and all, are traits that we remember and admire in him,” Dr Tan wrote.
He then added that Mr Othman Wok will be remembered for his sincerity and personable nature.
“When Mrs Tan and I visited him during the annual Hari Raya gatherings at his residence, we were always very touched by his graciousness and warm hospitality. We have lost a dear friend today,” he wrote.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the wife and family of Mr Othman Wok during this time of mourning,” Dr Tan ended.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also wrote on his Facebook page, saying that he is deeply saddened by the passing of Mr Othman Wok.
He stated that Mr Othman Wok was one of Singapore’s founding fathers and was courageous and passionate in championing a multiracial and multi-religious Singapore.
“The State flag will be flown at half-mast on all Government buildings till the completion of the Memorial Service tomorrow,” he added.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam wrote on his Facebook page that Singapore is indebted to Mr Othman Wok and will always be.
“He made a multiracial Singapore possible, which matters more than anything else we have,” he added.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and labour chief Chan Chun Sing also wrote on his Facebook page.
He wrote that Mr Othman was an integral pioneer member of Singapore’s Cabinet, making great contributions in many areas such as social welfare, Muslim affairs, and national sports development.
“He fought hard for a multi-racial Singapore,” Mr Chan wrote.
He noted that Mr Othman also served as Deputy Chairman of the People’s Association and was involved in the Labour Movement as the Secretary of the Singapore Printing Employees’ Union in the 1950s. Always active, he was also able to devote more time to his interest in fiction-writing after retirement.
“Always active, he was also able to devote more time to his interest in fiction-writing after retirement,” the Minister wrote.
Mr Chan then ended his post, “We have lost a Singapore son today, but we will always remember and remain inspired by what he has done for Singapore and Singaporeans.”
Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu wrote that as Singapore’s Minister for Culture and Social Affairs in the ‘60s and ’70s, Mr Othman’s portfolio included arts, sports and youth-related issues.
“While Singapore was focused on economic development at the time, Mr Othman was keenly aware that cultural development was just as important. Singapore needed to be an open economy and open to new ideas and inspirations, yet we should not lose sight of our cultural traditions,” she noted.
Ms Fu stated that Mr Othman was a strong proponent of multi-racialism.
“He wanted Singaporeans to work together to create a more just and equal society. He believed that every citizen, irrespective of racial origin, can make the most of the opportunities in life,” she stressed.
Ms Fu ended her post by saying that Singapore has lost one of the most dedicated pioneers. “Let us honour the memory of Mr Othman by emulating his love and dedication for Singapore. My deepest condolences to Mr Othman’s family. I wish them comfort and strength in this difficult time,” she wrote.
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen wrote that Singapore owes Mr Othman a great debt for his contributions as a founding leader.
The minister wrote that Mr Othman’s personal stand and courage during the Separation and the difficult founding years have led to today’s Singapore’s multi-religious and racial harmony, the meritocratic society and care for the less privileged.
“We mourn the loss of Encik Othman Wok but celebrate his life’s achievements as a true son of Singapore,” he wrote.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan wrote on his Facebook page that he is forever grateful for such a courageous leader like Mr Othman Wok as a critical juncture of the country’s history.
“Our trajectory could have been so different,” he added.
Mr Balakrishnan wrote the passing of Mr Othman Wok fills his heart with sadness.
He wrote that Mr Othman introduced the Administration of the Muslim Law Bill in Parliament and played a pivotal role in establishing three key Muslim statutory institutions – Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), the Registry of Muslim Marriages and Syariah Court.
He then noted that together with the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and other Malay MPs, Mr Othman implemented the Mosque Building Fund (MBF) in May 1975. Through this fund (now known as the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund), 26 mosques have been built including the recently opened Yusof Ishak Mosque in Woodlands. Mendaki is also supporting the community in growing from strength to strength.
Dr Yaacob wrote that Mr Othman also introduced the compulsory registration of Haj pilgrims to provide them with medical and welfare services.
“Through his tireless efforts, he laid the strong foundations for the administration of Muslim affairs that the community enjoys today,” he stated.