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SR Nathan was 'extraordinary' by being 'simple and ordinary': Zainul Abidin Rasheed
SINGAPORE'S former president SR Nathan's humility and sincerity are what made him extraordinary, said eulogy speakers as they recounted how these attributes endeared Mr Nathan to people from all strata of society - and around the world.
"Mr Nathan was an extraordinary man," said Zainul Abidin Rasheed, non-resident ambassador to Kuwait and former senior minister of state for foreign affairs. "He walked with kings, sultans, emirs, presidents and prime ministers, but in a special way, he retained the simple and ordinary in him."
Mr Zainul was speaking in Malay at the state funeral service for Mr Nathan that is currently underway at National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre. He is one of seven eulogy speakers at the service.
Mr Nathan, who died at the age of 92, took on many important roles in public service. He was director of the Security and Intelligence Division, high commissioner to Malaysia and ambassador to the United States before taking the highest office of the land.
Ambassador-at-large Tommy Koh, who spoke before Mr Zainul, also remembered how Mr Nathan put effort into maintaining relationships. This was crucial in conducting successful diplomacy.
Mr Nathan not only had a flair for establishing good rapport with his interlocutors and putting them at ease, he could also remember people he had befriended in his previous assignments.
"He had a flair for dealing with foreign leaders and foreign countries," said Prof Koh. "He was able to convert his global network of friends into friends of Singapore."
Mr Nathan's handwritten notes and letters were what struck ambassador to Mexico and former chairman of Community Chest Jennie Chua the most with the sincerity that they conveyed.
After a charity gala dinner organised by Community Chest that Ms Chua tired over, for example, she received a handwritten note from him that said: "Some of us have greater burdens to bear, I know it was not easy for you."
"Thank you Mr Nathan for your kindness and generosity, and for giving all of us in the social service space - donors, caregivers, volunteers and beneficiaries - courage and hope," said Ms Chua.