Today, we are gathered to bid farewell to one of our founding fathers Encik Othman Wok.
Othman led a full and illustrious life.
He was a journalist, a writer, a unionist, a politician, and a diplomat. But one golden thread that ran through his long life was his commitment to the ideal of a multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore.
Othman traced his ancestry back to the Orang Laut, who lived in Singapore before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived.
Less than 10 days later, during a procession to mark Prophet Muhamad’s birthday, racial riots broke out that engulfed Singapore. It so happened that Othman was leading the PAP contingent in the procession. He was right there. He saw the violence first-hand. The experience was seared in his memory forever.
Keeping a cool head, he led his PAP group to safety at the People’s Association within the old Kallang Airport building.
When the Separation Agreement was being settled, Mr Lee saw Othman and other ministers in Temasek KL, the Singapore House in Kuala Lumpur. He asked Othman whether he would sign.
After Independence, Othman continued as Minister for Social Affairs until 1977 and Director of the PAP Malay Affairs Bureau until 1981.
Debts of gold we can repay, but debts of kindness will be carried to death. On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you Othman. May you rest in peace.