Why Am I Here: Overcoming Hardships of Local Seafarers by S R Nathan
Nathan experienced a troubled youth – his father committed suicide, his three brothers died at an early age, he was twice expelled from school, and he ran away from home. After living by his wits as a translator for the Japanese during World War II, he completed his secondary education through a correspondence course, and then earned a diploma from the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1954. This was followed by a distinguished career in the Singapore Civil Service, which he joined in 1955. Between 1962 and 1966 he was seconded to the National Trades Union Congress, and then worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs. He was with the Security and Intelligence Division of the Defence Ministry when the Laju incident happened in 1974, and was among the government officers who agreed to accompany terrorists who had bombed petroleum tanks to Kuwait to secure the release of civilian hostages and ensure the terrorists' safe passage. He served as First Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Ministry from 1979 to 1982. Nathan left the Civil Service in 1982 to take up the executive chairmanship of the Straits Times Press; he also held directorships in other companies. Between 1988 and 1996 he served as Singapore's High Commissioner to Malaysia and Ambassador to the United States, before his 12-year term as President of the Republic from 1999 to 2011. Following retirement, Nathan turned to writing and also became a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the School of Social Sciences of Singapore Management University (SMU), and at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He died in 2016 and was accorded the honour of a state funeral by the Government. Among the awards and honours Nathan received were the renamed of Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) School of Human Development and Social Services to S R Nathan School of Human Development (NSHD) in 2018, Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) in 1964, the Pingat Pentadbiran Awam (Perak) (Public Administration Medal, Silver) in 1967, the Pingat Pentadbiran Awam (Meritorious Service Medal) in 1975, and the Darjah Utama Temasek (Order of Temasek) (First Class) in 2013; and honorary degrees from the National University of Singapore and SMU.