SR Nathan’s memoirs will not include “Official Secrets”

Posted on 01 September 2011

Looking forward to coffee shop half-boiled eggs and sarong after retirement though, says outgoing president SR Nathan.

Caricature of SR Nathan taken from (Very talented artist! Check his works out!)

In his 12-year tenure as president, the most difficult decision SR Nathan had to make was in 2009.

He had to decide whether to approve the Government’s request to dip into past reserves to fund programmes to help Singaporeans through the financial crisis.

The 87-year-old said: “Of course there was the Council of Presidential Advisers who gave you advice. But even to evaluate that advice, you need to develop your own sense of the lie of the land, and what is happening and what it can lead to.

“It’s not just on a sheet of paper coming in (and) saying yes or no”.

Although his custodial role managing the reserves made his life dicey at times, Nathan’s life in the civil service before becoming president also had its exciting moments.

He and 12 civil servants and SAF commandos were awarded the Meritorious Service medal for their role in the Laju highjacking in 1974.

Nathan was then the director of the Defence Ministry’s Security and Intelligence Department.

Four terrorists had hijacked the Laju, a ferry operating between Pulau Bukom and mainland Singapore after trying to blow up Bukom, and demanded the presence of the 13 civil servants as guarantee of a safe passage to Kuwait on a Japan airlines plane.

This risky episode will be related in his memoirs to be released in September, which was written over 15 years starting in 1996 when he ended his stint as an ambassador to the US.

He had initially intended to publish it post-humously because he claims civil servants are not interesting.

He said, “You know, civil servants have nothing exciting to tell. What can you tell?”

Moreover, those looking for insider or classified information into the presidency can forget it.

He said, “You can’t tell the Official Secrets anyway, the exciting things, so what was the point? I was only telling my experience.”

Nathan also revealed he hasn’t been to a coffee shop in 12 years to eat half-boiled eggs.

While in the Istana, he spent a lot of time entertaining foreign dignitaries, thinking about topics of conversation to engage them in because he doesn’t rely on the guidance given by the foreign ministry and offered his patronage to many voluntary causes.

He admits not enjoying the fusion food served in the Istana, has a sweet tooth and likes spending time in his sarong.

Neither does he debate with Lee Kuan Yew. Or his own wife, Mrs SR Nathan a.k.a. Umi.

This is a 60-second reduction of the original two-part interview published in The New Paper on Aug. 29 and 30 that was plugging Nathan’s memoirs.

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