By Nicholas Yong and Safhras Khan
A loving father who would always make time for his daughters despite his busy political schedule.
That is how Lily Othman, 60, will remember her father, former minister Othman Wok who died on Monday (17 April) afternoon.
The only Malay member of independent Singapore’s first cabinet, the 92-year-old had been in ill health since late 2016.
Speaking to reporters during her father’s wake at Kew Avenue, Lily said that her late father would spend time with her and her two elder sisters whenever he returned from his official trips overseas.
“He will share his stories from his trips and also buy us souvenirs. I’ll always remember him as a kind and loving father.
“We know that we are second if compared to his political work but we totally get it,” said Lily, who added that the last time the two of them interacted was on Sunday night.
She was visiting him at the hospital at about 11 pm and noticed that he was still up and watching television. Concerned that he was not getting enough rest she insisted that he turn off the television.
“However, he indicated that he wanted to continue watching television,” she said.
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim was also at the wake, joining a host of other Malay Muslim leaders to pay their last respects to Othman.
Yaacob, who choked back tears as he spoke to the media, said that he was amazed by the way Othman was able to balance his role as a community and national leader.
He added that Othman brought with him the ethos of being one of the founding generations of the Republic.
“He laid the foundations of Singapore and without him and other founding fathers we wouldn’t have a modern Singapore,” said Yaacob.
Yaacob’s sentiment was echoed by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who said Singapore would be a different country if Othman was not part of Lee Kuan Yew’s team.
“He was an individual who rose to the occasion and believed in unity which was worth fighting for,” Tharman said.
Former Senior Minister of State, Zainul Abidin Rasheed, who has been helping out the family with funeral preparations, told Yahoo Singapore that Othman was a pioneer leader who helped make independent Singapore possible, as he was one of the signatories to the independence agreement.
“As a top Malay politician and Minister in the first Cabinet, in the context of race politics then, his role was all the more poignant.
“On a personal note, Haji Othman was the man who inspired me to be the Editor of Berita Harian and onwards to the world of mass media journalism over 20 years,” he said.
Othman’s funeral will take place on Tuesday and there will be a memorial service on Wednesday.