SINGAPORE – Mr Othman Wok, a member of independent Singapore’s first Cabinet, has died at the age of 92. He had been in poor health for some time.
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr Othman died at 12.21pm at the Singapore General Hospital on Monday (April 17).
He will be buried at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery on Tuesday (April 18). A ceremonial gun carriage will bear the body from Sultan Mosque to the Pusara Abadi Muslim cemetery, the PMO said.
The State flag will be flown at half-mast on all Government buildings till a memorial service organised by OnePeople.sg on Wednesday (April 19) is completed.
Mr Othman was an MP for Pasir Panjang constituency from 1963 to 1981. His portfolios included social affairs and culture, and he is remembered for championing multi-racialism as well as his work in social welfare and sports development.
The PMO statement said: “The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues are sad to learn of the passing of Mr Othman Bin Wok and wish to convey their deepest condolences to his family.”
It lauded Mr Othman – one of the signatories of the Separation Agreement – as a founding father of Singapore.
“He was a key member of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s Cabinet, during the critical period when Singapore was in Malaysia, and then separated from Malaysia to become an independent republic. He supported Mr Lee in the fight for a multi-racial and multi-religious Singapore, and became one of Mr Lee’s closest comrades,” the statement said.
In a Facebook post, the People’s Action Party said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had praised Mr Othman as “one of the multi-racial team of founding leaders who built Singapore”.
Born in Singapore in 1924, Mr Othman joined Malay newspaper Utusan Melayu as a journalist in 1946, working under its founder Yusof Ishak, who would later become Singapore’s first president.
Mr Othman joined the People’s Action Party soon after its founding in 1954, and was involved in its publication Petir.
He stood for election to the legislative assembly in Kampong Kembangan in 1959, and lost narrowly.
In 1963, Mr Othman, by then deputy editor of Utusan, contested again, this time in Pasir Panjang. He won by a majority of 992 votes, and was made minister for home affairs and social welfare by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong previously noted that when Singapore was part of Malaysia and the PAP fought for a multiracial society, Mr Othman was denounced by ultras as an “infidel”, “a traitor to Malays”, and got death threats. The Straits Times.