Three Old Guard leaders to be honoured at National Day Parade

Three Old Guard leaders to be honoured at National Day Parade
Mr Othman Wok (from left), Mr Jek Yeun Thong and Mr Ong Pang Boon.
PHOTO: The Straits Times, Berita Harian, Lianhe Wanbao

Three surviving Old Guard leaders who signed the official document that marked the independence of Singapore 50 years ago will be honoured at the National Day Parade (NDP) on Aug 9.

People's Action Party stalwarts Ong Pang Boon, Jek Yeun Thong and Othman Wok were among the 10 leaders who signed the Independence of Singapore Agreement, which was declared on Aug 9, 1965.

At the NDP, they will emerge onto the VIP grandstand with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and sit next to a seat that will be kept empty in honour of their Old Guard colleague, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

The founding Prime Minister, who had attended every NDP since the first one in 1966, died on March 23, aged 91. He was also one of the 10 men who inked the agreement.

The other signatories were former deputy prime minister Toh Chin Chye, former finance minister Goh Keng Swee, former law minister E.W. Barker, former culture minister S. Rajaratnam, former health minister Yong Nyuk Lin and former national development minister Lim Kim San. Mr Othman, 90, was then the social affairs minister, while Mr Ong, 86, was the education minister, and Mr Jek, 85, was the labour minister.

Mr Jek told The Sunday Times yesterday: "From the moment I signed the agreement, I knew that the road ahead would be challenging. The initial years of our nation-building were not easy but everyone believed in a single cause: to make Singapore a better home for ourselves and our children. Through sheer grit and determination, we came to where we are today."

Mr Othman said he is honoured to sit next to Mr Lee's empty seat. "He is the man who brought Singapore to what it is today. He is truly an inspiration for all Singaporeans."

The tribute to the Old Guard will be part of events to mark Singapore's Golden Jubilee. Singaporeans will hear, for the first time, the country's Proclamation of Independence read by the late Mr Lee, who drummed up support for Singapore's merger with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak in the early 1960s and, barely two years later, broke down as he spoke of its expulsion from the federation. At 9am on Aug 9, a recording of the Proclamation will play on TV and radio channels, and at grassroots-led National Day observance ceremonies.

The recording, made three years ago, will go on air after the sounding of sirens islandwide, said the People's Association yesterday.

More than 500,000 people at 82 National Day observance ceremonies will sing the National Anthem and recite the Pledge.

This article was first published on Jul 26, 2015.
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