Date of Birth: 03/07/1924
Sellapan Ramanathan, more frequently known as S.R. Nathan, will step down at the end of his second six-year term on 1 September. The 87-year-old was still spry enough for a round of African diplomacy in June. With a Singaporean Business Federation delegation in tow, Nathan travelled to Mauritius on 4-7 June. On 13 June, Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé visited Nathan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The Togolese delegation, which included Minister of Energy and Mines Noupokou Dammipi and Post and Telecommunications Minister Cina Lawson, studied Singapore’s expertise as an exporter, financial services centre and provider of port services.
Nathan was born in 1924. As a young man during the Japanese occupation, he was a translator for the Japanese police. He graduated from the University of Malaya in 1954 and entered the civil service the following year as a social worker. He spent the next decade at the Ministry of Labour. He was Ambassador to Egypt, briefly, for the newly-independent Singapore in 1965 before returning to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1971, he was chosen to direct the Security and Intelligence Division of the Defence Ministry. Through the 1980s, he ran two of Singapore’s state enterprises: Singapore National Oil Company (Director, 1980-88) and the Straits Times Press (Chairman, 1982-88). Returning to the Foreign Ministry, he served as Ambassador to Malaysia (1988-90), the United States (1990-1996), and then as an ambassador-at-large (1996-99).
With the backing of Lee Kuan Yew, the long-serving Prime Minister who had by then stepped back to the still-influential post of ‘senior minister’, Nathan ran unopposed for the presidency in 1999. The heavyweights of the governing People’s Action Party are now pushing for Tony Tan Keng Yam to become Nathan’s successor. Tan has just resigned as Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, a state-owned fund, in preparation for a campaign.