By Ramesh Subbaraman
Former Cabinet Minister and Old Guard Othman Wok passed away at the Singapore General Hospital on 17 April 2017. He was 92.
The Labour Movement Connection
In a condolence letter signed by NTUC President Mary Liew and Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing, NTUC said Mr Othman served the Labour Movement from 1951 to 1962 as the Honorary Secretary of the Singapore Printing Employees’ Union.
Representing workers from local newspapers and publishing houses, he played a central role in fighting for higher wages and better working conditions for union members and workers.
In 1953, he led the union on a strike in the fight for higher wages and fairer treatment for the workers of the Malaya Publishing House.
And in 1954, he fought successfully for the workers of the Straits Times Press.
NTUC added that Mr Othman also played a valuable role in helping to put NTUC on the international arena.
In 1963, he accompanied Mr Devan Nair, then NTUC’s Secretary-General to the Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation meeting in Tanzania and lobbied hard for Singapore’s membership into the forum.
Being a member of the forum was critical to NTUC and the nation’s efforts to win the wider domestic support in the on-going struggle against pro-communist elements in Singapore then.
The Workers’ Interests
Always with workers' interests in his heart during his time as the Minister of Social Affairs and Culture, NTUC said Mr Othman called upon employers to adopt a mindset change in workplace practices.
He urged them to provide time for employees to go for sports and recreational activities.
Mr Othman was a strong believer that a physically fit and healthy worker is a happy and efficient worker.
Concluding, Ms Liew and SG Chan said Mr Othman had served the Labour Movement with unwavering determination and dedication.
They stressed that Mr Othman’s legacy, comradeship and contributions will remain with Singapore for many generations to come.
He will be deeply missed by all in the Labour Movement.
Meanwhile, writing on his Facebook page, SG Chan noted that Mr Othman was an integral pioneer member of Singapore’s Cabinet.
“We have lost a Singapore son today, but we will always remember and remain inspired by what he has done for Singapore and Singaporeans,” said SG Chan.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said Mr Othman Wok was one of the signatories of the Separation Agreement and 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 after independence.
Mr Othman Wok was buried at Choa Chu Kang Muslim Cemetery on 18 April 2017.