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Top honour for ex-Singapore president S.R. Nathan

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Former president S.R. Nathan, who is of Indian origin, has been conferred the city state's highest honour, the Order of the Temasek, First Class.

The announcement came Thursday on the eve of its National Day.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, while congratulating Nathan, said that the honour was in appreciation of his varied contributions to the nation, the local media reported.

Nathan served two terms from 1999 to 2011.

Of Tamil descent, he was born Sellapan Ramanathan in Singapore July 3, 1924.

According to the Singaporre president's website, Nathan received his early education in the Anglo-Chinese Primary and Middle School, Rangoon Road Afternoon School and Victoria School.

He started working before completing his studies and, after the Second World War, completed his secondary education through self-study and entered the University of Malaya - of which Singapore was than a part - where he graduated in 1954 with a diploma in social studies.

Nathan began his career in the Singapore Civil Service as a medical social worker in 1955 and was appointed seamen's welfare officer in 1956.

In 1962, he was seconded to the Labour Research Unit of the Labour Movement, first as assistant director and later as director, until January 1966. He continued as a member of its board of trustees till April 1988.

In February 1966, Nathan was transferred to the foreign ministry where he served as assistant secretary and rose to be deputy secretary before being appointed acting permanent secretary of city state's home ministry in January 1971.

In August of the same year, Nathan moved to the defence ministry where he served as a director with the rank of permanent secretary.

In February 1979, he returned to the foreign ministry and became its first permanent secretary till February 1982.

Thereafter, he became the executive chairman of the Straits Times Press media group. He was in the directorship of several other companies in the period between 1982 and 1988.

He was also chairman of the Hindu Endowments Board and was a founding member of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA), and was its term trustee until August 1999.

In April 1988, Nathan was appointed Singapore's high commissioner to Malaysia and in July 1990, he became ambassador to the United States where he served till June 1996.

After returning from the United States, Nathan became ambassador-at-large and was concurrently director of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) at the Nanyang Technological University.

He resigned as ambassador-at-large and director of IDSS Aug 17, 1999, and was elected president of the Republic of Singapore Aug 18, 1999. He began his six-year term from Sep 1, 1999.

He was re-elected Aug 17, 2005, and was sworn in for his second term of office Sep 1, 2005, and served in that position till Aug 31, 2011.

Nathan was conferred the Public Service Star in 1964, the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 1967, and the Meritorious Service Medal in 1974.

In 2012, the Indian government conferred on him the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the country's highest award for achievements by non-resident Indians and persons of Indian origin, in recognition of his contribution in building closer links between Singapore and India.

The Order of the Temasek, First Class, comprises a badge and the star of the order and is conferred by the president of Singapore on the advice of the prime minister.

It is the top of the Order of the Temasek series, the other two being the Order of the Temasek, Second Class, and the Order of the Temasek, Third Class.

In the case of the First Class of the Order of Temasek, the badge of the Order of Temasek is worn on the right hip from a sash passing over the left shoulder and under the right arm, and the star of the Order of Temasek is worn on the left side of the outer garment.

Nathan is married to Urmila Nandey and has a daughter, a son and three grandchildren.

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