Friday, July 4, 2014

On S.R. Nathan's 90th Birthday.

So, yesterday was former President S.R. Nathan's 90th birthday. Our Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong gave a good tribute to Former President S R Nathan, highlighting his role as a "tree planter", building up young nascent organizations into mature institutions like NTUC, SID, MFA, etc.

Although, people are generally divided in their opinions over whether S R Nathan had been one of our better presidents, one thing we can be certain about is that S.R. Nathan is a national hero.

Wait, a minute. Some of you might be re-reading that last sentence and wondering, since when was S.R. Nathan a national hero?

If you are one of these people then I guess it's story time...

On 31 January 1974, four men armed with submachine guns and explosives attacked the Shell oil refinery complex on Pulau Bukom. The half of these men were from the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and half were from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). They planned to disrupt the oil supply from Singapore to other countries, especially South Vietnam.

 At the beginning of their operation, the terrorists' boat ran aground on a coral reef. They managed to reach the shore of Bukom after convincing an unsuspecting boatman to tow them towards the island. As they headed towards a gate of an oil tank installation, they fired shots at two passing vehicles although no one was injured. A sentry at a security post managed to escape and raise the alarm.

The terrorists were able to detonate 3 of the 12 explosives they were carrying, but they caused little damage. To escape, they then hijacked the ferryboat Laju at the Bukom jetty and held 5 crew members hostage. This led to a chase and Laju was quickly surrounded by navy gunboats and marine police boats at the Eastern Anchorage.

So this is where S.R. Nathan's role comes in.

Back then, S.R. Nathan was the Director of Security and Intelligence Division at MINDEF and he led a 13 men party consisting of 4 commandos from the SAF and 8 other government officials. Following a few days of intense negotiations, during which 2 hostages managed to escape by jumping overboard in the middle of the night, the negotiation party managed to convince the terrorists to release the remaining 3 crew members in exchange for a party of "guarantors" for their safe passage to the Middle East

S.R. Nathan was among the party of  "guarantors". Essentially, he volunteered to take the place of a hostage so that the hostage could go free.

On the night of 7 February. The group was transferred from Laju to the Marine Police Headquarters and then to Paya Lebar Airport where the terrorists surrendered their weapons. After they freed the remaining three hostages, the four terrorists left Singapore on 8 February at 1:25 am,

Accompanied by Nathan’s team on a specially arranged Japan Airlines flight to Kuwait. After reaching Kuwait, the 13-men party flew back and reached Singapore on the following day.

Now, how many people can claim that their president once risked his life to save a hostage. If you aren't impressed by this, I don't know what will.

On the day before Independence Day, let's also remember the 13-men party who risked their lives to save the hostages in the Laju Ferry Incident.


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1 comment :

kenny tan said...

Fact: Nathan worked for the Japanese during ww 2. Now how many can tell you their president worked for the enemy during ww2? Boy am I proud that we have such an outstanding person as our ex-president. :D