The remains of Tanjong Katong Primary School (TKPS) teacher Mohammad Ghazi Mohamed and student Navdeep Singh Jaryal Raj Kumar — the last of the 10 from Singapore who died in the Sabah earthquake to be identified — were flown home yesterday.
Although their remains were identified last week, further DNA tests prevented an earlier return. The 10 were on a trip to Mount Kinabalu when an earthquake struck on June 5.
A funeral was held yesterday for Ghazi at Kampung Siglap Mosque, attended by a large crowd that included Ghazi’s family, friends, colleagues and students. At one point, mourners had to queue to enter the auditorium where his casket was held. Inside the auditorium, a bouquet of white flowers lay on top of Ghazi’s casket. Mourners surrounded the casket, many of them silent in prayer.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the funeral, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said: “I thank the Malaysian authorities for expediting the work to allow us to bring the bodies of Ghazi and Navdeep earlier than we had expected.”
Among the mourners was TKPS student Isaac Lee, one of Ghazi’s former students. The Primary 3 student said he always looked forward to Ghazi’s physical education classes, describing them as really fun.
A friend of Ghazi, who declined to be named, said the teacher’s passing was “a huge loss to the school”. “There’s hardly anything negative to say about him,” he said. “He was a true, loyal friend who helped you when you were in need.”
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim, who also attended the funeral, was one of the pallbearers who helped carry Ghazi’s casket into the van that brought the body to Pusara Aman Muslim Cemetery in Lim Chu Kang for burial.
Holding back tears as he spoke to the media, Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, said: “(He was) such a young man whom (according to) the stories you hear was selfless, very dedicated.”
He added: “I suppose the most important thing for us is … to perhaps take his spirit forward. The things that he has done for his schoolkids, for his family — you must find some way to (let his legacy live on).”
Speaking after the burial, Mr Mohd Faizal, one of Ghazi’s colleagues from TKPS, said Ghazi, who leaves behind a wife and three children, was “happy-go-lucky”.
“I never saw him under stress, and it rubbed off on all of us,” said Mr Faizal, 28. “I have lost an elder brother. He was more than a colleague, and that will never change.”
Mr Heng said support would continue to be provided to the family members and students affected by the earthquake. “Our students in Tanjong Katong Primary School are recovering well. They are doing fine, and the principal and school leaders have put up a plan to bring them back to school when school reopens so that they can continue with a normal routine,” he said.