Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Founders' Memorial to be sited at Bay East Garden, open to public by 2025; Government accepts recommendation of Committee

* Founders' Memorial could open by 2025 at Bay East Garden
Panel suggests timeframe to 'capture public enthusiasm and hopes' in time for SG60
By Melody Zaccheus, Heritage and Community Correspondent and Lee Si Xuan, The Straits Times, 8 Aug 2017

A memorial to honour Singapore's pioneer leaders could open at Bay East Garden by 2025, in time for the Republic's 60th year of independence.

The proposed Founders' Memorial would sit by the waterfront, in a family-friendly park with a view of the city skyline showcasing Singapore's progress, recommended a 15-member committee in charge of conceptualising it.

A possible timeframe for completion is eight years, so as to "capture public enthusiasm and hopes for the memorial" when SG60 rolls around.

The team submitted a report to the Government last week, and it was made public yesterday. It engaged more than 32,000 people over two years for their views.

Professor Lily Kong, a committee member and cultural geographer, told The Straits Times that the team decided on what it believed was "a reasonable timeframe" for the development of content and the memorial's physical construction.

It recommended that the memorial have an indoor gallery with space for permanent and temporary sections. The memorial could house artefacts as well. It also suggested that the memorial's programming calendar dovetail with important events like National Day and climax in a Founders' Day or Week.

It is still unclear what the memorial will look like, how much it will cost and how it will be funded. The committee must wait for the Government's response. If it accepts the report, the project will go into the implementation phase. Another committee will then be appointed to oversee it. Some of its members will be from the existing committee for continuity's sake, said Prof Kong.

Members of the public engaged by the team, especially the elderly, were keen for the memorial to be developed soon. The older generation said they hoped to share their stories with younger Singaporeans.

Retiree Tan Kok Tim, 71, who used to work in the financial sector, believes that the proposed deadline is too long. He said: "We have the land ready and the resources - there is no reason to wait (that long). I think the committee is playing it safe."

One question is who exactly the memorial will commemorate, said some heritage experts.

The committee said most people agreed the "founding leaders" comprised the team led by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, whose members included Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr E.W. Barker and Mr Othman Wok. It added: "However, it was acknowledged that this was a non-exhaustive selection, and that there were others who contributed to independent Singapore's development."

Singapore Heritage Society executive committee member Victor Yue said: "We need to cast a wider definition of who will be commemorated. We should allow for alternative voices, as well as stories from the commoners. We should be flexible and as inclusive as possible."

One of the panel's six key findings stated that Singaporeans expressed strong support for a "values-based, forward-looking Founders' Memorial to commemorate the values and ideals of independent Singapore's founding leaders and to inspire current and future generations".

The report further noted that the narrative that emerged following the committee's outreach was a nation which found its way forward against all odds.

Prof Kong said: "We were very clear that we are not just commemorating individuals but more so the values that the founding generation stood for, such as integrity, tenacity, resilience and perseverance."

** Founders' Memorial: Government gives nod for Bay East Garden site
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2017

A memorial to commemorate Singapore's pioneer leaders will be located at the eastern section of Gardens by the Bay.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the Government has accepted the recommendation of the Founders' Memorial Committee for the memorial to be located in the garden.

In his annual National Day Message, Mr Lee noted that a clear majority of people who responded to the committee's calls for views had supported having the site at Bay East Garden. The other option was Fort Canning Park.

"This is a wise choice," said Mr Lee, who delivered his message at Bay East Garden. "Here, looking across the bay and beyond, we can remember the values of our founding leaders, see what they have built and commit ourselves to continue building Singapore."

The 15-member committee in charge of conceptualising the memorial submitted its report to the Government last week. More than 32,000 people had given their views on the memorial over a period of two years.

The report, which was made public on Monday, recommended that the memorial sit by the waterfront, in a family-friendly park with a view of the city skyline showcasing Singapore's progress.

The memorial could be completed by 2025, in time to "capture public enthusiasm and hopes for the memorial" when Singapore's 60th year of independence comes around.

The committee suggested that the memorial have an indoor gallery with space for permanent and temporary sections. It could also house artefacts, said the panel, which proposed that the memorial's programming calendar dovetail with important events like National Day and climax in a Founders' Day or Week.

With the Government having given the green light, the project will now go into the implementation phase.

Professor Lily Kong, a committee member and cultural geographer, told The Straits Times that the committee is "very gratified that the Government has accepted the proposal, which reflects the desires of a lot of Singaporeans".

She said another committee will be formed to oversee the project. This new team, which would include some existing members of the current committee for continuity, will have to hold further consultations when conceptualising the memorial, she added.

Some things it will consider are the memorial's design features, its cost and funding, how to make the site accessible to visitors, and what other facilities could be built in the surrounding area, Prof Kong said.

In its report, the committee had noted that some visitors to an earlier showcase at Bay East Garden had highlighted the site's inaccessibility by public transport.

Founders' Memorial: Most favour Bay East Garden
'Inspiring view' for Founders' Memorial at Bay East Garden
Venue also presents forward-looking narrative, says panel head; over 70% of those polled chose it over Fort Canning
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 14 Feb 2017

The Founders' Memorial - in honour of Singapore's founding leaders - could be sited at Gardens by the Bay's Bay East Garden.

The location, which overlooks the Republic's skyscrapers and the historic Civic District, emerged as the venue of choice among 72 per cent of more than 700 people surveyed.

The other option was Fort Canning Park. The two venues had been put forth by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Those polled had been part of the second phase of engagement by the Founders' Memorial Committee, which was formed in 2015.

The public also gave input on what they would like to see. On the wish list are indoor and outdoor spaces, lush greenery, and even use of holograms and audioscapes to capture key moments in Singapore's history.

The committee's head, Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang, said the Bay East Garden presents "a forward-looking narrative with an inspiring view of the city skyline that was built over the years".

Fort Canning Park was preferred by some for its connection with Singapore's pre-independence history. However, Bay East Garden has more space and potential for future development, noted the committee.

Fort Canning Park got 21 per cent of votes, while 7 per cent had no preference, or suggested elsewhere.

The committee noted that Fort Canning Park is half the size of Bay East Garden. It is also steep.

Professor Lily Kong, a committee member and cultural geographer and provost at the Singapore Management University, said: "The site itself can be a little bit prohibitive. We climbed the stairs up... We imagine that this is a site that many from all generations will want to visit; we think it could be a little bit difficult for the older people."

She added that the park, which dates back to the 14th century as the the palatial resort of former Majapahit kings, "might not allow us to have that flexibility of looking forward".

The committee's first phase of engagement found that most Singaporeans were supportive of the concept of a Founders' Memorial, which commemorated the values and ideals of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the team that led Singapore to independence in 1965.

The second phase of engagement, from last September to this month, had participants take part in workshops focused on the desired visitor experience, physical features and programmes for the memorial.

The wider public will get to share their views at a showcase at Gardens by the Bay from March 14 to the end of April. A roving version will travel across the heartland from April to May. More details will be released closer to the date.

Mr Lee said the timeline for the construction of the memorial has yet to be determined, noting the committee's findings could be incorporated into URA's next masterplan.

How the memorial will be funded has also yet to be decided, said Mr Lee. The committee is set to present its findings to the Government by the middle of the year.

Participant Nattasha Nina Alvinur, 18, a Nanyang Polytechnic student, said that it was a big honour to have been part of the second phase of engagement. "As a youth, I feel like our voice has been heard."

Founders' Memorial should represent the story of the Singapore family
By Kuik Shiao-Yin, Published The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2017

I remember what that morning in 2015 felt like.

Watching Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong break the news on television about his father's death, I was reminded of what it had felt like to learn that my own father had breathed his last a few months before.

I thought back to how it had felt to be awoken at a similar early hour of the morning, to look into the face of the messenger and to understand, before any word was spoken, the reality of loss.

So, that morning, I did share in the sorrow of the moment with other Singaporeans.

But, it wasn't because I connected with the unfolding story only as a citizen. It was because I found my relationship to it through the lens of family.

My father took a casual interest in national issues. As a child, I had a vague impression of the significance behind names like Lee Kuan Yew, Rajaratnam and Goh Keng Swee from the grown-up coffee shop conversations I got to overhear.

Later, textbooks and newspapers exposed me not just to the names, but the deeds that had founded this country. But, because I had yet to make my own sense of the humanity behind those names and deeds, I felt disconnected with our founding story.

All that changed as I grew older.

The more I heard others share their personal experiences of these individuals from those nation-building years, and the more I ventured into community-building work of my own, the more I discovered my personal stake in Singapore.

In our last 15 years of work at The Thought Collective, we've been exploring how to build stronger, kinder communities from the ground up.

One significant insight we found came from psychologists Marshall and Sara Duke.

The Dukes study resilience in families. They developed a measure called the "Do You Know?" scale, and recorded children's answers to questions like: Do you know something terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

They discovered that the more that children knew about their family history, the stronger their personal agency, self-confidence and capacity to face challenges.

It also turned out that the pattern of the story told by each family mattered.

Some families told their children an ascending narrative with a constant upbeat trend. Some told a descending narrative with a constant depressing trend. But, it was the families that told an oscillating narrative instead - a roller-coaster trajectory of a tale with ups and downs - that consistently produced the most resilient children.

Children brought up with an oscillating narrative accepted highs and lows as part of life and chose to face problems together rather than in silos. Their family stories had also helped them develop a strong "inter-generational self" - an awareness of being part of something larger than themselves.

I have come to believe that nations are really just families writ large. And, nations that wish to endure must pay heed to the stories they choose to tell themselves.

Since 2015, I've been on the Founders' Memorial Committee. We were put together to figure out what kind of memorial would best honour the legacy of our founding Prime Minister as well as the pioneering team that built the nation alongside him.

We were tasked to talk to a broad range of Singaporeans to find out what values embodied by the founders resonated most with them. From there, we had to propose a basic narrative for the memorial that reasonably represented those opinions.

Our focus groups and workshops were to gather perspectives. But, there, we also saw how some people changed their views on the spot after hearing the various sides of things.

This was my own experience too.

I had come on board with my own strong beliefs about the best way to approach this memorial. But, after going through this lengthy process of talking and listening, I've seen some of my views shift.

When we were reviewing Fort Canning Park and Bay East Garden (the two possible site options recommended by the Urban Redevelopment Authority), I supported Fort Canning Park because of its rich historical context. To me, Bay East Garden was a tabula rasa - clean, but meaningless.

It was a site visit to Bay East Garden with two elder committee members, former senior minister of state Sidek Saniff and Ambassador-at-large Gopinath Pillai that changed my mind.

They shared that they really wanted young visitors to the memorial to feel hope. They believed that only a spirit of hope would take Singapore forever forward. And, as they stood in the garden, looking out at the city that they had played their own part in building, they felt hopeful.

Their words were simple, but had gravity. I could now understand the place differently. What I saw as a blank slate, I could also choose to see as they did: a white page for a new generation to find inspiration from the past to write their own next chapter of Singapore's story.

As it turned out, most Singaporeans who came to our focus groups were leaning towards Bay East Garden rather than Fort Canning Park too.

For some, it was about practical reasons like accessibility. For most, it came down to a desire that the memorial would be forward-looking. They hoped for the Memorial to be ever relevant to a new generation: a place that didn't just help us recall personalities of the past but remember the powerful principles that could help us navigate both the present and the future as well.

The engagement process is far from over. Singaporeans can still come and share their opinions on site options and more. We welcome all, because diversity of views matters.

This long process has sometimes felt a bit like trying to get together a huge, extended family to talk. Some of us have never really met. We have differing opinions and contrasting characters. But, when we show up anyway, open to share respectfully and listen equally, it can be an encouraging eye-opener for all.

What is that common oscillating narrative that we must pass down from generation to generation? What are the common values we still hold dear?

We can never be sure in silos. But the answers get clearer the more we get together.

My hope for the Founders' Memorial is that whenever and wherever it does get built, it stands for unity across divides.

Many people referred repeatedly to the National Pledge penned by our founders as still the best representation of the story they wanted Singapore to live out.

In a world of growing divisiveness, this founding story we've been telling ourselves - that we could live "as one united people" - has become more fragile, and yet, more meaningful than ever.

May we find the oscillating journey of our unity to be a story always worthy of our defence.

The writer, a nominated MP, is co-founder of social enterprise The Thought Collective, and a member of the Founders' Memorial Committee. (

Founders' Memorial: A tribute shaped by Singaporeans
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 15 Feb 2017

The Founders' Memorial, in honour of the nation's founding fathers, will likely be sited at the Gardens by the Bay's Bay East Garden.

It will be one of the most significant commemorative structures to be built since the country secured its independence in 1965.

Bay East Garden is the venue of choice for those polled in the second phase of engagement sessions organised by the Founders' Memorial Committee, with 72 per cent of more than 700 participants picking it over Fort Canning Park.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority had put forth the two sites.

Fort Canning Park dates back to the 14th century as the site where the palatial resort of former Majapahit kings once stood, and later served as the residence of colonial governors. It was impractical as a choice because of its steep topography, committee members and several participants of the engagement sessions said. They also felt its long history could possibly overshadow the story of Singapore's founding fathers.

The strong support for Bay East Garden suggests a desire among Singaporeans to start on a clean slate. They want to home in on recent history and celebrate the story of the Republic's journey to independence.

The Founders' Memorial Committee has urged Singaporeans to make their views heard to help shape the eventual form the memorial takes. It hopes to hear suggestions in areas from programming to physical features and the desired visitor experience. The public can do this at a showcase at Gardens by the Bay from March 14 to end-April.

The committee is set to present its findings to the Government by the middle of the year.

The engagement sessions have already produced a wide range of ideas, including the use of holograms and audioscapes at the memorial. This is encouraging to see for a memorial of such importance.

* Hear voices from the past at Founders' Memorial event
By Zhao Jiayi, The Straits Times, 14 Mar 2017

The face of late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew looks down from the digital screen on a pillar in a room at the Remembering Our Founders: The Making Of A Memorial showcase in Gardens by the Bay.

Visitors will hear his familiar voice ring out as he talks about the founding values dear to him.

Other pillars of modern Singapore also line the room - Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr Eddie Barker, Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Othman Wok - and visitors can learn more about their views as well as those of other Singaporeans in Finding A Common Voice.

It is one of seven exhibitions at the showcase, which opens to the public today.

Mr Jack Wong, 36, a system architect who was at the launch yesterday, said: "I really enjoyed Finding A Common Voice. Getting to hear different people talk about their aspirations for the country - it really shows that everybody's opinions are valued, and that the forefathers' treasured values will go on."

The showcase is the third and most elaborate event so far in a series of engagement sessions initiated by the Founders' Memorial Committee, in the quest for a suitable memorial to commemorate the values exemplified by Mr Lee and his team during Singapore's past five decades of nation-building.

Based on data collected in the first two phases, the showcase gives Singaporeans a clearer look at what the memorial might offer, in terms of physical form and visitor experience.

Visitors can take part in interactive exhibitions, such as Leave Your Mark, which allow them to indicate their aspirations and preferences for the memorial's physical features and programmes.

There is a touch of the poetic at The Making Of A Narrative, an inspiring piece that summarises the views of Singaporeans from the first two sessions.

In the first round of the engagement sessions, some 80 per cent of participants supported establishing the Founders' Memorial.

In the second, 72 per cent of participants chose Gardens by the Bay's Bay East Garden as the potential memorial site.

Common reasons cited by the participants for choosing Bay East Garden include the site being "visitor-friendly and accessible to all ages" while "supporting a more forward-looking narrative".

The showcase will be held at Gardens by the Bay's Waterview Room from today until April 30.

From mid-April to end-May, the showcase will be taken to the heartland. Admission is free.

At the showcase's launch yesterday, Mr Lee Tzu Yang, chairman of the 15-member Founders' Memorial Committee, said the showcase encapsulates Singaporeans' "voices and collective aspirations" through presenting the founding values that resonate most with the public.

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