Thursday, 2 July 2015

Work begins on Founders' Memorial

Committee to tap people for ideas to honour Singapore's first generation of leaders
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 1 Jul 2015

The death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has stirred people's interest in the individuals who had contributed to the development of modern Singapore in the early years.

Armed with this premise, a new committee began its work yesterday on coming up with the concept of a Founders' Memorial to honour Singapore's first generation of political leaders.

Helming the committee of 15 is Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang, who told reporters after its first meeting that he has met people who "did not care much or know much" about the development of modern Singapore.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew's death on March 23, however, led them to "suddenly discover an area to be looked at, explored and debated".

Spelling out the parameters of the committee's work, he said: "It's not about coming up with a defined view of history, and saying this is the end to history. This is really about stimulating interest, in how we became an independent nation and in the ideals and values that have formed us."

Efforts will be made to ensure the late Mr Lee's larger-than-life legacy will not eclipse that of his core team, which included Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr Othman Wok, Mr Hon Sui Sen and Mr Lim Kim San.

"This is an opportunity for us to explore the ideals and values of our founding generation of leaders," said Mr Lee Tzu Yang, adding that they are "exemplars of the ideals and values that have shaped us as a nation".

In April, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said in Parliament that the late Mr Lee was always conscious he did not act alone, but was the "first among equals" of a multiracial team that complemented one another and trusted one another implicitly.

The idea of a Founders' Memorial, perhaps coupled with an exhibition gallery to educate future generations, was one the late Mr Lee himself saw value in, the PM added.

In the next 18 months, the committee will tap people for ideas, both online via a website to be launched in the next two months as well as offline via focus group discussions.

The panel, with representatives from such diverse fields as architecture and education, has been appointed for a period of two years.

Though ideas on what the memorial will look like or where it will be sited are yet to take shape, Mr Lee is sure of one thing: The memorial will be "grounded in reality, so we can't come up with a concept that cannot be executed in Singapore".

Among the factors to be explored is whether the memorial will be indoors, outdoors, or a combination of both; if it should be near water; its accessibility to people; if it should include educational elements or museum tie-ups; and whether there ought to be an online element, he said.

The committee will "find its own way" rather than adhere too closely to what has been done at other memorials around the world.

Yesterday's meeting, held behind closed doors, focused on "the essential narratives we want to include in it", said Nominated Member of Parliament Kuik Shiao-Yin, 37, a committee member.

"It mattered to a lot of us that the memorial will be forward-looking and future-oriented... We were all very convinced that it should not be about 'the best story is over', but 'the best story is yet to come'."

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