Monday 28 September 2015

Honour founders with memorial park: PAP Seniors' Group

By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 26 Sep 2015

The seniors' wing of the People's Action Party has called for a memorial park to be set up in Fort Canning Park to honour the founders of modern Singapore.

The PAP Seniors' Group (PAP.SG) wants it to have artistic sculptures and features such as pools and landscaped gardens, where visitors can reflect on Singapore's journey as a nation.

The group also called for spaces for exhibitions, talks and activities for children.

But as far as possible, the exhibits and design should not feature personalised monuments to honour individuals or individual statues or busts, the group said in its proposal released to the media yesterday.

The group, chaired by Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, has given its recommendations to the steering committee in charge of canvassing views and coming up with a Founders' Memorial to honour Singapore's pioneer leaders. The Founders' Memorial Steering Committee was set up in April, a month after the death of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The 15-member panel is headed by Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang.

Explaining why it chose Fort Canning Park, the PAP.SG said it is big enough for a proper memorial that can accommodate large numbers of visitors, and with enough space left for future expansion.

The group said the site is accessible to the public and was previously a seat of political power. In the 14th century, palaces of former Majapahit kings were on the hill, known as Bukit Larangan (Forbidden Hill in Malay), and Sir Stamford Raffles built his first residence there soon after arriving in Singapore in 1819.

PAP.SG has also proposed a new walking trail in Fort Canning to take visitors through historically significant landmarks in the civic district, on guided or self-guided walking tours. Visitors could download materials via apps on their smart devices.

The monument should not just honour individual leaders, but also highlight the 50 years of nation- building that lifted Singapore from a struggling port city to a First World nation, the group said.

It also suggested that Singaporean students, including those in tertiary institutions, be invited to give ideas so the park can be created in a ground-up, inclusive way.

Said Madam Halimah: "We believe that setting a memorial in an accessible, public park is a fitting tribute to the vision of Singapore as a garden city-state."

She added: "The vision of a garden city encapsulates not only the efforts to enhance the quality of life in a small city-state, but also embodies the ideals of inclusiveness, which our founders fought for with passion, all their lives."

Proposed historical trail at Fort Canning

Part of the PAP Seniors' Group proposal for a memorial park at Fort Canning to commemorate Singapore's founders includes a new walking trail. It will take people through at least five historically significant sites in the civic district:


The People's Action Party began its political journey in Victoria Memorial Hall, where its inaugural meeting was held in November 1954.


The late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew held his early political rallies at Fullerton Square, next door to City Hall.

It also housed the offices of most ministries in the early years and was where ministers and senior government officials, among others, watched the early National Day Parades held at the Padang.

Now part of the new National Gallery, it could have a permanent gallery with paintings and photographs of Singapore's pre- and post-Independence years.


The former seat of government was where key political battles were fought, from the split of the PAP in 1961 - when a leftist faction broke away to form the Barisan Sosialis - to the 1963 merger of Singapore with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak. The group suggests taking back the lease from The Arts House and converting the space into a library with speeches and photographs of the late Mr Lee and Old Guard leaders, Speakers of Parliament and MPs.


As Parliament House is largely a restricted area, a plaque explaining the site's significance could be put up where it is open to the public.


Part of the trail could include a guided path that brings people to the PAP.SG's proposed park.

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