Thursday 17 December 2015

Include community leaders in Founders’ Memorial

'Honour community leaders as well'
Founders' Memorial dialogue points out nation-building efforts of those not in politics
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 16 Dec 2015

The founding leaders of Singapore should go beyond political leaders and include people such as community leaders and philanthropists as well, said participants at a dialogue for Indians yesterday on how best to honour the country's founders.

Among those they proposed are late businessman P. Govindasamy Pillai, and Mr Thamizhavel G. Sarangapani, founder of Tamil Murasu newspaper and champion of the Tamil language in Singapore.

They are in addition to founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his comrades such as Dr Goh Keng Swee, Dr Toh Chin Chye, Mr S. Rajaratnam and Mr Othman Wok.

Engineer Vashdev Atmaram Khialani, 65, said it was the combined effort of the early political leaders and community leaders that made Singapore what it is today.

He said: "Society is a whole. You may have wonderful leaders but if the society is not supportive, (there might be no point)... We were very fortunate to have a number of very good, strong community leaders."

The inclusion of non-political leaders was one suggestion tossed up at the dialogue at which 60 people from the Indian community discussed a concept for a memorial to honour the values and ideals of Singapore's founding leaders and inspire future generations.

The session at the National Museum was the eighth and final one in the first phase of public consultations for the Founders' Memorial.

In this phase, the 15-member Founders' Memorial committee sought people's views on, among other things, the values and ideals embodied by Singapore's founders and whom to honour.

More than 400 people have taken part in the eight dialogues held since October in all four official languages. Singaporeans may continue to give their views online at

The committee is led by Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang.

A second round of consultations next year will discuss issues like where to locate the memorial.

Mr Lee last month said the committee wanted to gather a wide range of diverse views.

Since then, it has heard elderly Singaporeans tell stories ranging from the Japanese Occupation to the racial riots in the early 1960s, while youths gave their thoughts on national service and growing up in public housing estates.

Mr Liu Thai Ker, chairman of the Centre for Liveable Cities, who took part in a session in Chinese, said he wanted national war heroes like Lim Bo Seng to be honoured.

"Without these people fighting for our freedom during the Japanese Occupation, the fate of Singapore today would have been quite different," he said. "They had a profound influence on Singapore."

The traits people want highlighted include entrepreneurship, the pioneering spirit, determination, a "can do" attitude, and more broadly, Singapore's multiracialism.

There was also agreement on the need for a memorial that strikes a chord with fellow Singaporeans.

It was a point Mr Lee had made: "If Singaporeans walk into the memorial and they find - and this is not just today, you've to think 30, 50 years from now - that they don't see anything they can identify with, then we would have failed."

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History fraternity gives its take on Founders' Memorial
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 21 Dec 2015

The upcoming Founders' Memorial could leverage the Republic's existing network of museums, monuments and historical sites.

The history fraternity wants the memorial to not be a standalone structure but be incorporated into historic precincts such as the Civic District, and that institutions such as the National Museum, National Archives and The Arts House should serve as "memorial nodes".

History teacher Rita Lopez, 57, said this would make sense in land-scarce Singapore.

She added: "It should be located in an area where there are many historically relevant buildings and landmarks which are symbolically significant to the people being remembered."

Members of the fraternity also suggested homing in on the contributions of the first Cabinet and providing visitors with both an educational and contemplative experience. Yale-NUS College's executive vice-president of academic affairs and history professor Tan Tai Yong said it should encourage visitors to "ponder and reflect".

The fraternity's views were sought over three roundtable sessions in November and this month to discuss a concept for a memorial to honour the values and ideals of Singapore's founding leaders.

Those involved included heritage experts and enthusiasts, academics, and teachers from the History Association of Singapore.

The sessions were facilitated by the National Heritage Board (NHB). The sessions were organised on top of eight public consultation sessions conducted by a 15-member Founders' Memorial committee, in the first phase of public consultations for the memorial.

NHB assistant chief executive of policy and development Alvin Tan said the historians and academics were engaged for their expertise and to gain different perspectives on historical figures and events to enrich the dialogue.

The committee, led by Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang, has been seeking people's views on, among other things, the values and ideals embodied by Singapore's founders and who to honour.

The idea of a Founders' Memorial was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament on April 13.

Prof Tan said the memorial should be tasteful and subtle in its design.

"It should not be too garish or ostentatious to stay true to the values of frugality and resilience that were characteristic of our founding generation."

He also suggested producing a timeless storyline, incorporating values such as courage, resilience, vision and determination, so that its messages "are not trapped in history" but have relevance to future generations.

Mrs Lopez said a Founders' Memorial is important as it can share with future generations of Singaporeans the contributions of the country's first political leaders and the difficult decisions they made.

She added that the duty of historians is to ensure that the opinions weaved into a memorial are supported by facts.

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