'Honour community leaders as well'

Sixty people from the Indian community yesterday discussed a concept for a memorial to honour the values and ideals of Singapore's founding leaders and inspire future generations. It was the eighth and final session under the first phase of public co
Sixty people from the Indian community yesterday discussed a concept for a memorial to honour the values and ideals of Singapore's founding leaders and inspire future generations. It was the eighth and final session under the first phase of public consultations for the Founders' Memorial.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Founders' Memorial dialogue points out nation-building efforts of those not in politics

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 thedialogue 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 www.foundersmemorial.sg.

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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline ''Honour community leaders as well''. Print Edition | Subscribe