Contributions by non-political leaders should be included in Founders' Memorial, say forum participants

Partipants in small-group discussion during the sixth dialogue session to seek views and ideas on a Founders' Memorial, on Dec 15, 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore.
Partipants in small-group discussion during the sixth dialogue session to seek views and ideas on a Founders' Memorial, on Dec 15, 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Partipants in small-group discussion during the sixth dialogue session to seek views and ideas on a Founders' Memorial, on Dec 15, 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore.
Partipants in small-group discussion during the sixth dialogue session to seek views and ideas on a Founders' Memorial, on Dec 15, 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
 Partipants in small-group discussion during the sixth dialogue session to seek views and ideas on a Founders' Memorial, on Dec 15, 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore.
Partipants in small-group discussion during the sixth dialogue session to seek views and ideas on a Founders' Memorial, on Dec 15, 2015 at the National Museum of Singapore.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - 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 Indian Singaporeans on how best to honour the country's founders.

Among the names 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 at the dialogue on Tuesday night that 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 for 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, led by Esplanade chairman Lee Tzu Yang, will next distill the collated feedback to identify common threads, and meet special interest groups.

In a second round of consultations next year, issues like where to locate the memorial and how it should look will be discussed.

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

Since then, it has heard elderly Singaporeans tell stories from the Japanese Occupation to the racial riots in the early 60s, 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 oft-mentioned traits people want highlighted include entrepreneurship, the pioneering spirit, determination plus 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 made last month: "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."

waltsim@sph.com.sg