Most Singaporeans want memorial to recognise founders, values: Poll

Most Singaporeans favour a memorial to remember the country's founding fathers and the values and ideals on which Singapore has been built, a survey has found.

Eight in 10 of those interviewed in a door-to-door survey expressed support, the committee tasked with coming up with a concept for the memorial revealed yesterday.

The survey of 1,300 people also found that a majority wanted the memorial to recognise founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the team that led Singapore to independence in 1965 and laid the foundations for the nation.

Mr Lee's death on March 23 last year, at the age of 91, prompted an unprecedented outpouring of emotions and show of solidarity by Singaporeans.

During and after the week of national mourning, there was also an intense revisiting of Singapore's history and interest in the individuals who contributed to the development of the country.

Beyond the cohort of political leaders thrown up by the survey, some participants in the series of eight public engagement sessions organised by the committee since last October also cited the role that others played - unionists, philanthropists and community leaders, among others.

Founders' Memorial Committee chairman Lee Tzu Yang spoke to reporters about the survey findings and disclosed that his panel submitted its first report to the Government a fortnight ago.

He said there was "broad consensus" that a memorial was a good idea, although there was a minority who felt a memorial was unnecessary and that money to be spent on it could be put to better use elsewhere.

There was also broad agreement by participants that the memorial should centre on the values and ideals on which independent Singapore was founded, and not on individuals alone.

"These values and ideals should not just inspire pride in us, and gratitude for what has been achieved, but also serve to inspire all of us for the future," Mr Lee said. "It must resonate with future Singaporeans."

This is why the committee is recommending that the memorial should focus on being values-centred and forward-looking.

Mr Lee said the committee's work continues even as it waits for the Government's response to its initial report. The public can still contribute views via the Founders' Memorial website or by mail.

While he indicated that it would be premature to set a deadline for the memorial's completion, he said a "realistic" timeline would be that it would be done in a decade.

Heritage experts noted that as the memorial is not dedicated to any one individual but to ideals and values, the authorities are not constrained by physical locations such as a house or an office.

Two possible sites were identified by the committee in consultation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority: Fort Canning Park, and Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay.

While a blank slate like Bay East Garden offers more development possibilities and can easily be made more accessible, a site like Fort Canning Park has more historical significance and could resonate more with Singaporeans, said experts.

Mr Ho Chi Tim of the National University of Singapore's Department of History said the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew last year represented the first time in a while that Singaporeans have a shared memory almost on the level of the struggle for independence or the fight against the communists.

"I see the memorial as another instance of such a shared experience, and the debate over its location, design, content and narrative will be part of that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'Most S'poreans want memorial to recognise founders, values: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe