Support for both Founders' Memorial sites

Fort Canning Park (top) and Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay are the two sites suggested as possible locations for a Founders' Memorial.
Fort Canning Park (top) and Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay are the two sites suggested as possible locations for a Founders' Memorial. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Straw poll finds public split equally between two possible locations cited by committee

The committee on a memorial to honour the nation's founders may have preferred Bay East Garden as a site over Fort Canning Park, but a straw poll found that both locations are equally favoured by the public.

The Straits Times polled 50 Singaporeans yesterday, a day after the panel announced its recommendation on two possible sites, and found that respondents were evenly divided on the two locations.

Several felt Fort Canning Park is more suitable due to its historical significance dating back 700 years. It was the seat of a 14th-century kingdom and later home of the British governor, before it became a fort in 1861, and a command post used by the British and Japanese during World War II.

Said IT executive Sapna Rath, 33: "As our founding fathers contributed significantly to Singapore's transformation from Third World to First, it is appropriate that we remember their contributions there."

 

Others preferred Fort Canning Park for its setting. Said homemaker Ng Sock Keow, 49: "Fort Canning Park has a more solemn setting, which I think is appropriate for a memorial. In contrast, Gardens by the Bay is more touristy."

 

But several felt Fort Canning's history need not be taken into consideration. They include senior technical executive Abdul Rahim Kamsani, 38, who said Gardens by the Bay is a more accessible location. "The history of Fort Canning is not directly related to our founding fathers," he added.

Other reasons cited by those who favoured Bay East Garden were that it is on level ground and not uphill, and that it is easy to reach from Gardens by the Bay.

Financial service consultant Jean Ho, 45, said: "Many tourists visit Gardens by the Bay and visiting the memorial can add value to their experience by giving them a deeper understanding of our founding fathers."

The Founders' Memorial Committee had said the Bay East Garden site could better put across a forward-looking narrative, offer a more open atmosphere, provide better access and hold stronger potential for programming.

Those in favour of the site added that it offers greater freedom to design a memorial as it is a less mature site. It also holds important symbolism, said confidential secretary Michelle Loh, 36, who noted that greening Singapore was a lifelong interest of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

National University of Singapore sociologist Syed Farid Alatas said that many Singaporeans could have preferred the Fort Canning Park site, given the hill's significance in Singapore's history.

But those who preferred the Bay East Garden location also recognise the significance of building the memorial on land that was created only after independence.

"Part of the symbolism of the Bay East Garden site is that as reclaimed land, it is distinctively post-colonial and captures how the founding fathers developed Singapore against all odds," Associate Professor Alatas said.

"Not building the memorial at Fort Canning can be an important way to critique the colonial past, and underline how the founding generation of leaders helped turn the page in the Singapore Story."

Whatever their preference, those polled agreed that a memorial was important. As student Rachelle Ng, 13, said: "The memorial will help students like me recognise the efforts of our founding fathers rather than just learning through our social studies textbooks."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Support for both Founders' Memorial sites'. Print Edition | Subscribe