Bicentennial can focus on how events after 1819 shaped S'pore's present

As Singapore commemorates the 200th anniversary of its founding by Stamford Raffles next year, it is important that the celebrations resonate with all Singaporeans, both young and old.

A key theme of Singapore's bicentennial celebrations could be an emphasis on how the events after 1819 have shaped Singapore's present - our enduring values, ethos and national identity.

Even though Singapore had a rich history that preceded 1819, the year marked the historical evolution of our distinctive multiracial and meritocratic identity that we all hold dear.

For example, our independence in 1965 was a result of the divergent political and historical paths of the two countries across the straits, despite our proximity.

The idea of the supremacy of a particular race did not and still does not sit well with Singaporeans.

The recent maritime and airspace disputes with our northern neighbour and the uncertain challenges facing Singapore in an increasingly volatile world serve to underline another key message of Singapore's bicentenary - we should not take our peace and prosperity for granted.

Our bicentenary next year will be a timely and apt reminder of Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's words of wisdom in 1969, when Singapore celebrated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Raffles: "It is dangerous to be complacent and to take continuing progress and prosperity for granted. The fact that things have been getting better and better each year… does not mean that progress comes naturally."

His words still ring true today.

Chiang Ky

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2018, with the headline 'Bicentennial can focus on how events after 1819 shaped S'pore's present'. Print Edition | Subscribe