Colonial era an important part of Singapore's story

It is important to remember Singapore's colonial history and not forget how a sleepy fishing village became a modern metropolitan city (Bicentennial of S'pore's founding offers teachable moment, by Mr Michael Seah Swee Lim, May 22; and Inappropriate to mark anniversary of colonisation, by Mr Anthony Oei, May 26).

Without Sir Stamford Raffles' foresight to establish Singapore as a trading outpost for the British empire back in 1819, who knows what would have become of our country.

Of course, the British saved the best for themselves. That is expected of a country that colonises a foreign land. I would expect no different had Singapore been colonised by another country.

Still, when we reflect on and analyse the various significant events in Singapore's history since 1819 - the failure of the British to defend Singapore in World War II, the Japanese Occupation, and the unequal treatment of our non-British forefathers making a living in Singapore - it is not hard to see why anti-colonial sentiments exist.

That was why Mr Lee Kuan Yew and others stepped up to fight for Singapore's independence.

Singapore's colonial past will always remain with us. It occupies an important place in our history for making Singapore what it is today, even though the experience may not have been pleasant for some.

Given the failure of the British to defend Singapore in World War II, the Japanese Occupation, and the unequal treatment of our non-British forefathers making a living in Singapore, it is not hard to see why anti-colonial sentiments exist. That was why Mr Lee Kuan Yew and others stepped up to fight for Singapore's independence.

Instead of a one-off grand celebration to mark the bicentennial of the founding of Singapore, I propose a year-long series of heritage tours, exhibitions, talks and seminars in our community clubs, national museums and libraries.

Reminding Singaporeans of all ages of how far Singapore has progressed will be more meaningful.

Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2017, with the headline 'Colonial era an important part of Singapore's story'. Print Edition | Subscribe