Forefathers wouldn't have come if colonial rule was oppressive

File photo of a statue of Sir Stamford Raffles among skyscrapers at 2 Battery Road.
File photo of a statue of Sir Stamford Raffles among skyscrapers at 2 Battery Road. PHOTO: ST FILE

In his letter, Mr Anthony Oei said that Sir Stamford Raffles' arrival in 1819 did not mark the founding of modern Singapore, rather, the beginning of modern Singapore was in 1959, the year the People's Action Party took over the government (Raffles' arrival did not mark founding of modern S'pore; Jan 5).

Mr Oei's view is in contradiction with that once expressed by Singapore's first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who acknowledged Raffles as the founder of modern Singapore.

He had said: "If Raffles had not come here in 1819 to establish a trading post, my great-grandfather would not have migrated to Singapore."

Indeed, the vast majority of our multi-ethnic forefathers arrived here from 1819 to 1959; they would not have been coming in droves to settle had the colonial-era Singapore been such an oppressive place.

Mr Lee wisely avoided the virulent brand of anti-colonialism espoused by other former colonies that ultimately sent international investors packing.

His government recognised history for what it was, and had no desire to rewrite the past by renaming streets or removing monuments.

Hence, it is odd that Singapore should now be so reticent about celebrating its bicentennial.

Loke Hoe Kit

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2019, with the headline 'Forefathers wouldn't have come if colonial rule was oppressive'. Print Edition | Subscribe