Road-naming exercise should consider more than locations

While I agree with Dr Yik Keng Yeong that road names should reflect their location and the environment, one should not forget the heritage and historical value associated with the place (New road names should reflect locations; Feb 16).

The colonial policy of racial zoning has left an indelible mark on the system of street naming in Singapore, with most of the streets named during the colonial period bearing the stamp of British rule.

Significant historical value can be derived from this construction of the environment, but the local residents saw little relevance in them and devised their own ethnic and vernacular names, interpretations and meanings.

Such names linked streets to local features, symbols, legends, trades and activities that formed a significant role in daily experiences and social life.

This dual system of naming and identifying streets therefore showed the capacity of the local communities to resist power relations and create a diversity of socio-cultural influences, all of which have added immense heritage and cultural value to our street landscape.

Post-independence, street names rightly tend to emphasise the local identity of the place, qualities of success, prosperity, harmony, hard work and the spirit of the new modern nation state.

Our road-naming policy also gives equal treatment to the four official languages to reflect the multi-ethnic nature of Singapore society.

There is therefore an already fine and harmonious blend of remembering our colonial past, pioneers and heroes that should be preserved as well as the present that identifies the growth, dynamism and multiracial diversity of our nation.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2018, with the headline 'Road-naming exercise should consider more than locations'. Print Edition | Subscribe