Root of multiracial, multicultural S'pore linked to colonial past

Mr Anthony Oei (Inappropriate to mark anniversary of colonisation; May 26) seems to take offence with my remark regarding not being ashamed of our colonial past (Bicentennial of S'pore's founding offers teachable moment; May 22).

The historical fact that Singapore was a British colony cannot be erased or denied.

We still have Shenton Way, Stamford Road, Victoria Theatre, Fullerton Hotel and Raffles Institution, among the many roads and buildings bearing colonial names.

Our first prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, could have chosen to rename or demolish them so as not to glorify or remember our colonial past. Yet he retained them.

It was a demonstration of our acceptance and comfort with our historical past. They provided assurance and confidence to investors in a newly independent Singapore.

Had Singapore not been a British colony, we might have been a part of one of our neighbours today.

Our multiracial and multicultural society started because Singapore was a free port opened to immigrants shortly after its founding by Sir Stamford Raffles.

The focus of my letter was to celebrate the occasion as the root of our multiracialism and multiculturalism, and to identify our heroes over the course of the past 200 years.

We know very little about them. They can and should be a source of inspiration to a younger generation.

Our national pledge may have been crafted after independence, but its roots date back to 1819.

Acknowledging and understanding our history is important, no matter how disturbing or disagreeable it may be.

There are worthwhile lessons to take away from our bicentennial. Not to recognise the occasion would be an opportunity lost.

Michael Seah Swee Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2017, with the headline 'Root of multiracial, multicultural S'pore linked to colonial past'. Print Edition | Subscribe