Should structures named after Raffles be replaced too?

A worker peeling off the facade of the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles along Singapore River.
A worker peeling off the facade of the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles along Singapore River.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Elgin Bridge, named after Lord James Bruce Elgin, who was Governor-General of India in 1862, traces Singapore's historical roots as a member of the Straits Settlements administered by the British East India Company (Give Elgin Bridge more meaningful name, by Mr Teng Heng Tin, May 24).

One reason given by Mr Teng to replace the name "Elgin" is that Lord Elgin had ordered the destruction of China's Old Summer Palace, or Yuan Ming Yuan, in 1860.

We should note that Lord Elgin ordered the destruction only in retaliation for the senseless murder and torture of 20 Britons and Indians, including two British envoys and a journalist from The Times.

Based on the same logic, we should also replace the name of Sir Stamford Raffles throughout Singapore, because he carried out military attacks in Java, including the looting and destruction of the Yogyakarta Palace in 1812.

Another little-known fact about Raffles was that as Governor of Java, he supplied women as sex slaves to his friend Alexander Hare in an incident known as the Banjarmasin Outrage.

Coming up with a common name for Elgin Bridge, such as Pioneer Bridge or Merdeka Bridge, would be meaningless and, in addition, the history of the bridge's name will be lost.

We should be proud of our colonial heritage as we celebrate Singapore's bicentenary this year, and not blindly follow the examples of other countries in changing road names and even country names.

Kuan Kok Oon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'Should structures named after Raffles be replaced too?'. Print Edition | Subscribe