Why Raffles flanked by statues of only men

(From left) Statues of Tan Tock Seng, Munshi Abdullah, Sir Stamford Raffles, Naraina Pillai, and Sang Nila Utama along the Singapore River.
(From left) Statues of Tan Tock Seng, Munshi Abdullah, Sir Stamford Raffles, Naraina Pillai, and Sang Nila Utama along the Singapore River. PHOTO: ST FILE

We thank Ms Margaret Thomas for her views in her Forum letter (Mark women's contributions for S'pore bicentennial; Jan 9).

For the project in which we installed additional statues to stand alongside that of Sir Stamford Raffles, we used the years 1299 and 1819 as points of reference.

The year 1299 was the beginning of the Singapura Kingdom, and 1819 was a key turning point when Raffles arrived.

The latter year was also significant for many other arrivals. Hence, we featured individuals who came to Singapore that year and made an impact.

We did consider tradeswoman and philanthropist Hajjah Fatimah.

However, we could not find records that confirmed that she, or other notable female contributors, had arrived in 1819.

Having said that, these statues are but a fraction of the larger cast of contributors and the first of many projects to come from the Singapore Bicentennial Office and our partners this year.

These projects and many more from the community will feature the women who made a difference as we consider the diverse range of people and episodes that marked our evolution.

We hope the public will continue to participate actively in the Singapore Bicentennial with ideas and insights as we reflect on our 700-year journey from Singapore to Singaporean.

Gene Tan

Executive Director

Singapore Bicentennial Office

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2019, with the headline 'Why Raffles flanked by statues of only men'. Print Edition | Subscribe