SINGAPORE - Fort Canning Park holds many historically significant memories for older generations of Singaporeans, and that is why the PAP Seniors' Group feels it is suitable as the site for the Founders' Memorial, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob said on Sunday.
"We want to remember what Fort Canning stands for, what it means to our country, and how it has contributed to our history," said Madam Halimah, who chairs the advocacy group under the ruling party.
"There may be some access challenges, but if it's doable, that's one area that the government should seriously consider to put up the Founders' Memorial."
A fortnight ago, the committee charged with conceptualising a memorial to honour Singapore's founding leaders made its recommendations to the Government, and indicated that it preferred Bay East Garden at Gardens by the Bay over Fort Canning Park. The two sites had earlier been identified in consultation with the Urban Redevelopment Authority
The PAP seniors' wing had made recommendations last September for the Founders' Memorial to be located at Fort Canning Park.
It suggested having artistic sculptures and features such as pools and landscaped gardens, where visitors can reflect on Singapore's journey as a nation.
Fort Canning was previously a seat of political power. In the 14th century, palaces of former Majapahit kings were on the hill there, and Sir Stamford Raffles built his first residence there soon after arriving in Singapore in 1819.
Speaking to reporters following a brisk walk at Bay East Garden to mark the first anniversary of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's death last March, Madam Halimah said the Founders' Memorial is a "very useful project" to remind Singaporeans of the values that Mr Lee stood for, such as multiracialism, meritocracy, self-reliance and inclusivity.
"To me, his greatest legacy is infusing in us a sense of pride: pride in being Singaporean," she said.
She added that while there have been numerous events marking the one-year anniversary, the point was not to glorify Mr Lee but to instead remind Singaporeans, especially the young, of how far the nation has come.
"It's not to glorify Mr Lee, because he really doesn't need it... but it's a great reminder to Singaporeans of how far we have come, but that our job is not done," she said.
"We have to continue with the good work that Mr Lee and his generation of leaders have done, for another 50 years, or another one hundred years."
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who was at a separate remembrance event in Marine Parade, said the late Mr Lee would have wanted people to remember his values and to look to the future.
Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the event, he said Mr Lee would not have wanted Singaporeans to commemorate his death anniversary "in a very big way" every year.
"He'll prefer us to reflect on his values, what he had done for Singapore as a foundation for building Singapore in the future...Mr Lee was always focused on the future. He would want life to carry on normally, and in fact, for life to be even better after him," he added.
This year's Budget, with a focus on transforming the economy and society, is a good way to build on Mr Lee's legacy for a better Singapore, said Mr Goh.
He added that the initiatives announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday will "serve as agents for change".
"I think what Mr Lee would have liked is the constant ability for Singapore to adapt and to change. That means we don't just stay put based on past glory," he said.
At a separate Budget dialogue with Marsiling residents held in her constituency, Madam Halimah said she was glad that this year's Budget has measures that will help lower-income households, the elderly, and the needy. They include a higher income ceiling for the Workfare Income Supplement scheme and the Silver Support Scheme, which will start paying out to seniors this July.
"I was a little concerned that this year, because there's a lot of concerns about the economy, that the budget will be completely focused on economy, and there will be less for the needy," she said, noting that half of Marsiling consists of three-room and smaller flats. "I'm glad there's also quite some substantive provisions for the community."
One resident who will benefit from the Silver Support Scheme is Madam Ang Guat Eng, 85, who lives in a one-room flat with her daughter. The widow will receive quarterly payments of $750.
"The money will really help a lot with my groceries, and my electricity and water bills," she said.