Founders' Memorial could open by 2025 at Bay East Garden

   The view of Singapore's city centre as viewed from Bay East Garden, which has been recommended as the site of the Founders' Memorial.
The view of Singapore's city centre as viewed from Bay East Garden, which has been recommended as the site of the Founders' Memorial. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Panel suggests timeframe to 'capture public enthusiasm and hopes' in time for SG60

A memorial to honour Singapore's pioneer leaders could open at Bay East Garden by 2025, in time for the Republic's 60th year of independence.

The proposed Founders' Memorial would sit by the waterfront, in a family-friendly park with a view of the city skyline showcasing Singapore's progress, recommended a 15-member committee in charge of conceptualising it.

A possible timeframe for completion is eight years, so as to "capture public enthusiasm and hopes for the memorial" when SG60 rolls around.

The team submitted a report to the Government last week, and it was made public yesterday. It engaged more than 32,000 people over two years for their views.

Professor Lily Kong, a committee member and cultural geographer, told The Straits Times that the team decided on what it believed was "a reasonable timeframe" for the development of content and the memorial's physical construction.

It recommended that the memorial have an indoor gallery with space for permanent and temporary sections. The memorial could house artefacts as well. It also suggested that the memorial's programming calendar dovetail with important events like National Day and climax in a Founders' Day or Week.

It is still unclear what the memorial will look like, how much it will cost and how it will be funded. The committee must wait for the Government's response. If it accepts the report, the project will go into the implementation phase. Another committee will then be appointed to oversee it. Some of its members will be from the existing committee for continuity's sake, said Prof Kong.

Members of the public engaged by the team, especially the elderly, were keen for the memorial to be developed soon. The older generation said they hoped to share their stories with younger Singaporeans.

Retiree Tan Kok Tim, 71, who used to work in the financial sector, believes that the proposed deadline is too long. He said: "We have the land ready and the resources - there is no reason to wait (that long). I think the committee is playing it safe."

One question is who exactly the memorial will commemorate, said some heritage experts.

The committee said most people agreed the "founding leaders" comprised the team led by Mr Lee Kuan Yew, whose members included Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaratnam, Mr E.W. Barker and Mr Othman Wok. It added: "However, it was acknowledged that this was a non-exhaustive selection, and that there were others who contributed to independent Singapore's development."

Singapore Heritage Society executive committee member Victor Yue said: "We need to cast a wider definition of who will be commemorated. We should allow for alternative voices, as well as stories from the commoners. We should be flexible and as inclusive as possible."

One of the panel's six key findings stated that Singaporeans expressed strong support for a "values-based, forward-looking Founders' Memorial to commemorate the values and ideals of independent Singapore's founding leaders and to inspire current and future generations".

The report further noted that the narrative that emerged following the committee's outreach was a nation which found its way forward against all odds.

Prof Kong said: "We were very clear that we are not just commemorating individuals but more so the values that the founding generation stood for, such as integrity, tenacity, resilience and perseverance."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'Founders' Memorial could open by 2025 at Bay East Garden'. Print Edition | Subscribe