Future road in Bidadari estate pays tribute to Malay school

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat with former Sang Nila Utama Secondary School (SNU) principal Muhammad Jaafar (far left) and former MP Wan Hussin Zoohri at a reunion yesterday for alumni and former teachers of SNU and Tun Seri Lanang Secondary Sc
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat with former Sang Nila Utama Secondary School (SNU) principal Muhammad Jaafar (far left) and former MP Wan Hussin Zoohri at a reunion yesterday for alumni and former teachers of SNU and Tun Seri Lanang Secondary School, both of which opened in the 1960s.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Sang Nila Utama Road will commemorate former school's key role in Malay education

A road in the upcoming Bidadari estate, located next to the site of the former Malay-medium Sang Nila Utama Secondary School (SNU), will be named Sang Nila Utama Road, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced yesterday.

"This is something that the Malay community has been asking for because of the important role that Sang Nila Utama Secondary School played in developing Malay education in Singapore," said Mr Heng, speaking at a reunion for alumni and former teachers of the school and Tun Seri Lanang Secondary School (TSL), the first two Malay-medium secondary schools here.

Also, a part of the new Heritage Walk within the Bidadari estate will be named Sang Nila Utama Boulevard, Mr Heng said. This was previously Upper Aljunied Road and it has been pedestrianised.

It will run through the new Bidadari Park, with a series of storyboards placed along the boulevard to recount memories of Bidadari's past.

The Bidadari estate is scheduled to be completed by 2022.

At the reunion event at Orchard Hotel, which was attended by around 850 people, Mr Heng noted that former MPs Wan Hussin Zoohri, 82, and Yatiman Yusof, 73, had helped to advocate the naming of the road, writing to some in the Government about the significance of having such a marker.

Mr Wan Hussin was a vice-principal of SNU and a principal of TSL, while Mr Yatiman was an SNU student.

Mr Heng said: "The Ministry of National Development and the Street and Building Names Board considered the matter carefully, taking into account the contributions of Sang Nila Utama, and I am glad that they have agreed to the new road name."

He added that this bicentennial year is also about commemorating Palembang prince Sang Nila Utama, who is said to have founded Singapura in 1299.

SNU, which was in Upper Aljunied Road, was established in 1961, while TSL in Mountbatten Road was officially opened in 1963.

The opening of the two Malay-medium schools was seen as a significant milestone in the development of Malay education, which had made little progress under British colonial rule.

However, both schools closed by the late 1980s after enrolment declined.

The SNU building was demolished to make way for the new Bidadari estate, while the TSL campus has been renamed Goodman Arts Centre and now houses the National Arts Council.

Currently, Tun Seri Lanang, widely credited as the author of the Malay Annals, is remembered through the prestigious Tun Seri Lanang Award, one of the highest awards for Malay literature in Singapore.

 
 
 
 

Mr Yatiman, who had visited the old SNU site with about 200 other alumni for a photo-taking session when news of its impending demolition broke in 2014, cheered the move to name the road after his school.

"(The use of such vernacular names) is a reinstatement of what our history was," he said.

Former Berita Harian editor Mohamed Guntor Sadali, 67, who studied at SNU, said it was an opportunity for Singaporeans to learn about Sang Nila Utama's place in Singapore's history, beyond figures such as Sir Stamford Raffles.

Mr Wan Hussin , who is also chairing a book project that will document the histories of both schools, hopes that more landmarks can be named after Tun Seri Lanang to preserve his legacy.

For instance, the Malay Language Centre in Bishan can be renamed the Tun Seri Lanang Malay Language Centre, he said, given that the Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre, for example, is named after a Tamil poet.

"Goodman Arts Centre can also be renamed Tun Seri Lanang Arts Centre, since that was the school site," added Mr Wan Hussin.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2019, with the headline 'Future road in Bidadari estate pays tribute to Malay school'. Print Edition | Subscribe