SINGAPORE - A road in the upcoming Bidadari Estate, located right 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 on Sunday (Nov 3).
"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.
A part of the new Heritage Walk within the Bidadari estate will also be called the Sang Nila Utama Boulevard, which used to be the former Upper Aljunied Road and is now pedestrianised, Mr Heng said.
It will run through the new Bidadari Park, with a series of storyboard to recount the histories and memories of Bidadari's past placed along the boulevard.
The Bidadari estate is scheduled to be completed by 2022.
"I hope that in the future, Sang Nila Utama Road and Sang Nila Utama Boulevard can also be a physical reminder of the history of Sang Nila Utama Secondary School, and it will be a fitting place for the alumni to share the history of the school with future generations," said Mr Heng.
At the event at Orchard Hotel, which was attended by around 800 people, he noted that former MPs Wan Hussin Zoohri, 82, and Yatiman Yusof, 73, had helped to advocate for 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.
"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," said Mr Heng.
He added that Singapore is also commemorating Palembang prince Sang Nila Utama this bicentennial year, who is said to have founded Singapura in 1299.
SNU, which was located at Upper Aljunied Road, was established in 1961, while TSL in Mountbatten Road was officially opened in 1963.
The opening of the two Malay-medium secondary schools was seen as a significant milestone in the development of Malay education in Singapore, which had made little progress under British colonial rule.
However, both schools ceased operation by the late 1980s in light of declining enrolment.
The SNU building was demolished to make way for the new Bidadari estate, while the TSL campus has been renamed the Goodman Arts Centre and now houses the National Arts Council.
Currently, Tun Seri Lanang, who is widely credited as the author of the Malay Annals, is honoured through the prestigious Tun Seri Lanang Award, one of the highest awards for Malay literature in Singapore.
SNU and TSL alumni include writer Masuri Salikun or Masuri S.N., who is widely regarded as the father of modern Malay poetry in Singapore; former Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Home Affairs Mohamad Maidin Packer Mohd; former national footballer Razali Saad; and President Halimah Yacob's husband, retired businessman Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee.
Separately, Mr Wan Hussin is also chairing a book project which will document the histories of both schools.
"Malay education, including Malay secondary schools, was an integral part of the multi-lingual education system then. If you don't document this, it will be a missing link in our education legacy," he said.