- Singapore Bicentennial Office
Sir Stamford Raffles is solo no more – there are now five white statues occupying the spot known as Raffles Landing Site at 59 Boat Quay, the place where Raffles was believed to have first set foot on Singapore.
Statues of Sang Nila Utama, Tan Tock Seng, Munshi Abdullah and Naraina Pillai were added to Raffles Landing Site on Friday (Jan 4) and will remain there until Jan 8 in honour of the Singapore Bicentennial, which marks 200 years since the British first arrived here.
The statues were commissioned by the Singapore Bicentennial Office (SBO) – which is part of the Prime Minister’s Office and includes a panel of historians and archaeologists.
The four new statues will subsequently be shifted to different locations along the Singapore River, and remain there for the rest of this year.
The SBO said in an earlier statement on Jan 2 that the bicentennial commemoration will recognise “other significant milestones in the nation’s journey” apart from the arrival of the British.
This includes recognising people apart from Raffles who “contributed greatly to the nation”.
Of the four personalities at Raffles Landing Site, one – Sang Nila Utama – arrived in Singapore in 1299, while the other three set foot on the island in 1819, the same year Raffles did.
Sang Nila Utama, a 13th-century Palembang prince, established the Kingdom of Singapura and gave it its name, which means “lion city”, while Munshi Abdullah, who is considered the father of modern Malay literature, authored the Hikayat Abdullah (The Story of Abdullah) and invented colloquial Malay.
Meanwhile, Naraina Pillai established Singapore’s first brick company and contributed greatly to the construction of the Sri Mariamman Temple – which is today a national monument – while Tan Tock Seng was Singapore’s first Asian Justice of Peace and helped fund the Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which served the poor.
Said Professor Hadijah Bte Rahmat, head of Asian Languages and Cultures at the National Institute of Education: “Singapore’s roles, functions and achievements… are not built by a single visionary man, but built by a multiracial, multicultural, multi-religious people, with richly diverse backgrounds and human strengths.”
He added: “From the natives, locals, and migrants within the Southeast Asian region and from all over the world, all have worked together to contribute, directly and indirectly to build its unique history, developments and identities.”