Singapore just released a special S$20 note for its bicentennial – here’s who the 8 people featured on it are

The Singapore Mint is putting 5,000 limited edition numismatic sets up for sale. Each set of an uncut sheet of three commemorative notes costs S$280.
Monetary Authority of Singapore

To commemorate Singapore’s bicentennial, a special S$20 (US$27.30) currency note was launched on Wednesday (June 5) by President Halimah Yacob.

Starting June 10, two million pieces of the commemorative note will be available for public exchange at face value at branches of nine major retail banks in Singapore, namely:

  • DBS Bank Limited / POSB
  • Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited
  • United Overseas Bank Limited
  • Bank of China Limited
  • Citibank Singapore Limited
  • Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited
  • Malayan Banking Berhad
  • Standard Chartered Bank
  • The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited

Additionally, each individual is only allowed to exchange up to 20 pieces of the note per transaction, The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said.

For those who want to buy these notes, The Singapore Mint is putting 5,000 limited edition numismatic sets up for sale. Each set of an uncut sheet of three commemorative notes costs S$280.

The pre-order will end on June 13 and the sets will be allocated by balloting if they are oversubscribed, MAS said. The ballot results will be released on June 18, and collection will start on June 20.

Like all currency notes in Singapore, the front of the commemorative note features Singapore’s first president, Yusof Ishak. On this note, he is featured next to the former Supreme Court and City Hall.

The denomination, the Singapore Coat of Arms and the Singapore Bicentennial logos are printed in gold next to it.

Monetary Authority of Singapore

At the back of the note, eight individuals are pictured against the background of the Singapore River flowing from olden day into present day Singapore.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said in a media release that the note “depicts Singapore’s journey to nationhood and pays tribute to our forebears who laid the foundations for modern Singapore”.

According to MAS, the pioneering individuals chosen for the note “made significant contributions to nation building in diverse areas ranging from education, culture and community service to sports and defending Singapore”.

Monetary Authority of Singapore

Here’s who they are:

Munshi Abdullah (1797-1854)

National Library Board

According to his profile on the National Library Board (NLB), Munshi Abdullah was Stamford Raffles’ secretary and interpreter. He taught Raffles, merchants, and European arrivals the Malay language and educated them on Malay society and culture.

He later published an autobiography, which contained one of the most detailed records of the arrival of Raffles in Singapore and other significant pioneering figures, NLB wrote.

Henry Nicholas Ridley (1855-1956)


Henry Nicholas Ridley was the first Director of Singapore Botanic Gardens. He explored remote areas of the Malay Peninsula and expanded the Herbarium and living collections of the Gardens by about 50,000 specimens, NParks said.

Tan Kah Kee (1874-1961)

Tan Kah Kee Foundation

According to NLB, Tan Kah Kee was known as a businessman, philanthropist, social reformer, community leader and educationist. He helped to set up schools and advocated social reforms such as removing social barriers based on dialect and clanship, improving housing and eradicating opium addiction.

Govindasamy Pillai (1887-1980)

P. Govindasamy Pillai and wife Packkiriammal at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.
National Archives of Singapore

Govindasamy Pillai was known as a philanthropist who contributed to temple-building and community welfare, an article by Roots wrote. He once donated a large sum to redevelop Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple and contributed to the construction of a new home for the Ramakrishna Mission.

Teresa Hsu Chih (1898-2011)

YouTube / TedxSingapore

Teresa Hsu Chih was a social worker who helped the poor and destitute and founded one of Singapore’s first homes for sick elderly, NLB said. She also established a non-profit programme where she provided single elderly and needy families with cash allowances and food.

Alice Pennefather (1903-1983)

Lancelot Pennefather (left) with his wife Alice Pennefather (right).
Singapore Press Holdings

According to the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame, Alice Pennefather was a Singaporean badminton and tennis champion and was also active in the Girls’ Sports Club (GSC) which was formed to encourage participation of young women in sports.

She was also the captain of the hockey team in the GSC and led her team to become one of the top teams in Singapore.

Adnan Saidi (1915-1942)

Singapore Press Holdings

According to NLB, Adnan Saidi was a lieutenant of the Malay Regiment’s 1st Battalion and a war hero entrusted to defend Pasir Panjang Ridge in 1942. Despite being outnumbered and undersupplied, Adnan motivated his troops to fend off the Japanese and refused to surrender.

Ruth Wong Hie King (1918-1982)

Singapore Press Holdings

According to the Singapore Women’s Hall of fame, Ruth Wong was known as a pioneering educator who introduced a multi-disciplinary approach to teacher training in Singapore. She was also an advocate for collaborative learning, the use of objectives, and research-based assignments to replace examinations.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the Adnan Saidi and his troops were outnumbered and oversupplied. It has since been corrected to state that they were outnumbered and undersupplied.

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