Sang Nila Utama, pioneers join Stamford Raffles along Singapore River

Sang Nila Utama, pioneers join Stamford Raffles along Singapore River

Four new statues at Singapore river
Statues of (left to right) Sang Nila Utama, Munshi Abdullah, Tan Tock Seng, Sir Stamford Raffles and Naraina Pillai. (Photo: Singapore Bicentennial Office) 

SINGAPORE: Four new sculptures have joined the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles along the Singapore River for the Singapore Bicentennial.

The statues of Sang Nila Utama, Tan Tock Seng, Munshi Abdullah and Naraina Pillai were unveiled on Friday (Jan 4) in recognition of the diverse communities and people who have shaped Singapore over the years, said the Singapore Bicentennial Office (SBO). 

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These historical figures "represent a wider cast of characters that arrived on Singapore’s shores in 1819 and before", added SBO in the media release. 

This year marks the 200th year since Sir Stamford Raffles landed on Singapore, which was a pivotal point in the nation's history.

With these new statues, SBO said it wanted to invite Singaporeans to discover "our nation's cast of contributors and milestones from as far back as 1299". 

One such familiar name is Sang Nila Utama - the Palembang prince who landed on the island of Temasek - which Singapore was known as then. 

Seeing a vision of a lion with a red body, black head and a white breast, he established the Singapura Kingdom in 1299. 

Linguist Munshi Abdullah, who was Sir Stamford Raffles' secretary and interpreter, is known for his early literary contributions to the Malay community. He also taught the Malay language to British and American missionaries and helped to bridge communication and cultural gaps. 

Another historical personality featured is Naraina Pillai, who worked his way up from a clerk and became a successful entrepreneur and community leader. He was also the first Indian building contractor and helped to build the iconic Sri Mariamman Temple in 1827. 

Rounding up the four is Tan Tock Seng - one of Singapore's most eminent philantrophists and a leader of the Chinese community. He is best known for being the main donor to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and the first Asian to serve as Justice of Peace.

Munshi Abdullah, Naraina Pillai and Tan Tock Seng all first arrived in Singapore in 1819. 

"1819 is an important point in our history, but before and after the British also came many people and communities," said Mr Gene Tan, executive director of SBO. 

"Even the four statues represent only a fraction of the huge cast of characters who contributed to the evolution of Singapore in our longer history of 700 years," he added. 

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These new statues will be on display alongside the Sir Stamford Raffles statue until next Tuesday.

They will then be shifted to different locations along the river promenade for the rest of the year.

Associate Professor Hadijah Rahmat, from the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University said that "Singapore's roles, functions and achievements are diverse in multiple fields". 

"They are not built by a single visionary man, but built by a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious people, with richly diverse backgrounds and their human strengths." 

Source: CNA/ad(hm)