Singapore Founders’ Memorial, set for 2028 opening, to capture values and vision of pioneers

Singapore Founders’ Memorial ground-breaking ceremony
The Singapore Founders’ Memorial ground-breaking ceremony at Bay East Garden. Photo courtesy: X/ @leehsienloong

The Singapore Founders’ Memorial, scheduled to be opened to the public in 2028, will be a showcase for the values and vision of the pioneers who built this nation.

Participating in the ground-breaking ceremony this week, former Singapore prime minister and present Senior Minister (SM) Lee Hsien Loong said on the social network X: “Delighted to break ground for the Founders’ Memorial at Bay East Garden! When ready in 2028, Singaporeans can reflect on our ongoing nation-building journey and appreciate our precious inheritance from the founding generation. – LHL”

According to reports, the Founders’ Memorial will have two buildings, connected by a basement. The complex will have a viewing gallery that overlooks Singapore’s city skyline, exhibition galleries, and multi-purpose rooms for workshops and programmes.

Model of the Singapore Founders’ Memorial
Model of the Singapore Founders’ Memorial. Photo courtesy: X/@leehsienloong

Some of the milestone dates in the journey of the Singapore Founders’ Memorial are:

October 15, 2015: It was decided by the Founders’ Memorial Steering Committee to seek public views through dialogues and surveys. This series of dialogue sessions were to be held over the last three months of that year.

October 31, 2019: Singaporeans were asked to vote for their favourite architectural design for the Founders’ Memorial. Five shortlisted designs were publicly displayed for the first time, as part of an island-wide travelling showcase.

April 27, 2022: Singaporeans were invited to contribute artefacts and stories from the 1950s to the 1970s to the Founders’ Memorial.

April 21, 2023: A Founders’ Memorial pilot exhibition was inaugurated, exploring values and principles such as multiculturalism, integrity and openness that form the foundation of independent Singapore. “In curating this exhibition, the Memorial conducted in-depth discussions with close to 200 participants, including academics, educators, community leaders, youth and seniors, on what stories could be featured and how these could be presented in a way that is authentic and resonant,” said the official website of the Memorial.

June 5, 2024: Coinciding with World Environment Day, the ground-breaking ceremony for the Founders’ Memorial was organised.

Ex-PM Lee, son of modern Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew (aka LKY), also posted on Facebook, explaining the importance of the Memorial — it would not be only a showcase of the past, but also a guiding compass for the future.

Message board for the Singapore Founders’ Memorial
Message board for the Singapore Founders’ Memorial. Photo courtesy: X/@leehsienloong

Lee wrote on Facebook: “Our founding leaders established fundamental values and ideals that set the long-term direction of our nation. The Memorial will tell the story of how they overcame the odds to build a strong, united, and independent Singapore; how they led the people of Singapore through successive battles first against colonialism, then communism, and finally communalism; and how they then built a nation based on the values and ideals embodied in The Pledge, launching us on the journey that has led to the Singapore we see today.”

Driven by those values and ideals, Singapore has withstood many trials, and a tiny island has grown into one of the economic powerhouses of the world.

Delivering a speech on June 5, Lee spoke of the huge challenges faced by Singapore when it first began its fully independent existence.

Former Singapore PM and current Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivers his speech
Former Singapore PM and current Senior Minister Lee Hsien Loong delivers his speech. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Lee Hsien Loong

Retracing the “tensions” between Singapore and the then Federation of Malaysia, he said, “The differences with the Federal government were too stark to be reconciled through civil debate. The fight involved power and force, putting Singapore and its leaders in great danger. Tragically, it led to race riots and bloodshed.”

Lee Kuan Yew and his contemporary Singapore leaders “held firm at this critical moment”, and “on 9th August 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia to become ‘forever a sovereign, democratic and independent nation’”.

SM Lee recounted, “But unlike upon the independence of every other post-colonial nation, the mood in Singapore was sombre. Memories of the 1964 race riots were still raw. Indonesia’s Konfrontasi continued to pose a threat. Without a proper defence force, our sovereignty and security were precarious. With neither natural resources nor a hinterland, our economic prospects were uncertain. There was no assurance that Singapore had any future.”

The founders led by LKY had to overcome monumental hurdles to move forward. Lee said, “In this dire situation, the founding leaders rallied the population. Singaporeans, whatever their previous political allegiances, united behind Mr Lee and his team, and together set about building a nation. They saw through the withdrawal of British forces, the oil price shock in the early 1970s, and many other crises. They grew the economy, built up the SAF, educated our people, reshaped our society, housed our population, and transformed everyone’s lives.”

The Founders’ Memorial is now coming up on a piece of land that itself tells a remarkable story.

Lee Hsient Loong
The Singapore Founders’ Memorial will stand on reclaimed land and its location pays tribute to the modern metropolis. Photo courtesy: X/@leehsienloong

Lee said: “The Memorial will be sited in Bay East Gardens. It will occupy reclaimed land fronting Marina Bay, the result of a visionary project launched by the founding leaders soon after independence, to provide for the long-term development of our city. As Mr Lee said just a few months after we became independent: ‘Over 100 years ago, this was a mudflat, swamp. Today, this is a modern city. Ten years from now, this will be a metropolis. Never fear.’

“But at a deeper level, the living monument to the founders is the beautiful Marina Bay which it faces, and the vibrant metropolis stretching beyond the iconic skyline, home to 3.5 million Singaporeans, which continues to thrive and develop year after year.”