Commentary: Bicentennial can be a worthwhile endeavour

24 December, 2018

Photo: Straits Times

The year 2019 marks a milestone in Singapore history, being the 200th anniversary of the country’s founding by Sir Stamford Raffles. However, some members of the public have voiced their displeasure at the government’s plan to celebrate the Bicentennial next year. They suggest that commemorating the Bicentennial would mean overlooking and disregarding a significant part of Singapore’s history that happened before 1819.

In a commentary for Channel News Asia, Professor Tan Tai Yong, President of Yale-NUS College and NUS History faculty member, stressed that the Bicentennial initiative needs to be sensitively framed as an inclusive process instead of an elitist, celebratory one. Prof Tan believes that the Bicentennial provides an important opportunity to reflect on Singapore’s long history and find personal meaning in it. He emphasized that it should serve as an impetus for further rumination about Singapore’s history, to appreciate Singapore’s connection with the region and acknowledge the importance of globalization, trade, and diaspora in shaping Singapore’s history and identity as a people. If framed this way, the Bicentennial has the potential to be a rewarding and worthwhile endeavour.

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