PM Lee hails Indians' contributions as heritage centre opens

PM Lee hails Indians' contributions as heritage centre opens
PM Lee trying on traditional Indian headgear at the opening of the Indian Heritage Centre yesterday as his wife, Ho Ching, Mr S. Iswaran (beside him) and National Heritage Board assistant chief executive of policy and development Alvin Tan (in white) looked on.

Indians have played a vital role in Singapore's history and left a deep mark on the country, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the opening of Singapore's first museum dedicated to Indian history.

Paying tribute to the community, Mr Lee said Indian traders had several thousands of years ago established trade links with South-east Asia which later included ancient Singapore. They introduced Indian religions, ideas of governance and political systems.

This led to the establishment of kingdoms such as the Majapahit. "Even the name Singapura has Sanskrit roots," said Mr Lee.

In modern times, they brought their customs, skills and trades, from backgrounds such as building, business and art.

Notable pioneers included Mr S. Rajaratnam, a founding member of the People's Action Party who penned the national pledge.

Mr Lee said the new $21 million heritage centre in Campbell Lane - the first in South-east Asia to focus on the Indian community's diverse heritage - celebrates these contributions.

"It reminds us of the importance of our heritage, which anchors our place and identity in a rapidly changing world," said Mr Lee.

The heritage institution operated by the National Heritage Board distils a history that spans 2,000 years and connects India to Singapore.

Mooted in 2008, the 3,090 sq m, four-storey centre is a culmination of about seven years of work. It cost $16 million to build, and another $5 million to outfit.

The five themes of the museum start with the early interactions between South Asia and South-east Asia and go on to feature the origins and movement of Indians in the 19th-to-21st centuries.

The third section focuses on contributions of early Indian pioneers in Singapore and Malaya, while the fourth showcases the social and political awakening of Indians here. This section includes the busts of four Indian nationalist leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, that were donated by the Indian government.

The final section is on the contributions of Indians in Singapore from the late 1950s to the 1980s.

This storyline was pieced together after consultations with more than 50 Indian organisations, associations and groups.

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