Amid global backlash against colonialists, netizens ask what about Raffles?

PHOTO: Flickr / fabcan

As protests against racism erupted across the world, the monuments that pay tribute to problematic historical figures have been subjected to mob justice as well. 

Inspired by the protests taking place in the United States in response to the killing of George Floyd, people from around the world are taking to the streets to demonstrate against prejudice and institutional racism happening in their own countries as well. Part of which involves the symbolic purging of controversial icons by way of vandalising effigies of colonialists.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, netizens are revisiting the legacy of Sir Stamford Raffles. A man widely thought to be the founder of modern Singapore, but in recent years has been accused of being a racist imperialist who oversaw the kidnapping of hundreds of women for sexual servitude and claiming credit for the country’s success without actually doing the heavy lifting. 

Dhevarajan Devadas, a research assistant at the Institute of Policy Studies, wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post that there are arguments to be made in taking down the statues of Raffles. 

“There are plenty of roads and institutions bearing his name to remind us of him. But what it does mean is that we finally acknowledge the impact of colonialism on the indigenous people of this region by vacating his place of honour,” he wrote.

"It would also be a potent signal that after more than five decades of independence. Singapore is finally ready to move out of its coloniser's shadow."

On Twitter, the discussion about Raffles' legacy in this time of heightened sensitivities to systemic racism (and statue-toppling) has been pretty active in the last few days. 

 

PHOTO: Twitter screengrabs

For what it's worth, Singapore's bicentennial commemoration last year reflected on other pioneers of modern Singapore, apart from Raffles.

ilyas@asiaone.com