Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Grand Reunion of the alumnus from Sang Nila Utama Secondary School and Tun Seri Lanang Secondary School on 3 November 2019.
Mr. Wan Hussin Zoohri
Mr. Yatiman Yusof
Non-Resident High Commissioner to the Republic of Kenya & Republic of Rwanda
Major (Retired) Abbas Abu Amin
Former Principals, Vice Principals, teachers, staff & alumni of Sang Nila Utama Secondary School and Tun Seri Lanang Secondary School
Good afternoon. I am delighted to join you at this Grand Reunion, which brings together the alumni and former staff of Sang Nila Utama Secondary School and Tun Seri Lanang Secondary School.
Let me open with some words in Malay:
Perjumpaan ini amat bertepatan dalam kita menyambut Dwi Abad dan menyingkap semula sejarah permulaan kita. Dua sekolah ini dinamakan sempena tokoh-tokoh penting dalam sejarah kita; Kedatangan Sang Nila Utama ke Singapura dan penemuan Kerajaan Singapura hampir 700 tahun yang lalu yang telah membawa pada penamaan Singapura, dan gelaran kita sebagai ‘Bandar Singa’; Dan kita dapat menjejak sejarah penemuan Singapura daripada rekod-rekod penulisan sejarah penting yang dihasilkan oleh Tun Seri Lanang.
This reunion is very timely, as we commemorate our Bicentennial year – and reflect on our history to trace where we came from. The two schools bear the name of very important figures in our history. It was Sang Nila Utama’s arrival in Singapore, and the founding of the Kingdom of Singapura 700 years ago, that gave rise to Singapore, and our name, the ‘Lion City’; we have been able to look back all the way to our founding, thanks in no small part to Tun Seri Lanang, whose writings have served as records of our early history.
Legacy of the Schools
It is fitting that we named our first two Malay secondary schools after these two great figures. Sang Nila Utama (SNU) Secondary School was Singapore’s first Malay secondary school, officially opened in 1961. It was also among the first few secondary schools built after we attained self-government in 1959. It emphasised providing a well-rounded education, and was well-known for the range of extra-curricular activities (ECAs) that it offered.
The first Malay Rugby Union team was formed in SNU Secondary; and our first Malay President’s Scout, Samsudin Ali, also hailed from SNU Secondary. Tun Seri Lanang (TSL) Secondary School, our second Malay secondary school was opened in 1963 by the late Encik Othman Wok. TSL Secondary was an early proponent of ‘going regional’, and organised various overseas excursions for its students. It was also the alma mater to a number of prominent local sporting figures.
Alumni from SNU Secondary and TSL Secondary have made an impact on our wider community, with many graduates having gone on to excel in their respective fields: In sports – such as football star Razali Saad who represented Singapore in the 1984 Asian Cup and later became captain of the national squad; To the arts – such as award-winning poet Kamaria Buang; not forgetting politics – such as former Senior Parliamentary Secretaries Yatiman Yusof and Mohamed Maidin Packer Mohd. So glad to see Encik Yatiman here with us today.
I am happy that so many alumni and other members of the school communities are present today. We also have with us alumni from around the region, as well as former students of different races. It reflects the openness and diversity of the schools and the impact that the schools have had on your lives and the community.
The school communities exemplified the values of resilience, the commitment to education, and the sense of community of our earlier generations. These values remind us that Singapore is here today because different communities worked hard together to make lives better. Not only for members of their own community – but for all who call this place home, regardless of race, religion, and place of origin.
This is the spirit that we must uphold as we progress on our next phase of nation building. This is why I launched the Singapore Together Movement several months ago – to bring together people from different backgrounds to come together to tackle challenges, seize opportunities, and build our shared future together.
While the two schools are no longer around, I am glad that the spirit of the schools continue to live on in each of you, as living testimony of their good work. Sang Nila Utama Secondary and Tun Seri Lanang Secondary are not the only schools affected by changes over our history. In fact, the very first school I visited when I became the Minister for Education was Queenstown Primary School. The current school was formed through two rounds of mergers – once in 1984, and again in 2002 – involving a total of four schools. As the number of students, where they live, and their preference for the types of education change, the Ministry of Education had to close, merge, re-locate and start new schools. This is a reflection of the rapid changes that Singapore has undergone in the last fifty years. Thanks to the hard work of past generations, including many of you in this room.
I am sure many of the alumni here today continue to aspire towards the mottos of SNU and TSL: Berusaha Supaya Berjaya or Strive for Success, and Pengetahuan Harga Diri or Knowledge is Self-Esteem. This would be the best tribute to your alma mater.
Preserving our Heritage
Likewise, we continue to pay tribute to the historical figures that gave the schools their name. Tun Seri Lanang is honoured through the prestigious Tun Seri Lanang Award, one of the highest awards for Malay literature in Singapore. We have also named the Royal Garden at Fort Canning Park the ‘Sang Nila Utama Garden’.
In this Bicentennial Year, we are also commemorating Sang Nila Utama. His arrival on our shores 700 years ago marked our beginning. I am very happy to announce that we will be naming a road in Bidadari Estate as the ‘Sang Nila Utama Road’. This is something that the Malay community has been asking for, because of the important role that Sang Nila Utama Secondary School played in developing Malay education in Singapore.
Encik Yatiman and Encik Wan Hussin took an interest in this, and helped to advocate the naming of the road, writing to a few of us about the significance of having this marker. The Ministry of National Development and the Street and Building Names Board considered the matter carefully, taking into account the contributions of Sang Nila Utama, and I am glad that they have agreed to the new road name. This is especially fitting since the new road is located right next to the site of the former Sang Nila Utama Secondary School.
Besides the new road name, I am also happy to share that we will name a part of the new Heritage Walk within the Bidadari Estate as ‘Sang Nila Utama Boulevard’. This used to be the former Upper Aljunied Road, which is now pedestrianised. The Heritage Walk will run through the new Bidadari Park. Along Sang Nila Utama Boulevard will be a series of storyboards to recount the histories and memories of Bidadari’s rich past. I hope that in the future, Sang Nila Utama Road and Sang Nila Utama Boulevard can also be a physical reminder of the history of Sang Nila Utama Secondary School, and it will be a fitting place for the alumni to share the history of the school with future generations.
In closing, I would like to extend my thanks once again to Encik Wan Hussin, Encik Yatiman and the organisers for inviting me to this reunion.
I hope this afternoon will bring back fond memories for all of you, and will inspire you to continue to do your part to make life better for everyone in our young nation.
Let us join hands in our Singapore Together movement, to do our part to build a better future, just as the generations before us had done.
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