PM Lee Hsien Loong at gazetting of Fullerton Hotel as a National Monument on 7 December 2015.
Mr Robert Ng, Chairman of the Sino Group, friends, ladies and gentlemen.Very happy to be here with you this evening for the gazetting of the Fullerton Hotel as a national monument.
There are many historic buildings in Singapore, each one with its unique history, its own story.
But when we gazette a historic building as a national monument, it is a special accolade because it means the building carries a significant bit of our history – our history as a nation. It holds a special meaning to Singapore and Singaporeans and we have chosen to preserve it for future generations.
Today, the Fullerton Hotel joins the ranks of other national monuments in Singapore. It is our 71st national monument.
It is not a particularly old building, the hotel certainly is not old as Robert told you it was created in 2001 but this building goes back before that, back to the 1920s and has been part of the lives of Singaporeans in many ways. As you heard, when it was opened in 1928, it was home to the General Post Office. Older Singaporeans will remember it fondly as the “GPO”. The Post Office would have been an ordinary person’s most likely point of contact with the building for much of the last century.
The building was also an important point of reference for public roads in Singapore, known as “Mile Zero”. Because this being a British Colony, we had a British system for measuring distances and there were milestones along the roads, and at every 5th mile, 6th mile, 7th mile, hence, Bukit Timah was 7th mile, and people used these milestones to navigate and find their way around. Where did the milestones all start from? They started from the GPO Building – Mile Zero. Therefore, we knew where we stood all over Singapore. During the Japanese Occupation, it was the headquarters of the Japanese Military Administration and when the British military finally gave up the fight and decided to surrender to the Japanese, it was here that the military told the British Governor that they were going to give up.
Crucially, the building was home to many government offices. When it was first built, the building housed the Marine Department, the Imports and Exports Office, Port Health Office. Over the years, it housed many Ministries and Agencies - the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade, Economic Development Board, Monetary Authority of Singapore, Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, then known as the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Communications. Pioneer leaders like Dr Goh Keng Swee and Mr Hon Sui Sen and many public servants of the pioneer generation worked here. Like Mr Goh Chok Tong, Mr Ngiam Tong Dow and others who are here with us today and they from this place, planned and built the prosperous Singapore that we enjoy today.
I also have fond memories of this place because during general elections, political parties would hold lunchtime rallies at Fullerton Square. Mr Lee Kuan Yew would speak at the PAP lunch time rally, always a major event in the campaign, and delivered many stirring and memorable speeches, usually under the sun, sometimes in the pouring rain and my mother would listen to him from the balcony of the Fullerton Building. When I first entered politics in 1984, I too spoke at the Fullerton Square rally which back then was still at Fullerton Square. Today we still call it the Fullerton Square rally but it is actually at UOB Plaza promenade on Boat Quay! Therefore, there are many happy memories and I am happy to be back here.
On this happy occasion, I would like to thank the Sino Group for their effort in conserving and promoting our national heritage. They have been custodians of the Fullerton Hotel since 1997, sensitive to its rich heritage, preserved it well and also revitalised the surroundings – the Fullerton Heritage Precinct. They may not have built it taller but they have certainly made it grander. But they did make it a little bit taller, after it was done, they showed us pictures and told us there was a lighthouse on top and I remembered there was a lighthouse on top so I looked at the old building and I looked at it again and said “something is not quite right, it looks taller than it used to be!” So I went to look up the old pictures on the internet as it appeared before the Sino Group took over and lo and behold there was one extra layer in the wedding cake which rose and the lighthouse went on top of the wedding cake. So they did what they could and I think they got the height just right.
So congratulations on the gazetting of Fullerton Hotel as a national monument. This occasion is made all the more special as it takes place during our Jubilee Year and is actually a part of the Jubilee Walk. Connected to other national monuments nearby like the National Gallery Singapore, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall and the Asian Civilisations Museum. Together defining a fine Civic District for Singapore. It looks beautiful in the day time, it looks very beautiful at night. And if you are here at dawn, as I was for the Jubilee Walk, you would find it special too. This transformation of the building is in a way a reflection of how Singapore as a nation has transformed, in one lifetime, going from an old and historic building, while something has been updated, we kept the essence of the old but up to date and better than before. The building has done so, so has Singapore from third world to first. When the building was opened in 1928 by Governor Sir Hugh Clifford – hence the name Clifford Pier, he said “the building is, and will be for many years, one of the principal landmarks of Singapore”. Almost ninety years later, his words remain true. I am sure this building will continue to stand proud and handsome, and witness an even more prosperous and vibrant Singapore for many years to come. Congratulations and thank you very much.
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