Since the book launch, I have been invited to two Meet-the-Author sessions, the first was at the National Library, and the second at the Kinokuniya bookshop. It has been an interesting experience, meeting a wide range of people and those interested to know more about The Singapore Lion. I am encouraged by the great interest shown in the book.
Times the bookshop at Tampines has booked me for a session tomorrow. The details are in the poster. I look forward to meeting you there!
News: The Straits Times – 5 February 2010
PM hails Raja’s vision of multi-racialism
His ideas were ahead of their time in the 1950s
By Rachel Chang
AN UNKNOWN series of radio plays scripted by founding father S. Rajaratnam was brought to life last night.
Written in 1957 and set in the tumultuous period of the time, the series ‘A Nation in the Making’ is about the need to separate race and religion from the foremost task of nation-building.
The scripts were unearthed by MP Irene Ng in her research for the biography of Mr Rajaratnam, who died in 2006 at age 90.
Titled The Singapore Lion, it is a 576-page narrative of Singapore’s first culture minister, and later its first foreign minister.
At its launch, an adapted version of Mr Rajaratnam’s plays was performed by The Necessary Stage at the Drama Centre Theatre, to the delight of the 600-strong audience.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the guest of honour, said he never knew Mr Rajaratnam had written the radio plays, which ‘set out in dramatic form his belief in building a Malayan nation’.
It was but one of the ‘interesting nuggets’ in the book, he added, in a speech on Mr Rajaratnam’s role in and contributions to Singapore’s modern history.
His ideas on multiracialism were ‘ahead of their time’ when he expounded them in the 1940s and 1950s, said Mr Lee.
‘But over the decades, they proved relevant and enduring. Today, they appear less striking and original than they truly were, only because they have shaped our values as a nation, and become widely accepted as the way things should be.’
Mr Rajaratnam’s unique contribution was his unrelenting faith in a multi-racial, meritocratic society.
Said Mr Lee: ‘Multi-racialism was deep in him. He was viscerally against making distinctions between racial groups.’
It led him to write the National Pledge.
It made him push for a ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ at a time when other politicians were whipping up racial passions to incite the masses.
Mr Lee said this conviction stemmed fundamentally from Mr Rajaratnam’s nature: ‘He was an optimist and an idealist, who naturally respected and warmed to people of all backgrounds.’
He held fast to this faith despite the belief being repeatedly contradicted by events.
Race was the reason Singapore was ultimately expelled from the federation of Malaysia, noted Mr Lee.
He added: ‘Till today, race, language and religion are sensitive issues in many South-east Asian countries, and will remain so for a long time.’
In conjunction with the book launch, an exhibition at the National Library building of Mr Rajaratnam’s personal photographs, diaries and books will be held for three months, until May 4.
The guest list at last night’s event featured many political luminaries of the past, including Mr Lee Khoon Choy, who was parliamentary secretary at the then-Culture Ministry in 1959 when Mr Rajaratnam helmed it.
‘I implemented his ideas,’ he said. ‘Our first big event was an inter-racial concert at the Botanic Gardens, which became a yearly thing.’
He added that for people of different races who had previously been compartmentalised by the British colonial system: ‘It was the first time a Malay saw a Chinese dance, and vice versa!’
Asked why these concerts were stopped, he said: ‘There’s no more need. Everybody knows each other’s culture now.’
- end of ST article