There are two camps taking sides for and against the Sun Yat Sen Museum. Those in favour could see the relevance of this revolutionary and his brief sojourn in the island. It was a time in our history when most of the residents were non citizens but migrants here only to earn a living and would probably return to their motherland. The Chinese were Chinese from China, Indians were Indians from India. The colonial masters would not grant them citizenship so easily as they owned the island. They would not be so silly to give citizenship to foreigners. They could come and work, but no citizenship. Citizenship is a valuable status and not to be given away freely. Only govt that do not think citizenship is of any great significance will give away citizenship freely. They did not understand that such an act is like giving the country away, to the new citizens.
The history of Sun Yat Sen tells us that citizenship is important and should not be treated foolishly as an economic good. The Chinese and Indians of those days fought for their countries because they were citizens of those countries. They identified and belonged to their motherland.
History has since taken a turn and many are now citizens of this island and no longer think of China and India as their motherland. Maybe we are revisiting this old phenomenon with new citizens thinking like the old Chinese and old Indians, and are still attached to their motherland. It would take several generations to change this mindset.
For those who were against the museum, they are also the descendants of the past, who now think that the past, especially foreigners, should not have too much of a place in our history. They forget that many of those in Bukit Brown were non citizens, some even with official titles from their motherland. Then again, they should deserve some honour and recognition.
We have a very short history and very few heroes and fables. We need to create more. We can’t just live on Hang Tuah alone. We need more histories of our past, more folk heroes to tell their stories to our young. Our past, our predecessors, should form part of our rich heritage. Maybe they were not in too eminent a position to be recognised. They could be the forefathers of our Kennedy’s and our Carnegies, our Tans and our Lees.
If Indonesians can feel proud of Obama just because he was there as a child, now a President of the US, there is no reason why we should treat the presence of Sun Yat Sen with lesser importance. He was here not as a nobody child but then already a revolutionary leader. Histories are made of these. Every little bits to form the tapestry of our history. We need to treasure our history, our past.
Without our past, we will all be silly Singaporeans, without roots, like duck weeds floating in the sea, thinking everything and everyone was great except our own kind and our own history.