The Padang becomes Singapore's 75th national monument

Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Edwin Tong (in red) officiated the gazetting of the Padang on 8 August, 2022. (PHOTO: Elizabeth Tong/Yahoo News Singapore)
Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Edwin Tong (in red) officiated the gazetting of the Padang on 8 August, 2022. (PHOTO: Elizabeth Tong/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — The Padang will be gazetted as Singapore’s 75th national monument on Tuesday (9 August), as the city-state celebrates its 57th birthday.

The iconic site, in existence since 1822, is the first green, open space to be preserved and accorded the highest level of protection in Singapore under the Preservation of Monuments.

While there are no physical structures that define the Padang, it has been the site of many of Singapore's shared memories as a nation and its people, said Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Edwin Tong who officiated the gazette on Monday.

A handful of veterans, who were part of the 23,000 men and women involved in the inaugural National Day Parade (NDP) held in 1966 at the Padang, also attended the event.

History at the Padang

"Generations of people have gathered here and witnessed key milestones in Singapore’s history. It stands as a testament to Singapore’s historical journey. Our journey, our trials or tribulations or progress, have all been witnessed by this open space here," Tong said.

"It anchors our Singaporean identity and reflects our place in the world."

These national milestones include, Tong pointed out, the victory parade celebrating the formal surrender of the Japanese in Singapore in 1945, the declaration of merger with Malaysia in 1963 as well as the inaugural 1966 NDP and every NDP thereafter until 1975.

Tong also noted that it is also one of the oldest open spaces in Singapore continuously used for public and social recreation since the 1800s.

The history of the Padang could go back even further, as some evidence has also suggested that it could have been the site of negotiations between the British East India Company and the Sultan of Johore and Temenggong, according to the National Heritage Board (NHB).

These negotiations would lead up to the eventual signing of the treaty in 1819, which allowed the British to establish of the settlement of Singapore.

"This open space is a tangible reminder of how we came to be and how far we have come since the days of our independence as a nation and people," Tong said.

The gazetting of the Padang as a national monument will protect it from alteration and change which would affect its character and significance while allowing it to continue to be a social and community space enjoyed by all Singaporeans, he added.

Greater awareness of the Padang

From August, NHB will promote greater awareness and appreciation of the site through new initiatives for students and members of the public, including tours and interactive games.

Singapore's NDP will be held in the Padang in 2023.

Located in the civic district, the approximately 4.3 ha Padang – Malay for "field – is bordered by several national monuments all around its perimeter.

They include the Cenotaph, Lim Bo Seng Memorial, Tan Kim Seng Fountain along one of its longer sides, the former City Hall, former Supreme Court, and Saint Andrew's Cathedral on the other, as well as the Civilian War Memorial and Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall at either end of its shorter sides.

The Pandang is also surrounded by the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) and Singapore Recreation Club (SRC).

Calling the space's gazette "long overdue", SCC president Zoher Motiwalla said, "The SCC has been privileged to have been a part of the Padang since we were established in 1852... We take very seriously our role as one of the stalwart custodians of this newest national monument, the Padang, and will continue to help maintain it as a place that brings communities together to interact and play through sports and leisure activities."

Noting that SRC has been the co-custodian of the Padang for the past 139 years, president Chang Yeh Hong said the club has continued its tradition of promoting sports for all, "a tradition we will proudly uphold".

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in 2019 announced that the Padang, along with the Singapore River bridges, would be gazetted to commemorate the city-state’s bicentennial that year.

The Preservation of Monuments Act was amended last year to pave the way for sites such as the Padang to be gazetted.

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