The Arrivals and Their Contributions
Sang Nila Utama was a Srivijayan prince from Palembang, who arrived on our white sandy shores while on a hunt in 1299. His vision of a lion – which he took as a good omen – inspired him to establish the city of Singapura, the Lion City, which he and his descendants turned into a flourishing port.
A gifted linguist and scholar who spoke Arabic, Tamil, Hindi and Malay, Munshi Abdullah arrived in 1819 as Raffles’ secretary and interpreter, and taught him many aspects of Malay language. His autobiography made him the first published local Malay writer, and earned him the title “the father of modern Malay literature”.
Naraina Pillai arrived in Singapore in 1819. He started out as chief clerk at the treasury, but with Singapore fast developing, he established Singapore’s first brick company, and became the first Indian contractor in Singapore. He was a leader in the Indian community, and his legacy includes helping to build the Sri Mariamman Temple at South Bridge Road.
In 1819, Thomas Stamford Raffles signed a treaty with local chiefs that enabled the British to set up a trading post on the island. In his aim to remodel Singapore, he conceived a town plan to build roads, schools and government buildings. Raffles also formulated policies and regulations to establish Singapore as a thriving free port to compete with other neighbouring ports under the control of the Dutch.
Hailing from humble beginnings, Tan Tock Seng arrived from Melaka in 1819, and started out selling fruits and vegetables. His grit and enterprising spirit saw him become a successful and wealthy businessman – but one who always gave back. He contributed generously to the community, most notably helping to build Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and also founded Thian Hock Keng Temple. He was the first Asian to be made Justice of the Peace, and helped to settle disputes among the early Chinese settlers.