I beilieve the NUS was one of the first to lead the charge. The School of Medicine particularly. I for one, was aghast when heard they named the grand old School of Medicine after a Yong Loo Lin. 'Yong who?' was my first response. How could they? Here was my old alma mater, 100 years old, with a proud heritage.....gone overnight. Morphing unceremoniously into the Yong Loo Lin of Medicine. "Yong-who? School of Medicine?" . No consulation with staff.....or alumni. Talk about a top down approach. Many of my contemporaries had been equally appalled. A heritage sold. No matter how the School of Medicine insists on the continued heritage, there is no doubt it had all been destroyed by the stroke of a pen.
How much was the heritage worth? One hundred million bucks. Sounds big doesn't it? Until you realize how big the annual operating budget for the school is. Let me tell you one hundred million dollars doesn't really go very far. Consider for example, that the NUS operating expenditure is in the range of $1.5 billion.
And so we sold the hundred year heritage for a hundred million dollars. One million for each year. How callous, and tragic (not to even mention that the old original building of the medical school, the female asylum, had much earlier on, been bulldozed over to build a carpark!).
This was most certainly one of the straws that led to the final one for Dr Tan Cheng Bock. He finally resigned in exasperation from the board of Jurong Hospital when they decided to name the hospital after Ng Teng Fong, whose family had also donated some money.... some $125 million of it. Again while the sum may appear big, it is also small compared to the $1 billion the government is spending on the hospital.
So what gives....?
Seems to me that our idea of Total Defence includes the protection our heritage, because it is our heritage that holds us together and gives Singaporeans a sense of that common history and vision for the future. Seems to me that the selling off of our heritage for a paltry 30 pieces of silver is not working in our favour, and undermines all the effort in the building our total defence.
It is time to take stock.