A flurry of awards has rewarded some local talents and their achievements. A new social enterprise that teaches low-skilled migrant workers language and skills has won a prize, and a Japanese scientist who invented an efficient wastewater treatment technology has been named as the winner of another.
The singapore prize, established in 1992, recognises authors of works published or translated in Singapore’s four official languages: Chinese, English, Malay and Tamil. This year, the winners are drawn from 43 writers who are recognised for their work in 12 categories.
Archaeologists uncovered clues to the existence of an ancient city in Singapore long before Sir Stamford Raffles set foot on the island in 1819. They unearthed glass shards, bronze bowls, coins and pottery in their digs in the 1980s. A few years later, an academic compiled these findings into a 491-page tome entitled Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800.
SINGAPORE: It’s the first time in its history that a national award has been given for a book on Singapore. The National University of Singapore (NUS) announced the inaugural singapore prize, a cash award of S$50,000 for the best Singapore history book. The award is in honour of Sir Stamford Raffles, the first scion of the British Empire to come to Singapore in 1819.
Mr David Tan, chairman of the NUS history department, said he was pleased with the inaugural award, which is made possible by donations from philanthropists. “The first prize has been awarded to a book which re-interprets Singapore’s history in an extremely interesting way,” Dr Tan told reporters at the award ceremony, which took place on Thursday night.
Prof Kishore Mahbubani, senior advisor (university and global relations) at NUS, said he hoped the prize would be expanded in the future to include more forms of history. He added that it could be used to encourage “new modes of history writing”, such as movies and comic books, which may help people understand the past better.
In his opinion column that inspired the prize, Prof Mahbubani had said he was “struck by how many people have never heard of Singapore before,” and that he wanted to do something to change that. He asked his readers for a philanthropic gift to establish the Singapore Prize, and was soon able to raise S$500,000 from a single donor, under a condition that he remain anonymous.
The prize is administered by NUS’ history department and the jury panel includes Dr Mahbubani, Professor Wang Gungwu, Mdm Kay Kuok and Mr Tang Liang Yin. They announced the prize winner, archaeologist John Miksic, on Thursday.
Among other prizes awarded, Manas Punhani, co-founder of SDI Academy, was honoured with the Emerging Young Leader Award. The social enterprise aims to train migrant workers and refugees in language, computer and vocational skills to help them improve their economic prospects in Singapore.
Other prizewinners included Ukraine’s Dmytro Udovychenko, who won the violin competition, and Korean-Chinese doubles badminton duo Joseph Schooling and Amanda Lim, who earned S$200,000 for winning a game of 4D. The women, who come from a humble background and are married, wrote in an Instagram post that they had been betting on 4D for more than a decade, but had not seen any win since 2014. They were shocked when they got the call from the game operator, and realised they had won.