“His passing is greatly mourned by everyone in Singapore,” he added.
Experts say the reason for the difference is that Singapore – ruled by Britain for 144 years until 1963 when it became part of Malaysia and then fully independent in 1965 – emerged relatively unscathed from colonial rule compared to some other former colonies.
Indeed, its politicians have given Britain measured praise over the years for establishing a legal system that has contributed to the modern prosperity of the city-state, now a prosperous sovereign country with among the richest in the world per capita and has its own head of state.
Parliament observed a minute’s silence on Monday out of respect for the late Queen. “Her late Majesty was not only the Queen of the United Kingdom, but also the Head of the Commonwealth, a family of 56 nations across the world of which Singapore is a proud member,” said Head of House Indranee Rajah.
“Beyond the formality and ceremonies associated with state visits, the Queen has taken the time and effort to get to know ordinary Singaporeans better,” she said.
And on September 19, the day of his funeral, state flags on government buildings will be flown at half-mast – under instructions from Prime Minister Lee.
Colonialism: Forgiven and Forgotten
In Singapore, roads, neighborhoods and prestigious institutions like government buildings and hospitals still bear the names of British lords and various military commanders.
Queenstown, a bustling central district, the Queen Elizabeth Walk and even Princess Elizabeth Primary School have been named after Elizabeth II to commemorate her coronation in 1953.
In 2019, Singapore held large-scale bicentenary celebrations with festivals and events marking the 200th anniversary of the arrival of British statesman Sir Stamford Raffles and the British East India Company arriving on its shores.
“Singaporeans, especially those in the ruling elite, tend to have a rather benign view of Britain and its monarchy,” noted political scientist Ian Chong of the National University of Singapore, who recalled the public fervor around visiting members of the royal family over the years.
The Queen herself has been welcomed three times: in 1972, 1989 and 2006. As part of Singapore’s diplomatic charm offensive, she gave her name to a cultivated orchid hybrid, bred from orchids native from Singapore and Papua New Guinea.
“Overall, opinions of Queen Elizabeth II and the British Royal Family are positive in Singapore,” Chong said.
“Some of this is not surprising given that our departure from British colonial rule was negotiated, in contrast to states that experienced widespread repression and more violent ends to colonial rule.”
“Romanticized for political reasons”
“The official narrative deliberately romanticizes (colonialism) for political reasons while suppressing other perspectives,” said exiled journalist and historian Thum Ping Tjin, also a visiting scholar at Hertford College in Oxford. Like other critics, Thum questioned the admiration Singapore’s rulers sometimes expressed for their colonial founders and the erasure of anti-colonial activism.
“Singapore continues to be governed using the same values, institutions and assumptions that underpinned British colonialism, so the government cannot reject or repudiate colonialism without also criticizing its own values, institutions and methods of governance” , said Thum.
“In many ways, independent Singapore is an heir to British colonial rules that we adapted – we see it in everything from government housing programs to specific policies and laws,” said Chong the political scientist.
“Our politicians often point out that the colonial system of laws and courts benefits our prosperity and stability. Thus, colonial rule is generally seen as benign and a bedrock of Singapore’s wealth. Hence the celebratory air surrounding (events such as) the bicentenary celebrations at the time. 2019.”
In November, Barbados – Britain’s oldest colony – deposed the Queen as head of state and declared itself a republic.
But in Singapore, a republic that appoints a president – currently Halimah Yacob – as its own ceremonial head of state, Charles seems relatively popular.
While still a prince, Charles was a familiar public figure to many Singaporeans. In 2017, he received the same Singaporean honor as the Queen and other dignitaries of having an orchid – the national flower – named after him and his wife Camilla, now the Queen consort.
Experts now expect growth the interest and curiosity of Singaporeans surrounding the new monarch of England.
Memes of Charles among young Singaporeans have already popped up on popular local chat rooms, suggesting that the royal family’s legacy, for now at least, remains intact.