Statement by Leader of the House, Minister Indranee Rajah:
Mr Speaker, Sir, on behalf of the Singapore Parliament, I would like to pay tribute to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who passed away on 8 September 2022.
I would also like to acknowledge Her Excellency Kara Owen, High Commissioner of the United Kingdom to the Republic of Singapore, who is here with us in the House today in the upper gallery.
Her Late Majesty was not only Queen of the United Kingdom but also the Head of the Commonwealth, a family of 56 nations across the globe, of which Singapore is a proud member.
Queen Elizabeth had a unique role in Singapore’s history. She was Queen during Singapore’s transition from a crown colony to an independent state, including when the fledgling legislature that would eventually become this Parliament was born.
After the landmark general election of 1955, at the inaugural session of the Singapore Legislative Assembly, the forerunner of this Parliament, she sent a congratulatory message that was delivered in this House on 22 April 1955, which said:
“I am glad at the opening of the first session of the Legislative Assembly under the New Constitution of Singapore to express to my people in Singapore my great satisfaction at the significant advance in their constitutional progress which is marked by this occasion. The Council of Ministers will now have to deal with the many problems of Government and upon them will fall the chief burden of responsibility for the continued advancement and prosperity of Singapore and for the welfare and safety of its citizens.
I look forward with every confidence to the faithful discharge of this trust for I am sure that those on whom this responsibility falls will carry it out with foresight, courage and honesty of purpose. It is my earnest hope that the work of the Legislative Assembly under the New Constitution will be blest with every success."
Throughout her remarkable life, The Queen was the epitome of duty, stability, wisdom and grace. Above all, she embodied duty and service before self, in an unbroken thread through the decades.
On her 21st birthday, she dedicated her life to the Commonwealth in these words “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.” Her life was indeed long, and she more than fulfilled that pledge – quietly, steadfastly and humbly – in the service of her country and the Commonwealth. She showed her humility in the less often quoted next sentence of the speech, “But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do”.
The Queen continued to discharge her duties right to the end, including meeting with and appointing The Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss as her 15th Prime Minister just two days before she passed.
However, beyond duty and public service, Queen Elizabeth was also loved because of her personal touch, and the warmth, sincerity and graciousness that she displayed to people from all walks of life. She was charming, witty and disarming, with an intrinsic ability to put someone immediately at ease. I can personally attest to these attributes, having had the privilege of meeting her as Singapore’s representative at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference held in 2002, the year of her Golden Jubilee.
Between The Queen and Singapore there has always been a reciprocal relationship of warmth and affection.
She made three State Visits to Singapore: in 1972, 1989 and 2006. During these visits, she enjoyed the unique sights, sounds and experiences of Singapore.
Beyond the formality and ceremonials involved in State Visits, The Queen took the time and effort to get to know ordinary Singaporeans better. In 1972, she visited Toa Payoh where she met Mr Thomas Pung and his family in their HDB flat. They graciously invited her into their home and offered her a drink: a glass of 7Up. 34 years later in 2006 on her third State Visit, she visited the Pungs again. On her second State Visit in 1989, The Queen visited Ang Mo Kio, where one young girl was photographed presenting her with a bouquet of flowers. Her name was He Ting Ru, and she is now a Member of Parliament.
Although she did not visit in the last decade, The Queen would also be a familiar figure to our younger generations, many of whom have studied, worked or holidayed in the United Kingdom.
During her long reign, The Queen received countless gifts from around the world. Members will be happy to note that at least a couple from Singapore appear to have meant something to her. On her first State Visit, she visited the Rollei factory at Kampong Chai Chee of which we were very proud. They presented her with a small gold-plated 35mm Rollei camera made in Singapore. The Queen was quite a keen photographer, and made good use of it. We learnt this only when she celebrated her 70 th wedding anniversary, and BBC carried an old photo of her using the distinctive camera, which some of us were old enough to recognise and remember.
The second gift is a gold and diamond Peranakan brooch, referred to by Buckingham Palace as the Singapore Shield Brooch, which was presented to her on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012 by then-President Dr Tony Tan. By some accounts, she wore this brooch more than 20 times, most recently at the opening of the Elizabeth Line in May 2022 for her Platinum Jubilee.
The Queen’s association with Singapore continues to be marked in and around our city. Queen Elizabeth Walk, along Marina Bay, and Queenstown, Singapore’s first satellite town, were named to commemorate her coronation in 1953. Places and roads in Queenstown are named after places in Scotland where she spent time during her childhood, such as Strathmore, Forfar, and Stirling. Princess Elizabeth Primary School in Bukit Batok was also named after her. We have kept these place and school names. They record part of our history, and reflect our continued high regard for Her Late Majesty and our enduring friendly relations with the United Kingdom.
The passing of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II marks the end of an era.
On behalf of this House, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to His Majesty King Charles III and the Royal Family and to the people of the United Kingdom on the passing of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Mr Speaker, Sir, as a mark of respect, I propose that the House observe a minute of silence.