'Long live the Queen' archway raises some eyebrows

'Long live the Queen' archway raises some eyebrows

SINGAPORE - An archway in Queenstown proclaiming "Long live the Queen" has left some scratching their heads, even as residents gathered on Saturday night for a concert to mark the estate's 60th anniversary.

The arch was put up as part of the celebrations at the estate, which was named after Queen Elizabeth II. Nine of 15 Singaporeans The Sunday Times spoke to described the arch as odd, calling it a "colonial hangover".

"It's not appropriate as we are an independent country and no longer under British rule," said polytechnic course manager Tia Boon Sim, 57, who lived in Queenstown for the first 16 years of her life.

Since Sept 13, the estate has been marking its anniversary with a two-week-long arts and heritage festival, which includes 37 performances and exhibitions. Over 22,700 residents attended these events. An anniversary concert was held at Tanglin Halt Community Plaza last night.

"It's actually just good fun," said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing on the arch, on the sidelines of the concert.

"It's just part of our heritage... and to recognise how Queenstown started 60 years ago, how far we have come and how far more we want to go."

In his speech to an audience of about 2,000, he also conveyed the well-wishes of Queen Elizabeth II in a letter from her private secretary Christopher Geidt. The letter said the Queen was interested to learn of the efforts being made to maintain the estate's heritage.

The festival, organised by civic group My Community and supported by the Queenstown Citizens Consultative Committee, was to showcase the area's history.

My Community founder Kwek Li Yong, 24, said the arch - featuring a photo of the Queen and decorated with the Union Jack - is a re-creation of a larger one that was erected in 1953 in North Bridge Road to celebrate the Queen's coronation.

"History teaches us to look back at events. So, we are tracing the estate's roots back to when the British started it, as Singapore's first satellite town," he said.

Named by the British on Sept 27, 1953, Queenstown began as a project by the Singapore Improvement Trust to tackle overcrowding in Chinatown. The trust was later replaced by the Housing Board in 1959. It was in Queenstown that HDB built its first blocks.

Last year, in September, the Queen's grandson, Prince William, and his wife Catherine paid a visit to the estate during an Asia-Pacific tour to mark her Diamond Jubilee.

Residents said the arch, which has been up at the entrance of Tanglin Halt's community plaza near Block 46-2 since Sept 15 and would be taken down on Sunday - could have come with a sign explaining why it was there.

"Otherwise, the proclamation seems out of place in the Singaporean heartland," said secretary Aileen See, 53. But others. some of whom posed for photos under the lit-up arch, said it "need not be taken too seriously".

Some of the older residents, such as Mr L.H. Khoo, 74, said it was a fitting tribute because the British had a role in building Singapore's first modern town.

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