Workers’ Party MP Jamus Lim noted in a Facebook post the “mixed” legacy of Queen Elizabeth II, whose recent passing was observed with a minute of silence in Parliament on Monday (Sept 12).
However, Assoc Prof Lim added that Singapore “has benefited from its colonial history” and that “As far as colonies go, we were fortunate.”
The Sengkang MP included in his post a screenshot from CNA from the sitting, including a quote from House Leader Indranee Rajah saying “Queen Elizabeth has had a unique role in Singapore’s history.”
Assoc Prof Lim noted that Queen Elizabeth had been the head of state of Singapore when she was a crown colony, as well as presided over Singapore’s transition to an independent state.
“As a constitutional monarch—who derived her influence on the basis of respect and wisdom more so than formal power—she performed that role admirably,” he wrote.
He added that while she was beloved by millions around the world, there has been a wide range of reactions to her death.
For example, while Ms He Ting Ru, Assoc Prof Lim’s fellow MP at Sengkang GRC, had posted a fond remembrance of giving the Queen flowers when she was a young girl, “others rue the destruction and bloodshed that was perpetrated in her name.”
“Like all things in life, of course, the truth behind her legacy is, ultimately, mixed.”
He then proceeded to list the ways Singapore has benefited from its colonial history: “we enjoyed investment from Great Britain that helped us develop from a fishing village to an important global port, missionaries started schools that transferred education and knowledge (and many remain among the most esteemed on the island today), and we inherited institutions—such as a Westminster parliamentary system, a common law legal framework, and a well-structured bureaucracy—that helped us massively in our development journey.”
Assoc Prof Lim followed this up by adding “a number of colonial-era hangovers” including CPF, racial structures, Section 377A of the Penal Code, and others that Singapore has had to face.
However, he added “As far as colonies go, we were fortunate. We had a strategic location for a seafaring empire, but no real natural resources of consequence.
Britain saw Singapore as a settlement colony, and this enabled the sort of mostly-benevolent rule that has contributed, for more good than ill, to the society we see today.”
He also noted that in other colonies, where historically there was more violent suppression, how former colonizers were viewed is far less positive.
“All this is a reminder of how, in addition to sound governance and hard work, it is useful to remember that we have also benefited from more than a modicum of good luck,” Assoc Prof Lim added.