Friday, February 21, 2020

Lee Kuan Yew's Walkabout at Princess Elizabeth Estate 1963

Nineteen Sixty-three was a tumultuous year both for me and for Singapore.
For me, I was still in primary school learning my ABCs and Times Table. Yes, in my time, children hardly ever attended kindergarten then. We started 'learning' in primary school. I was barely cognisant of what was happening outside of my school life!

For Singapore, it was a politically heady time. Singapore had declared itself independent from the United Kingdom, it appointed its own Head of State (Yang di-Pertuan Negara) and had its own Prime Minister. In de facto, Singapore freed herself from British colonisation that year.
Ahead was a planned merger with some states of Malaya and Borneo, that was being opposed both locally and internationally!

In the political turmoil after the 1959 election, Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew won a 1962 referendum for merger with the Federated States of Malaya and some North Borneo states to form the new Malaysia.  To quell opposing views about the forth-coming merger, Mr Lee visited all 51 constituencies in Singapore in 1963 to explain their rationale for this merger.

On 5th May 1963, he visited Princess Elizabeth Estate as part of his tour of Bukit Timah Constituency.

Keep in mind that back in 1963, there were no resident's committees, no citizen consultative branches, no grassroots organisations, etc. Estates, kampongs, villages and settlements were all run by whoever appeared to be the leader and accepted by the community as head. All were volunteers.

At Princess Elizabeth Estate, the 'management' of the estate was taken up by the community centre management committee (CCMC), who sort of oversaw more than just what took place within the community centre. They also played the role of  'estate managers' when requested and acted as liaisons with officialdom on behalf of residents in the estate.
The community centre was not as yet under the purview of the People's Association.
Then they were all volunteer residents from the estate who stepped forward to help their own community.

I recently came across archived photos of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's visit to Princess Elizabeth Estate in 1963, during which he also laid the foundation stone for the new People's Association Community Centre building at Prince Charles Rise. These photos are from the archives of the National Archives Singapore (NAS) and all copyright belong to them. I do not own any of the attached photos.

If you lived at Princess Elizabeth Estate then and can recognise anyone from these pictures, please do drop me a comment so that we can all enjoy these old memories the better.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew arrives at Princess Elizabeth Estate in his Landrover along Princess Elizabeth Drive.
Children from Princess Elizabeth Estate School lined the road as guard of honour to welcome him.
PEE School is at the far background and the row of houses at the left were the new
Popular Estate terraced houses that were not yet occupied.
I can still vividly recall this event and more so because we schoolchildren were each given a cupcake and a bottle of
Green Spot orange drink when we were re-assembled back in school after his arrival.

Mr Lee being garland by Dr Raja at the car park that was also the Green Bus Terminal.
Can anyone remember that Estate signboard at the bus terminal?
Dr Raja, the only physician in our estate was the CCMC Chairman at the time.
The walkabout began with a tour of the estate and meeting residents.
They were walking across the small field in front of Blk 22. In the background is the rear of Blk 21 where I lived.
Dr Raja leads the entourage in front of LKY.
Mr Lee Teck Hup is at the far right.
Passing Blk 20 Princess Anne Hill, the longest block of flats in the estate.
Coming down (Princess) Elizabeth Drive from Blk 24.
Notice how narrow Elizabeth Drive was? With cars parking along the edge, another car can pass only in one direction.
If cars came head on, someone had to reverse and back away to allow the other to pass.
The same procession from an obverse view. LKY waving to residents at Blk 23.
The man beside Dr Raja in front I can only remember as Tony Chua's father.
Entourage heading down Princess Anne Hill to Prince Charles Rise to the new
PA Community Centre building site for LKY to lay the foundation stone.
Man on the left of LKY was my father, Tann Yean, who was also on the CCMC,
Dr Raja on the right of LKY.
LKY speaking to residents on the construction site of the new PA community centre
in front of Blk 17, Prince Charles Rise.
He spoke about the upcoming Merger with Malaya to form Malaysia.

The new PA Community Centre was built over the old badminton courts and the grove of Mangosteen trees.
Notice the ramshackle huts and zinc roofs on the far left? That was the old 'market' stalls.

Mr Lee laying the foundation stone for the new Community Centre.