One of the oldest Chinese clan associations here celebrated its 90th birthday in a part of the heartland first developed by its founder.
The Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan marked the occasion last Saturday with a night of festivities in Yishun, with about 2,000 guests gathering at MPC @ Khatib, a multi-purpose venue near Khatib MRT station.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, speaking in Mandarin, noted the special significance of the venue for Teochews.
Yishun is named after Teochew merchant Lim Nee Soon, who developed the area with plantations in the early 1900s. He was the Huay Kuan's founding president.
"Mr Lim was a Teochew, but he worked hard not only for the benefit of the Teochews. He looked at the needs of the whole Chinese community," said Mr Heng, pointing to how the Teochew pioneer worked with community leader Tan Kah Kee, who was Hokkien, to set up The Chinese High School, now Hwa Chong Institution.
"Today, we should work together and continue to promote and carry forward this spirit," said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister.
Huay Kuan president Chan Kian Kuan said moving into the heartland is a new direction for the Teochew group as well as a way to honour Mr Lim. "We want to work with other Singaporeans of different dialects and backgrounds to build the nation, expressing the courageous and hard-working pioneering spirit of our forefathers," he said.
The guests at last Saturday's event included several ambassadors, about 100 representatives from overseas clan associations, around 500 Nee Soon GRC residents, and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who chairs the Government's Chinese Community Liaison Group.
Nine members of rival Teochew group Ngee Ann Kongsi were also present. The Straits Times understands that its president Jamie Teo and vice-president Richard Lee pulled out of the festivities at the last minute, citing other commitments. Ngee Ann Kongsi members at the event declined to comment further.
The 90th anniversary celebration comes amid a spat between the two groups over the iconic six-storey Teochew Building in Tank Road, which both occupied for more than 50 years. While Ngee Ann Kongsi relocated its office to Balestier Road in August last year, the Huay Kuan still operates from the building.
The Kongsi served an originating summons on the Huay Kuan last December to vacate the building so that it could be redeveloped. The Huay Kuan refused, saying it also has rights to the block. The case is now before the courts.
Mr Chan told the media before the event that he hopes for more collaboration between all Teochew bodies as the clan moves towards its 100th year in 2029.
"The Huay Kuan represents all Teochews. We hope to see greater unity among the Teochew community, moving forward to create our future together as one family," he said.