- History of Singapore
Singapore rose in importance during the 14th century under the rule of Srivijayan prince Parameswara and became an important port until it was destroyed by Portuguese raiders in 1613. The modern history of Singapore began in 1819 when Englishman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles established a British
porton the island. Under British colonial rule, it grew in importance as a centre for both the India-China tradeand the entrepôttrade in Southeast Asia, rapidly becoming a major port city.
World War II, Singapore was conquered and occupied by the Japanese Empire from 1942 to 1945. When the war ended, Singapore reverted to British control, with increasing levels of self-government being granted, culminating in Singapore's merger with the Federation of Malayato form Malaysiain 1963. However, social unrest and disputes between Singapore's ruling People's Action Partyand Malaysia's Alliance Party resulted in Singapore's expulsion from Malaysia. Singapore became an independent republicon 9 August 1965.
Facing severe unemployment and a housing crisis, Singapore embarked on a modernisation programme that focused on establishing a manufacturing industry, developing large public housing estates and investing heavily on public education. Since independence, Singapore's economy has grown by an average of nine percent each year. By the 1990s, the country has become one of the world's most prosperous nations, with a highly-developed
free market economy, strong international trading links, and the highest per capita gross domestic productin Asia outside of Japan. [cite web| publisher = International Monetary Fund| title = World Economic Outlook Database, September 2006 | url = http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2006/02/data/index.aspx ]
The earliest written record of Singapore was a Chinese account from the third century, describing the island of "Pu Luo Chung" (). This itself is transliterated from the Malay name " ", or "island at the end" (of the
Malay peninsula). cite web| title = Singapore: History, Singapore 1994 | url = http://inic.utexas.edu/asnic/countries/singapore/Singapore-History.html | publisher = Asian Studies @ University of Texas at Austin | accessdate = 2006-07-07 ] The quasi-mythological Sejarah Melayu("Malay Annals") contains a tale of a prince of Srivijaya, Sri Tri Buana (also known as Sang Nila Utama), who landed on the island during the 13th century. When he saw a lion, the prince took this as an auspicious sign and founded a settlement called Singapura, which means "Lion City" in Sanskrit. cite web | title = Singapore - Precolonial Era | url = http://countrystudies.us/singapore/3.htm | publisher = U.S. Library of Congress | accessdate = 2006-06-18 ]
In 1320, the
Mongol Empiresent a trade mission to a place called " Long Ya Men" (or "Dragon's Tooth Strait"), which is believed to be Keppel Harbour, at the southern part of the island. [ cite web | title = Singapore: Relations with Malaysia | url = http://www.pbs.org/nbr/site/research/educators/060106_15a/ | author = Community Television Foundation of South Florida | publisher = Public Broadcasting Service| date = 2006-01-10 ] The Chinese traveler Wang Dayuan, visiting the island around 1330, described a small settlement called Dan Ma Xi (淡马锡, from Malay "Tamasik") with Malay and Chinese residents. The Nagarakretagama, a Javanese epic poem written in 1365, also referred to a settlement on the island called Temasek("Sea Town"). Recent excavations in Fort Canningfound evidences indicating that Singapore was an important port in the 14th century. [ cite web | title = Archaeology in Singapore - Fort Canning Site | url = http://www.seaarchaeology.com/v1/html/sg/fort_canning.html | publisher = Southeast-Asian Archaeology | accessdate = 2006-07-09 ]
In the 1390s, Srivijayan prince Parameswara fled to Temasek after being deposed by the
Majapahit Empire. He ruled the island for several years, before being forced to Melakawhere he founded the Sultanate of Malacca. Singapore became an important trading port of the Malacca Sultanate and later the Sultanate of Johor. In 1613, Portuguese raiders burnt down the settlement at the mouth of Singapore Riverand the island sank into obscurity.
Founding of modern Singapore (1819)
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the
Malay archipelagowas gradually taken over by the European colonial powers, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese at Malaccain 1509. The early dominance of the Portuguese was challenged during the 17th century by the Dutch, who came to control most of the ports in the region. The Dutch established a monopolyover trade within the archipelago, particularly in spices, then the region's most important product. Other colonial powers, including the British, were limited to a relatively minor presence. cite web | title = Singapore - Founding and Early Years | url = http://countrystudies.us/singapore/4.htm | publisher = U.S. Library of Congress | accessdate = 2006-07-18 ]
In 1818, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of the British colony at
Bencoolen. He was determined that British should replace the Dutch as the dominant power in the archipelago, since the trade route between China and British India, which had become vitally important with the institution of the opiumtrade with China, passed through the archipelago. The Dutch had been stifling British trade in the region by prohibiting the British from operating in Dutch-controlled ports or by subjecting them with high tariff. Raffles hoped to challenge the Dutch by establishing a new port along the Straits of Malacca, the main ship passageway for the India-China trade. He convinced Lord Hastings, the Governor-General of Indiaand his superior at the British East India Company, to fund an expedition to seek a new British base in the region.
Raffles arrived in Singapore on 29 January 1819 and soon recognised the island as a natural choice for the new port. It lay at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, near the Straits of Malacca, and possessed a natural deep harbour, fresh water supplies, and timber for repairing ships. Raffles found a small Malay settlement, with a population of a few hundreds, at the mouth of the
Singapore River, headed by Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman. The island was nominally ruled by the Sultan of Johor, Tengku Rahman, who was controlled by the Dutch and the Bugis. However, the Sultanate was weakened by factional division and Temenggong Abdu'r Rahman and his officials were loyal to Tengku Rahman's elder brother Tengku Hussein (or Tengku Long) who was living in exile in Riau. With the Temenggong's help, Raffles managed to smuggle Hussein back into Singapore. He offered to recognise Hussein as the rightful Sultan of Johor and provide him with a yearly payment; in return, Hussein would grant the British the right to establish a trading post on Singapore. A formal treaty was signed on 6 February 1819 and modern Singapore was born. [cite web| title = 1819 - The February Documents | publisher = Ministry of Defence (Singapore)| date = 1997-02-07 | accessdate = 2006-07-18 | author = Jenny Ng | url = http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/about_us/history/the_early_years/v01n02b_history.html] [cite web| title = Milestones in Singapore's Legal History | publisher = Supreme Court, Singapore| accessdate = 2006-07-18 | url = http://app.supremecourt.gov.sg/default.aspx?pgID=39l]
Early growth (1819–1826)
Raffles returned to Bencoolen soon after the signing of the treaty and left Major William Farquhar in charge of the new settlement, with some artillery and a small regiment of Indian soldiers. Establishing a trading port from scratch was a daunting endeavour. Farquhar's administration was fairly funded and was prohibited from collecting port duties to raise revenue as Raffles had decided that Singapore would be a
free port. Despite these difficulties, the new colony grew rapidly. As news of the free port spread across the archipelago, Bugis, Peranakan Chinese, and Arabtraders flocked to the island, seeking to circumvent the Dutch trade restrictions. During the starting year of operation, $400,000 ( Spanish dollars) worth of trade passed through Singapore. By 1821, the island's population had gone up to around 5,000, and the trade volume was $8 million. The population reached the 10,000 mark in 1825, and with a trade volume of $22 million, Singapore surpassed the long-established port of Penang.
Raffles returned to Singapore in 1822 and became critical of many of Farquhar's decisions, despite Farquhar's success in leading the settlement through its difficult early years. In order to generate much-needed revenue, Farquhar had resorted to selling licenses for
gamblingand the sale of opium, which Raffles saw as social evils. Shocked at the disarray of the colony, Raffles set about drafting a set of new policies for the settlement. He also organised Singapore into functional and ethnic subdivisions under the " Raffles Plan of Singapore". Today, remnants of this organisation can still be found in the ethnic neighbourhoods.
On 7 June 1823, Raffles signed a second treaty with the Sultan and Temenggong, which extended British possession to most of the island. The Sultan and Temenggong traded most of their administrative rights of the island, including the collection of port taxes for lifelong monthly payments of $1500 and $800 respectively. This agreement brought the island under the British law, with the provision that it would take into account Malay customs, traditions and religion. Raffles replaced Farquhar with
John Crawfurd, an efficient and frugal administrator, as the new governor. [Bastin, John. "Malayan Portraits: John Crawfurd", in Malaya, vol.3 (December 1954), pp.697-698.] In October 1823, Raffles departed for Britain and would never return to Singapore as he died in 1826, at the age of 44. [cite web| title = The Death of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781 – 1826) | publisher = Singapore Medical Journal | year = 1998 | accessdate = 2006-07-18 | author = J C M Khoo, C G Kwa, L Y Khoo | url = http://www.knowledgenet.com.sg/singapore/shf/e_journal/articles/EJV1ART002.htm]
The Straits Settlements (1826–1867)
The establishment of a British outpost in Singapore was initially in doubt as the Dutch government soon protested to Britain for violating their sphere of influence. But as Singapore rapidly emerged as an important trading post, Britain consolidated its claim on the island. The status of Singapore as a British possession was cemented by the
Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824, which carved up the Malay archipelago between the two colonial powers with the area north of the Straits of Malacca, including Singapore, falling under Britain's sphere of influence. In 1826, Singapore was grouped together with Penang and Malacca to form the Straits Settlements, administrated by the British East India Company. In 1830, the Straits Settlements became a "residency", or subdivision, of the Presidency of Bengal in British India. cite web | title = Singapore - A Flourishing Free Ports | url = http://countrystudies.us/singapore/5.htm | publisher = U.S. Library of Congress | accessdate = 2006-07-18 ]
During the subsequent decades, Singapore grew to become an important port in the region. Its success was due to several reasons including the opening of market in China, the advent of ocean-going steamships, and the production of
rubberand tinin Malaya. [ cite web | title = The Straits Settlements | url = http://www.sg/explore/history_straits.htm | publisher = Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts | accessdate = 2006-07-18 ] Its status as a free port provided crucial advantage over other colonial port cities in Batavia ( Jakarta) and Manilawhere tariffs were levied, and it drew many Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Arab traders operating in South-East Asia to Singapore. The later opening of the Suez Canalin 1869 would further boost trade in Singapore. By 1880, over 1.5 million tons of goods were passing through Singapore each year, with around 80% of the cargo transported by steamships. [ cite web | title =Singapore Harbor from Its Founding to the Present: A Brief Chronology | url = http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/post/singapore/economics/harborchron.html | author = George P. Landow | accessdate = 2006-07-18 ] The main commercial activity was entrepôttrade which flourished under no taxation and little restriction. Many merchant houses were set up in Singapore mainly by European trading firms, but also by Jewish, Chinese, Arab, Armenian, American and Indian merchants. There were also many Chinese middlemen who handled most of the trade between the European and Asian merchants.
By 1827, the Chinese became the largest ethnic group in Singapore. They consisted of
Peranakans, who were descendants of early Chinese settlers, and Chinese coolies who flocked to Singapore to escape the economic hardship in southern China due to the Opium Wars. Many arrived in Singapore as impoverished indentured labourers and they were predominantly males. The Malays were the second largest ethnic group until the 1860s and they worked as fishermen, craftsmen, or as wage earners while continued to live mostly in kampungs. By 1860, the Indians became the second largest ethnic group. They consisted of unskilled labourers, traders, and convicts who were sent to carry out public works projects such as clearing jungles and laying out roads. There were also Indian Sepoytroops garrisoned at Singapore by the British.
Despite Singapore's growing importance, the administration governing the island was understaffed, ineffectual and were unconcerned with the welfare of the populace. Administrators were usually posted from India and were unfamiliar with local culture and languages. While the population had quadrupled during 1830 to 1867, the size of the civil service in Singapore had remained unchanged. Most people had no access to public health services and diseases such as
choleraand smallpoxcaused severe health problem, especially in overcrowded working-class areas. As a result of the administration's ineffectiveness and the predominantly male, transient, and uneducated nature of the population, the society was lawless and chaotic. In 1850 there were only twelve police officers in the city of nearly 60,000 people. Prostitution, gambling, and drug abuse(particularly of opium) were widespread. Chinese criminal secret societies (analogous to modern-day triads) were extremely powerful, and some had tens of thousands of members. Turf wars between rival societies occasionally led to hundreds of deaths and attempts to suppress them had limited success. [Lim, Irene. (1999) "Secret societies in Singapore", National Heritage Board, Singapore History Museum, Singapore ISBN 981-3018-79-8]
Crown colony (1867–1942)
As Singapore continued to grow, the deficiencies in the Straits Settlements administration became serious and Singapore's merchant community began agitating against British Indian rule. The British government agreed to establish the Straits Settlements as a separate
Crown Colonyon 1 April 1867. This new colony was ruled by a governor under the supervision of the Colonial Officein London. The governor was assisted by an executive council and a legislative council. cite web | title = Crown Colony | url = http://countrystudies.us/singapore/6.htm | publisher = U.S. Library of Congress | accessdate = 2006-07-18 ] Although members of the councils were not elected, more representatives for the local population were gradually included over the years.
The colonial government embarked on several measures to address the serious social problems facing Singapore. A
Chinese Protectorateunder Pickering was established in 1877 to address the needs of the Chinese community, especially in controlling the worst abuses of the coolie trade and protecting Chinese women from forced prostitution. In 1889 Governor Sir Cecil Clementi Smithbanned secret societies, driving them underground. Nevertheless, many social problems persisted up through the post-war era, including an acute housing shortage and poor health and living standards. In 1906, the Tongmenghui, a revolutionaryChinese organisation dedicated to the overthrow of the Qing Dynastyand led by Sun Yat-Sen, founded its Nanyang branch in Singapore, which served as the organisation's headquarters in Southeast Asia. The immigrant Chinese population in Singapore donated generously to Tongmenghui, which organised the 1911 Xinhai Revolutionthat led to the establishment of the Republic of China.
Singapore was not much affected by
World War I(1914–18), as the conflict did not spread to Southeast Asia. The only significant event during the war was a 1915 mutinyby the British Muslim Indian sepoysgarrisoned in Singapore. [Harper, R. W. E. & Miller, Harry (1984) "Singapore Mutiny". Singapore: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-582549-7] After hearing rumours that they were to be sent off to fight the Ottoman Empire, the soldiers revolted, killing their officers and several British civilians before being suppressed by troops arriving from Johor and Burma. [ cite web | title =Singapore Massacre (1915) | url = http://www.nesa.org.uk/html/singapore_massacre__1915_.htm | publisher = National Ex-Services Association | accessdate = 2006-07-18 ] After the war, the British government devoted significant resources into building a naval base in Singapore, as a deterrent to the increasingly ambitious Japanese Empire. Completed in 1939 at a staggering cost of $500 million, the naval base boasted what was then the largest dry dockin the world, the third-largest floating dock, and having enough fuel tanks to support the entire British navy for six months. It was defended by heavy 15-inch naval guns and by Royal Air Forcesquadrons stationed at Tengah Air Base. Winston Churchilltouted it as the " Gibraltarof the East." Unfortunately, it was a base without a fleet. The British Home Fleetwas stationed in Europe and the plan was for it to sail quickly to Singapore when needed. However, after World War IIbroke out in 1939, the Fleet was fully occupied with defending Britain. [W. David McIntyre (1979) "The Rise and Fall of the Singapore Naval Base, 1919-1942" London: Macmillan, ISBN 0-333-24867-8]
The Battle of Singapore and the Japanese Occupation (1942–1945)
On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the
Pacific Warbegan in earnest. One of Japan's objectives was to capture Southeast Asiaand secure the rich supply of natural resources to feed its military and industry needs. Singapore, the main Allied base in the region, was an obvious military target. The British military commanders in Singapore had believed that the Japanese attack would come by sea from the south, since the dense Malayan jungle in the north would serve as a natural barrier against invasion. Although the British had drawn up a plan for dealing with an attack on northern Malaya, preparations were never completed. The military was confident that "Fortress Singapore" would withstand any Japanese attack and this confidence was further reinforced by the arrival of Force Z, a squadron of British warships dispatched to the defense of Singapore, including the battleship"HMS Prince of Wales", and cruiser"HMS Repulse". The squadron was to have been accompanied by a third capital ship, the aircraft carrier"HMS Indomitable", but it ran aground en route, leaving the squadron without air cover.
On 8 December 1941, Japanese forces landed at
Kota Bahruin northern Malaya. Just two days after the start of the invasion of Malaya, "Prince of Wales" and "Repulse" were sunk 50 miles off the coast of Kuantanin Pahang, by a force of Japanese bombers and torpedo bomberaircraft, in the worst British naval defeat of World War II. Allied air supportdid not arrive in time to protect the two capital ships. [Martin Middlebrook and Patrick Mahonehy Battleship: The Sinking of the Prince Of Wales and the Repulse (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1979)] After this incident, Singapore and Malaya suffered daily air raids, including those targeting civilian structures such as hospitals or shophouses with casualties ranging from the tens to the hundreds each time.
The Japanese army advanced swiftly southward through the Malay Peninsula, crushing or bypassing Allied resistance. [cite web | title=The Malayan Campaign 1941 | url=http://orbat.com/site/history/historical/malaysia/malayan1941.html | accessdate=December 7 | accessyear=2005] The Allied forces did not have
tanks, which they considered as unsuitable in the tropical rainforest, and their infantryproved powerless against the Japanese light tanks. As their resistance failed against the Japanese advance, the Allied forces were forced to retreat southwards towards Singapore. By 31 January 1942, a mere 55 days after the start of the invasion, the Japanese had conquered the entire Malay peninsulaand were poised to attack Singapore. [Peter Thompson (2005) "The Battle for Singapore", London, ISBN 0-7499-5068-4]
causewaylinking Johar and Singapore was blown up by the Allied forces in an effort to stop the Japanese army. However, the Japanese managed to cross the Straits of Johorin inflatable boats days after. Several heroic fights by the Allied forces and volunteers of Singapore's population against the advancing Japanese, such as the Battle of Pasir Panjang, took place during this period. [Smith, Colin, "Singapore Burning: Heroism and Surrender in World War II " Penguin books 2005, ISBN 0-670-91341-3 ] However, with most of the defences shattered and supplies exhausted, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival surrendered the Allied forces in Singapore to General Tomoyuki Yamashitaof the Imperial Japanese Armyon Chinese New Year, 15 February 1942. About 130,000 Indian, Australian and British troops became prisoners of war, many of whom would later be transported to Burma, Japan, Korea, or Manchuria for use as slave labour via prisoner transports known as " hell ships." The fall of Singapore was the largest surrender of British-led forces in history. [John George Smyth (1971) "Percival and the Tragedy of Singapore", MacDonald and Company, ASIN B0006CDC1Q ]
Singapore, renamed Syonan-to (昭南島 "Shōnan-tō", "Light of the South Island" in Japanese), was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. The Japanese Occupation is the darkest period of Singaporean history as the Japanese army imposed harsh measures against the local population. Numerous atrocities were committed by Japanese troops, particularly by the "
Kempeitai", the Japanese military police. [Kang, Jew Koon. "Chinese in Singapore during the Japanese occupation, 1942-1945." Academic exercise - Dept. of History, National University of Singapore, 1981.] They were the enforcers of the Sook Ching Massacreof Chinese civilians, to retaliate against them for their support of the war effort in China. The mass executions claimed between 25,000 and 50,000 lives in Malaya and Singapore. The rest of the population suffered severe hardship throughout the three and a half years of Japanese occupation. [Blackburn, Kevin. "The Collective Memory of the Sook Ching Massacre and the Creation of the Civilian War Memorial of Singapore". "Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society" 73, 2 (December 2000), 71-90.]
Post-war period (1945–1955)
Japanese surrenderto the Allies on 15 August 1945, Singapore fell into a brief state of anomieand looting and revenge-killing were widespread. British troops led by Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commanderfor Southeast Asia Command, returned to Singapore to receive formal surrender of the Japanese forces in the region from General Itagaki Seishiroon behalf of General Hisaichi Terauchion September 12, 1945 and a British Military Administration was formed to govern the island until March 1946. Much of the infrastructurehad been destroyed during the war, including electricityand water supplysystems, telephone services, as well as the harbour facilities at the Port of Singapore. There was also a shortage of food leading to malnutrition, diseases and rampant crimes and violence. High food prices, unemployment, and workers' discontent culminated into a series of strikes in 1947 causing massive stoppages in public transport and other services. By late 1947, the economy began to recover, facilitated by a growing demand for tin and rubber around the world, but it would take several more years before the economy returned to pre-war levels. cite web
title = Singapore - Aftermath of War
url = http://countrystudies.us/singapore/9.htm
publisher = U.S. Library of Congress
accessdate = 2006-06-18 ]
The failure of Britain to defend Singapore had destroyed its credibility as infallible ruler in the eyes of Singaporeans. The decades after the war saw a political awakening amongst the local populace and the rise of anti-colonial and nationalist sentiments, epitomised by the slogan "
Merdeka", or "independence" in the Malay language. The British, on their part, were prepared to gradually increase self-governancefor Singapore and Malaya. On 1 April 1946, the Straits Settlementswas dissolved and Singapore became a separate Crown Colony with a civil administration headed by a Governor. In July 1947, separate Executive and Legislative Councils were established and the election of six members of the Legislative Council was scheduled in the following year. cite web | title = Towards Self-government | url = http://www.sg/explore/history_towards.htm | publisher = Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts, Singapore | accessdate = 2006-06-18 ]
First Legislative Council (1948-1951)
The first Singaporean elections, held in March 1948, were limited as only six of the twenty-five seats on the Legislative Council were to be elected. Only British subjects had the rights to vote, and only 23,000 or about 10% of those eligible registered to vote. Other members of the Council were chosen either by the Governor or by the chambers of commerce. Three of the elected seats were won by a newly-formed
Singapore Progressive Party(SPP), a conservative party whose leaders were businessmen and professionals and were disinclined to press for immediate self-rule. The other three seats were won by independents.
Three months after the elections, an armed insurgency by communist groups in Malaya — the
Malayan Emergency— broke out. The British imposed tough measures to control left-wing groups in both Singapore and Malaya and introduced the controversial Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial for persons suspected of being "threats to security". Since the left-wing groups were the strongest critics of the colonial system, progress on self-government was stalled for several years.
econd Legislative Council (1951-1955)
A second Legislative Council election was held in 1951 with the number of elected seats increased to nine. This election was again dominated by the SPP which won six seats. While this contributed to the formation of a distinct local
government of Singapore, the colonial administration was still dominant. In 1953, with the communists in Malaya suppressed and the worst of the Emergency over, a British Commission, headed by Sir George Rendel, proposed a limited form of self-government for Singapore. A new Legislative Assembly with twenty-five out of thirty-two seats chosen by popular election would replace the Legislative Council, from which a Chief Ministeras head of governmentand Council of Ministers as a cabinetwould be picked under a parliamentary system. The British would retain control over areas such as internal security and foreign affairs, as well as vetopower over legislation.
The election for the Legislative Assembly held on 2 April 1955 was a lively and closely-fought affair, with several new political parties joining the fray. Unlike previous elections, voters were automatically registered, expanding the electorate to around 300,000. The SPP was soundly defeated in the election, winning only four seats. The newly-formed, left-leaning
Labour Frontwas the biggest winner with ten seats and it formed a coalition government with the UMNO-MCA Alliance, which won three seats. Another new party, the leftist People's Action Party(PAP), won three seats.
Partial internal self-government (1955–1959)
David Marshall, leader of the
Labour Front, became the first Chief Minister of Singapore. He presided over a shaky government, receiving little cooperation from either the colonial government or the other local parties. Social unrest was on the rise, and in May 1955, the Hock Lee Bus Riotsbroke out, killing four people and seriously discrediting Marshall's government. [ cite web | title = 1955- Hock Lee Bus Riots | publisher=Singapore Press Holdings | url = http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/independence/ref/hocklee.html | accessdate= 2006-06-27 ] In 1956, the Chinese Middle School riotsbroke out among students in The Chinese High Schooland other schools, further increasing the tension between the local government and the Chinese students and unionists who were regarded of having communist sympathies.
In April 1956, Marshall led a delegation to London to negotiate for complete self-rule in the Merdeka Talks, but the talks failed when the British were reluctant to give up control over Singapore's internal security. The British were concerned about communist influence and labour strikes which were undermining Singapore's economic stability, and felt that the local government was ineffective in handling earlier riots. Marshall resigned following the failure of the talk.
The new Chief Minister,
Lim Yew Hock, launched a crackdown on communist and leftist groups, imprisoning many trade union leaders and several pro-communist members of the PAP under the Internal Security Act. cite web | title = Singapore - Road to Independence | url = http://countrystudies.us/singapore/10.htm | publisher = U.S. Library of Congress | accessdate = 2006-06-27 ] The British government approved of Lim's tough stance against communist agitators, and when a new round of talks was held beginning in March 1957, they agreed to grant complete internal self-government. A State of Singapore would be created, with its own citizenship. The Legislative Assembly would be expanded to fifty-one members, entirely chosen by popular election, and the Prime Ministerand cabinet would control all aspects of government except defence and foreign affairs. The governorship was replaced by a " Yang di-Pertuan Negara" or head of state.
Full internal self-government (1959-1963)
Elections for the new Legislative Assembly were held in May 1959. The
People's Action Party(PAP) swept the election, winning forty-three of the fifty-one seats. They accomplished this by courting the Chinese-speaking majority, particularly those in the labour unions and radical student organisations. Its leader Lee Kuan Yew, a young Cambridge-educated lawyer, became the first Prime Minister of Singapore.
The PAP's victory was viewed with dismay by foreign and local business leaders because some party's members were pro-communists. Many businesses promptly shifted their headquarters from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Despite these ill omens, the PAP government embarked on a vigorous program to address Singapore's various economic and social problems. Economic development was overseen by the new Minister of Finance
Goh Keng Swee, whose strategy was to encourage foreign and local investmentwith measures ranging from tax incentives to the establishment of a large industrial estatein Jurong. The education system was revamped to train a skilled workforce and the English languagewas promoted over the Chinese languageas the language of instruction. To eliminate labour unrest, existing labour unions were consolidated, sometimes forcibly, into a single umbrella organisation, called the National Trades Union Congress(NTUC) with strong oversight from the government. On the social front, an aggressive and well-funded public housing program was launched to solve the long-standing housing problem. More than 25,000 high-rise, low-cost apartments were constructed during the first two years of the program.
Campaign for merger
Despite their successes in governing Singapore, the PAP leaders, including Lee and Goh, believed that Singapore's future lay with Malaya. They felt that the historical and economic ties between Singapore and Malaya were too strong for them to continue as separate nations, and they campaigned vigorously for a merger. On the other hand, the sizeable pro-communist wing of the PAP were strongly opposed to the merger, fearing a loss of influence as the ruling party of Malaya,
United Malays National Organisation, was staunchly anti-communist and would support the non-communist faction of PAP against them. The UMNO leaders were also skeptical of the merger idea due to their distrust of the PAP government and concerns that the large Chinese population in Singapore would alter the racial balance on which their political power base depended. The issue came to a head in 1961 when pro-communist PAP minister Ong Eng Guandefected from the party and beat a PAP candidate in a subsequent by-election, a move that threatened to bring down Lee's government. Faced with the prospect of a takeover by the pro-communists, UMNO did an about-face on the merger. On 27 May, Malaya's Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, mooted the idea of a Federation of Malaysia, comprised of the existing Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Bruneiand the British Borneo territories of Sabahand Sarawak. The UMNO leaders believed that the additional Malay population in the Borneo territories would offset Singapore's Chinese population.
The Malaysia proposal ignited the long-brewing conflict between the moderates and pro-communists within the PAP. The pro-communists, led by
Lim Chin Siong, left the PAP to form a new opposition party, the Barisan Sosialis(Socialist Front), to campaign against entry into Malaysia under the PAP's plan. In response, Lee called for a referendum on the merger and campaigned vigorously for his proposal, aided by the government's strong influence over the media. In the referendum, held on 1 September 1962, 70% of the votes supported the PAP's proposal for merger.
ingapore in Malaysia (1963–1965)
On 16 September 1963, Malaya, Singapore,
Sabahand Sarawakwere formally merged and Malaysia was formed. The PAP Government felt that Singapore's survival as a nation would be difficult. They lacked natural resources and faced a declining entrepot trade and a growing population which required jobs.Therefore, Singapore felt that the merger was thought to benefit the economy by creating a common free market, eliminating trade tariffs, solving unemployment woes and to support new industries. The British government were reluctant to grant full independence to Singapore because of then communists which would lead to serious consequences to the whole region.
The union was rocky from the start. During the 1963 Singapore state elections, a local branch of UMNO took part in the election despite an earlier UMNO's agreement with the PAP not to participate in the state's politics during Malaysia's formative years. Although UMNO lost all its bids, relations between PAP and UMNO worsened as the PAP, in a tit-for-tat, challenged UMNO candidates in the 1964 federal election as part of the
Malaysian Solidarity Convention, winning one seat in Malaysian Parliament.
Racial tensions increased dramatically within a year and were fueled by
Barisan Sosialis's tactics of stirring up communal sentiment to discredit the government of Singapore and the federal government of Malaysia.Fact|date=July 2007 In particular, the Chinese in Singapore disdained being discriminated against by the federal policies of affirmative action, which granted special privileges to the Malays guaranteed under Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia. There were also other financial and economic benefits that were preferentially given to Malays. Lee Kuan Yew and other political leaders began advocating for the fair and equal treatment of all races in Malaysia, with a rallying cry of " Malaysian Malaysia!".
Muhammad's birthday, that would later injure hundreds and killed 23 people.]
Meanwhile, the Malays in Singapore were being increasingly incited by the federal government's accusations that the PAP was mistreating the Malays. The external political situation was also tense when
Indonesian President Sukarnodeclared a state of "Konfrontasi" (Confrontation) against Malaysia and initiated military and other actions against the new nation, including the bombing of MacDonald House in Singapore in March 1965 by Indonesian commandos, killing three people. [cite news | title = Terror Bomb Kills 2 Girls at Bank | publisher= The Straits Times|date = 11 March 1965 | url = http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/merger/headline/mterror1.html ] Indonesia also conducted sedition activities to provoke the Malays against the Chinese. Numerous racial riots resulted and curfews were frequently imposed to restore order. The most notorious riots were the 1964 Race Riotsthat first took place on Prophet Muhammad's birthday on 21 July with twenty three people killed and hundreds injured. During the unrest, the price of food skyrocketed when transport system was disrupted, causing further hardship for the people.
The state and federal governments also had conflicts on the economic front. UMNO leaders feared that the economic dominance of Singapore would inevitably shift political power away from
Kuala Lumpur. Despite earlier agreement to establish a common market, Singapore continued to face restrictions when trading with the rest of Malaysia. In retaliation, Singapore refused to provide Sabah and Sarawak the full extent of the loans previously agreed to for the economic development of the two eastern states. The situation escalated to such intensity that talks soon broke down and abusive speeches and writings became rife on both sides. UMNO extremists called for the arrestof Lee Kuan Yew.
Seeing no other alternative to avoid further bloodshed, the Malaysian Prime Minister
Tunku Abdul Rahmandecided to expel Singapore from the federation. The Parliament of Malaysia voted 126-0 in favour of the expulsion on 9 August 1965. On that day, a tearful Lee Kuan Yew announced on a televised press conference that Singapore was a sovereign, independent nation. In a widely remembered quote, he uttered that: "For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories." [ cite news| title = Road to Independence | publisher =AsiaOne |accessdate = 2006-06-28 | url = http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/merger/merger.html ] The new state became the Republic of Singapore and Yusof bin Ishakwas appointed the first President. [cite web| title = Singapore Infomap - Independence | publisher = Ministry of Information,Communications and the Arts | accessdate = 2006-07-17 | url = http://www.sg/explore/history_independence.htm]
Republic of Singapore (1965–present)
1965 to 1979
After gaining independence abruptly, the future of Singapore was filled with uncertainties. The
Konfrontasiwas on-going and conservative UMNO faction strongly opposed the separation; Singapore faced the danger of being attacked by Indonesian military or forcibly re-absorbed into the Malaysia Federation in unfavourable terms. Singapore immediately sought international recognition of its sovereignty. Singapore joined the United Nationson 21 September 1965 and the Commonwealth in October that year. Foreign minister Sinnathamby Rajaratnamheaded a new foreign service and helped asserting Singapore's independence and establishing diplomatic relations with other countries. [cite news|url=http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/194463/1/.html|title=Former DPM Rajaratnam dies at age 90|publisher=Channel NewsAsia|date=22 February 2006] Singapore later co-founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nationson 8 August 1967 and was admitted into the Non-Aligned Movementin 1970. [cite web| title = About MFA, 1970s | publisher = Ministry of Foreign Affairs | accessdate = 2006-07-17 | url = http://www.mfa.gov.sg/internet/abtmfa/aboutmfa_h2.htm]
As a small island nation, Singapore was seen as inadequate to be a viable country and much of the international media was skeptical of prospects for Singapore's survival. Besides the issue of sovereignty, the pressing problems were unemployment, housing, education, and the lack of
natural resources and land. cite web | title = Singapore - Two Decades of Independence | url = http://countrystudies.us/singapore/11.htm | publisher = U.S. Library of Congress | accessdate = 2006-06-28 ] Unemployment ratewas ranging between 10-12% threatening to trigger civil unrest.
Economic Development Boardwas set up in 1961 to formulate and implement national economic strategies, focusing on promoting Singapore's manufacturing sector. [cite web| title = Singapore Infomap - Coming of Age | publisher = Ministry of Information,Communications and the Arts | accessdate = 2006-07-17 | url = http://www.sg/explore/history_coming.htm] Industrial estates were set up, especially in Jurong, and foreign investmentwas attracted to the country with tax incentives. The industrialisation transformed the manufacturing sector to one that produced higher value-added goods and achieved greater revenue. The service industryalso grew at this time, driven by demand for services by ships calling at the port and increasing commerce. These progresses helped to alleviate the unemployment crisis. Singapore also attracted big oil companies like Shell and Essoto establish oil refineriesin Singapore which, by the mid 1970s, became the third largest oil-refining centre in the world. The government invested heavily in an education system that adopted English as the language of instruction and emphasised on practical training to develop a competent workforce well suited for the industry.
The lack of good public housing, poor
sanitation, and high unemployment led to social problems from crime to health issues. The proliferation of squattersettlements resulted in safety hazards and caused the Bukit Ho Swee Squatter Fire in 1961 that killed four people and left 16,000 others homeless. [cite web| title = Milestone - 1888-1990 | publisher = Singapore Civil Defence Force| accessdate = 2006-07-17 | url = http://www.scdf.gov.sg/General/About_Us/Milestones/1888_1990.html] The Housing Development Boardset up before independence continued to be largely successful and huge building projects sprung up to provide affordable public housing to resettle the squatters. Within a decade, the majority of the population had been housed in these apartments. The Central Provident Fund(CPF) Housing Scheme, introduced in 1968, allows residents to use their compulsory savings account to purchase HDB flats and gradually increases home ownership in Singapore. [cite web| title = History of CPF | publisher = Central Provident Fund| accessdate = 2006-07-17 | url = http://mycpf.cpf.gov.sg/CPF/About-Us/HistoryofCPF.htm]
British troops had remained in Singapore following its independence, but in 1968, London announced its decision to withdraw the forces by 1971. [cite web| title = 1968 - British Withdrawal | publisher =
Ministry of Defence (Singapore)| date = 1997-01-07 | accessdate = 2006-07-18 | author = N. Vijayan | url = http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/about_us/history/birth_of_saf/v01n01a_history.html] Singapore set out to build its military, called the Singapore Armed Forces, and a national service programme was introduced in 1967. [cite web| title = 1967 - March 1967 National Service Begins | publisher = Ministry of Defence (Singapore)| date = 2002-03-07 | accessdate = 2006-07-17 | author = Lim Gek Hong | url = http://www.mindef.gov.sg/imindef/about_us/history/birth_of_saf/v06n03_history.html]
The 1980s and 1990s
Further economic success continued through the 1980s onwards, with the unemployment rate falling to 3% and real GDP growth averaging at about 8% during this time until 1999. During the 1980s, Singapore began to upgrade its industries to higher-technology industries, such as the
wafer fabricationsector, in order to compete with its neighbours which now have cheaper labour forces. Singapore Changi Airportwas opened in 1981 and Singapore Airlineswas developed to become a major airline in the world. [cite web| title = History of Changi Airport | publisher = Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore | url = http://www.changiairport.com.sg/changi/en/about_us/history_changi.html] The Port of Singaporebecame one of the world's busiest ports and the service and tourism industry also grew immensely during this period. Singapore emerged as an important transportation hub and a major tourist destination.
Housing Development Boardcontinued to promote public housing with new towns, such as in Ang Mo Kio, were designed and built. These new residential estates have larger and higher-standard apartments and are served with better amenities. Today, 80-90% of the population lives in HDB apartments. In 1987, the first Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) line began operation, connecting most of these housing estates and the city centre. [ [http://www.lta.gov.sg/public_transport/pt_rail_tracing.htm "1982 - The Year Work Began"] , Land Transport Authority, Retrieved 7 December 2005]
The political situation in Singapore was stable and dominated by the
People's Action Partywhich had a 15-year monopoly in parliament during 1966 to 1981, winning all seats in elections during that period. [cite web| title = Parliamentary By-Election 1981 | publisher = Singapore-elections.com | url = http://www.singapore-elections.com/be1981/] The PAP rule is termed authoritarian by some activists and opposition politicians who see the strict regulation of political and media activities by the government as an infringement on political rights. [cite web| title = Singapore elections | publisher = BBC | date = 2006-05-05 | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4976536.stm] The conviction of opposition politician Chee Soon Juanfor illegal protests and the defamation lawsuits against J. B. Jeyaretnam have been cited by the opposition parties as examples of such authoritarianism. [cite web| title = Report 2005 - Singapore | publisher = Amnesty International | month = December | year = 2004 | url = http://web.amnesty.org/report2005/sgp-summary-eng] The lack of separation of powersbetween the court system and the government led to further accusations by the opposition parties of miscarriage of justice.
government of Singaporeunderwent several significant changes. Non-Constituency Members of Parliamentwere introduced in 1984 to allow up to three losing opposition parties candidates be appointed as MPs. Group Representation Constituencies(GRCs) was introduced in 1988 to create multi-seat electoral divisions, intended to ensure minority representation in parliament. [ cite web|title=Parliamentary Elections Act|publisher=Singapore Statutes Online|url=http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_getdata.pl?actno=2001-REVED-218&doctitle=PARLIAMENTARY%20ELECTIONS%20ACT%0A&segid=946439076-000003|accessdate=2006-05-08] Nominated Members of Parliamentwas introduced in 1990 to allow non-elected non-partisan MPs. Ho Khai Leong (2003) "Shared Responsibilities, Unshared Power: The Politics of Policy-Making in Singapore". Eastern Univ Pr. ISBN 981-210-218-3] The Constitution was amended in 1991 to provide for an Elected President who has veto power in the use of national reserves and appointments to public office. [cite web| title = Presidential Elections | publisher = Elections Department Singapore | date = 2006-04-18 | url = http://www.elections.gov.sg/presidential_elections.htm] The opposition parties have complained that the GRC system has made it difficult for them to gain a foothold in parliamentary elections in Singapore, and the plurality voting systemtends to exclude minority parties. [ Chua Beng Huat (1995). "Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore". Taylor & Francis, ISBN 0-203-03372-8]
Lee Kuan Yewpassed the leadership rein to successor Goh Chok Tongwho became the second prime minister of Singapore. Goh presented a more open and consultative style of leadership as the country continued to modernise. In 1997, Singapore experienced the effect of the Asian financial crisisand tough measures, such as cuts in the CPF contribution, were implemented.
2000 - present
In the early 2000s, Singapore went through some post-independence crises, including the
SARSoutbreak in 2003 and the threat of terrorism. In December 2001, a plot to bomb embassies and other infrastructure in Singapore was uncovered [ cite web| url = http://www.mha.gov.sg/publication_details.aspx?pageid=35&cid=354 | title = white Paper - The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism | publisher = Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore | date = 2003-01-07] and as many as 36 members of the Jemaah Islamiyahgroup were arrested under the Internal Security Act. [ cite news | url = http://www.forbes.com/work/feeds/afx/2005/11/11/afx2331703.html | title=Innocent detained as militants in Singapore under Internal Security Act - govt | publisher = AFX News Limited | date = 11 November 2005 ] Major counter-terrorism measures were put in place to detect and prevent potential terrorism acts and to minimise damages should they occur. [ cite web| url = http://www.spf.gov.sg/cterror/swg_index.htm | title = Counter-Terrorism | publisher = Singapore Police Force ]
Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister of Singapore. He introduced several policy changes, including the reduction of national service duration from two and a half years to two years, and the legalisation of casino gambling. [ cite news| url = http://www.channelnewsasia.com/casino/text_pmlee.htm | title = Ministerial Statement - Proposal to develop Integrated Resorts | author = Lee Hsien Loong| publisher = Channel NewsAsia | date = 2005-04-18 ] The general election of 2006 was a landmark election because of the prominent use of the internetand blogging to cover and comment on the election, circumventing the official media. [ cite news | title = firstname.lastname@example.org | publisher = Today (Singapore newspaper) | date = 18 March 2006 | url = http://www.todayonline.com/articles/107441.asp ] The PAP returned to power, winning 82 of the 84 parliamentary seats and 66% of the votes. [ cite news | title = Singapore's PAP returned to power | publisher = Channel NewsAsia | date = 7 May 2006 | url = http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/206936/1/.html ]
Timeline of Singaporean history
List of years in Singapore
Military history of Singapore
* [http://www.sg/explore/history.htm Singapore History] A brief history, hosted by the Singapore Government.
* [http://countrystudies.us/singapore/ Singapore] Entry for Singapore in the
Library of Congress' Country Studies handbook, featuring a fairly detailed history.
* [http://www.knowledgenet.com.sg/ Knowledgenet.com.sg] The biographical and geographical histories are of particular interest.
* [http://www.nhb.gov.sg/NAS/nas.shtml National Archives of Singapore] Features a huge number of historical documents and photographs.
* [http://www.britain-at-war.org.uk/Malaya_and_Singapore/body_index.htm Fall of Malaya and Singapore] A detailed history of the Battle of Singapore.
* [http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/merger/headline/mdream.html A dream shattered] Full text of Tunku Abdul Rahman's speech to the Parliament of Malaysia announcing separation
* [http://yesterday.sg yesterday.sg] Interest-based blog for people to share stories, ideas, happenings and so on in the Singapore heritage and museum scene.
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