A brief history of Singapore What little is known of Singapore’s ancient history relies heavily upon legend and supposition
. Third-century Chinese sailors could have been referring to Singapore in their account of a place called PuLuo-Chung, or “island at the end of a peninsula”. In the late thirteenth century, Marco Polo reported seeing a place called Chiamassie, which could also have been Singapore: by then the island was known locally as Temasek – “sea town” – and was a minor trading outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire. The island’s present name comes from the Sanskrit Singapura, meaning “Lion City”, and was first recorded in the sixteenth century. A legend narrated in the Malay annals (the Sejarah Melayu) told how a Sumatran prince saw a lion while sheltering on the island from a storm; the annals reported that the name had been in common use since the end of the fourteenth century. Throughout the fourteenth century, Singapura felt the squeeze as the Ayuthaya and Majapahit empires of Thailand and Java struggled for control of the Malay peninsula. Around 1390, a Sumatran prince called Paramesvara threw off his allegiance to the Javanese Majapahit Empire and fled from Palembang to present-day Singapore. There, he murdered his host and ruled the island until a Javanese offensive forced him to flee north, up the peninsula, where he and his son, Iskandar Shah, subsequently founded the Melaka sultanate. A grave on Fort Canning Hill (see p.65) is said to be that of Iskandar Shah, though its authenticity is doubtful. With the rise of the Melaka sultanate, Singapore devolved into an inconsequential fishing settlement; a century or so later, the arrival of the Portuguese in Melaka forced Malay leaders to flee southwards to modern-day Johor Bahru for sanctuary, and a Portuguese account, in 1613, of the razing of an unnamed Malay outpost at the mouth of Sungei Johor marked the beginning of two centuries of historical limbo for Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles and the founding of Singapore By the late eighteenth century, with China opening up for trade with the West, the British East India Company felt the need to establish outposts along the Straits of Melaka to protect its interests. Penang was secured in 1786, but with the Dutch expanding their rule in the East Indies (Indonesia), a port was needed further south. Enter visionary colonial administrator Thomas Stamford Raffles (see p.280 for full biography). In 1818, the governor-general of India authorized Raffles, then lieutenant-governor of Bencoolen (in Sumatra), to establish a British colony at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula; early the next year, he stepped ashore on the northern bank of the Singapore River, accompanied by Colonel William Farquhar, who was a former Resident of Melaka and was fluent in Malay. At the time, inhospitable swampland and tiger-infested jungle covered Singapore, and its population is generally thought to have numbered around 150, although some historians suggest it could have been as high as a thousand. Raffles recognized the island’s potential as a deep-water harbour, and immediately struck a treaty with Abdul Rahman, temenggong (chieftain) of Singapore, establishing a British trading station there. The Dutch were furious at this British invasion of what they considered was their territory, but Raffles – who still needed the approval of the sultan of Riau-Johor for his outpost, as Abdul Rahman was only an underling – disregarded Dutch sensibilities. Realizing that the sultan’s loyalties to the Dutch would make such approval impossible, Raffles approached the sultan’s brother, Hussein, recognizing him as the true sultan, and concluded a second treaty with both the temenggong and His Highness the sultan Hussein Mohammed Shah. The Union Jack was raised, and Singapore’s future as a free trading post was set. Strategically positioned at the foot of the Straits of Melaka, and with no customs duties levied on imported or exported goods, Singapore’s expansion was meteoric. The population had reached ten thousand
or marched up the peninsula to work on Thailand’s infamous “Death Railway”. “There were thousands of rats all over the district” wrote Abdullah bin Kadir.
. trade increased eightfold. the Chinese-supported Malayan Communist Party (MCP) appeared. with Malays. who arrived in numbers from the southern provinces of China and settled quickly. The inhabitants of Singapore had not been prepared for an attack from this direction and on February 15. helped by the clan societies (kongsis) already establishing footholds on the island. the bubble burst. and Singapore ceded outright to the British. languages and architecture. The Singapore of those times was a far cry from the pristine city of the late twentieth century. Chinese. Singapore’s Asian communities found their political voice in the 1920s: in 1926. 1942. scribe to Stamford Raffles. Indians. courts and assembly halls. In December 1941. the opening of the Suez Canal and the advent of steamships had consolidated Singapore’s position at the hub of international trade in the region. the fall of Singapore (which the Japanese then renamed Syonan. The Japanese Invasion and years of Occupation In 1942. known as Operation Sook Ching. with each arriving ethnic community bringing its attendant cuisines. which pointed south from what is now Sentosa Island. but most populous of all were the Chinese. But proindependence activity had still not achieved its goal when the spectre of war reared its head in 1942.” The Early Boom Years In 1824. Less than two months later they were at the top of the causeway. Less well known is the vicious campaign. Three and a half years of brutal Japanese rule ensued. More and more immigrants poured onto the island and by 1860 the population had reached eighty thousand. the Singapore Malay Union was established. For forty years the laissez-faire economy boomed. By the end of the nineteenth century. a trend which continued well into the twentieth century. a swamp at the mouth of the river was filled and the commercial district established there. the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and invaded the Malay Peninsula. Javanese and Bugis (from Sulawesi) all came. In 1822. though life was chaotic and disease was rife. They were so big that they used to attack us if we went out walking at night and many people were knocked over. a move which further bolstered Singapore’s importance: the island soon became the world centre of rubber exporting.by the time of the first census in 1824. erected impressive Neoclassical theatres. which became a British crown colony in 1867. or “Light of the South”) was complete. “some almost as large as cats. the fledgling state united with Penang and Melaka (by now under British rule) to form the Straits Settlements. safe from the guns of “Fortress Singapore”. and in 1887 Singapore’s most quintessentially British establishment – the Raffles Hotel – opened for business. during which thousands of civilians were executed in vicious anti-Chinese purges and Europeans were either herded into Changi Prison. Arabs. This status was further enhanced by the slow but steady drawing of the Malay Peninsula under British control – a process begun with the Treaty of Pangkor in 1874 and completed in 1914 – which meant that Singapore gained further still from the mainland’s tin and rubber-based economy. Between 1873 and 1913. The British. Sultan Hussein and the temenggong were bought out. with the port becoming a major staging post on the Europe– East Asia route. Raffles set about drawing up the demarcation lines that divide present-day Singapore. Indians and Europeans arriving in search of work as coolies and merchants. The area south of the Singapore River was earmarked for the Chinese. Three years later. Henry Ridley began his one-man crusade to introduce the rubber plant into Southeast Asia. while Muslims were settled around the Sultan’s Palace in today’s Arab Quarter. for their part. In 1877. and four years later.
Malay nationalists set up the United Malays National Organization (UNMO) in 1946. Singapore’s first ever elections. became chief minister. The Postwar Years In 1945.mounted by the military police force. David Marshall. many Chinese were concerned that Malays exercised too great a control over the federation. the Federation of Malaya had achieved independence. Hours after announcing Singapore’s full independence. By 1957. during which upwards of twenty-five thousand Chinese males between eighteen and fifty years of age were shot dead at Punggol and Changi beaches as enemies of the Japanese. Within two years Singapore was asked to leave the federation. in the face of outrage in Kuala Lumpur at the PAP’s attempts to break into Peninsular politics in 1964. when the People’s Action Party (PAP). Tensions rose on the island and ugly racial incidents developed into full-scale riots. and though still flawed (only 25 of a legislative assembly of 32 were voted in). to form the Federation of Malaysia. on August 9. whose aim was to turn Singapore and Malaysia into a republic. the MCP was outlawed. or Kempeitai. 1965. Full internal self-government was achieved in May 1959. Protests erupted in Singapore at this exclusion. an MCPled guerrilla struggle lasting from 1948 until 1960. and Singapore became a crown colony in its own right. Across the causeway. The alliance. whose inclusion would have led to ethnic Malays being in a minority. Sarawak and British North Borneo (modern day Sabah). Chinese opposition to the Federation of Malaya on the mainland ignited the Communist Emergency. Singapore combined with Malaya. One hundred and forty-six years after Sir Stamford Raffles had set Singapore on the world map. and a state of emergency declared. a month later. leader of the victorious Labour Front. though. and accordingly preferred to have the state under its wing. faced the prospect of being consigned to history’s bottom drawer of crumbling colonial ports. in the establishment of the Federation of Malaya.
. and that same year. a tearful Lee Kuan Yew described the event. A year later. with the Malayan Democratic Union (MDU) calling for integration with Malaya – a position that commanded little support among the Chinese population. Differences soon developed between Lee Kuan Yew and the mainland’s Malay-dominated Alliance Party over the lack of egalitarian policies. In the 1950s Singapore’s progress towards independence slowly gathered momentum. Although the PAP had dominated recent elections. was an uneasy one. the British government agreed to the establishment of an elected. Singaporeans now wanted a say in the governing of their island. the Straits Settlements were dissolved. In 1963. led by Cambridge law graduate Lee Kuan Yew. whose main tenet was that Malays should retain special privileges over Chinese and Indians in Malaya. won 43 of the 51 seats. Island politics. The pressure they brought to bear on the British government resulted. but things were never to be the same. remained closely linked with those of the Peninsula for the next nineteen years. in Singapore. in which several people were killed. on national TV. which brought together all the states of Peninsular Malaya. as “a moment of anguish”. 51-member legislative assembly in Singapore. in February 1948. For its part – and despite reservations about aligning with Singapore’s predominantly Chinese population – anti-Communist Malaya feared that extremists within the PAP would turn Singapore into a Communist base. but not Singapore. the tiny island. In 1953 the British government appointed a commission to review the island’s constitution. though. were boycotted by the MDU. with no natural resources of its own. Lee became Singapore’s first prime minister. the elections of April 1955 were the most representative seen so far on the island. Singapore passed back into British hands. and quickly looked for the security of a merger with neighbouring Malaya.
At times. more importantly. Whether Singaporeans will continue to suffer their government’s foibles remains to be seen. with a birth control campaign which proved so successful that it had to be reversed: the 1980s saw the introduction of the “Go For Three” project. Brigadier-General Lee Hsien Loong. George Yeo. was the reaction of government minister. and telltale signs – presently nothing more extreme than feet up on MRT seats. more specifically the Chinese Singaporean – birth rate. found himself charged with several criminal offences. Lee Kuan Yew also made clear his conviction that Singapore’s educated elite should intermarry. or jaywalking – suggest that the government can expect more dissent in future years. Recent events do suggest that Goh has a mandate for change. Political alignments were made to maximize business opportunities. the candidate. Most disturbing of all was the government’s attitude towards political opposition. Adults beyond a certain age remember how things were before independence. partly thanks to insinuations that constituencies failing to
. The archaic Internal Security Act still grants the power to detain without trial anyone the government deems a threat to the nation. he clawed back two of these seats. In the 1991 elections he suffered the relative setback of seeing an unprecedented four opposition members voted into parliament. Already a substantial brain drain is afflicting the country. However. is deputy prime minister – remains open to question. thereby breeding the sort of babies that would serve the country well in the future. Singapore Today The man charged with leading Singapore into the new millennium is Goh Chok Tong. who became prime minister upon Lee’s retirement from that post in 1990. however. Goh has made it clear that he favours a more open form of government. information technology and the petroleum industry. and the economy grew fast: per capita income increased an astonishing fourfold between 1965 and 1977. J. though whether he will be able to break the mould set by Lee – who still looms over the political scene in his role as senior minister. and whose son.B. and chased through the Singaporean law courts for the next decade. housing projects and savings schemes. Population policies. Lee’s personal vision and drive transformed Singapore into an Asian economic heavyweight. have brought criticism from abroad. Heavyhanded censorship of the media was introduced. and by 1980. and. the impossible had been achieved: Singapore stood on the verge of becoming a Newly Industrialized Economy (NIE). But these developments were achieved at a price. The high taxes these boom areas produced were used to bolster the island’s infrastructure and housing. These began in the early 1970s. before the existence of the MRT system. and offences such as dropping litter were punished in a draconian style with offenders submitted to the public humiliation of forced litter duty. Jeyaretnam.Independence Against all the odds. which offered tax incentives for those having more than two children in an attempt to boost the national – and some say. Taiwan and South Korea. Their children and grandchildren have no such perspective. too. hi-tech manufacture. with huge profits being made in financial services. which kept political prisoner Chia Thye Poh under lock and key from 1966 until 1998 for allegedly advocating violence. along with Hong Kong. “We have to pursue this subject of fun very seriously if we want to stay competitive in the twentyfirst century”. when challenged on the fact that some foreigners found Singapore dull. When the opposition Worker’s Party won a by-election in 1981. Singapore tries so hard to reshape itself that it falls into selfparody. in the elections of January 1997 (which the PAP had won even before the polling stations opened as opposition candidates contested fewer than half of the seats). as Singaporeans with skills to offer choose to move abroad in the pursuit of a more liberal environment.
Viking Penguin. distinguishing his writing of the history of the People's Action Party (PAP) to celebrate the triumph over colonialism..com/lib/singaporenatlib/Doc?id=10015629&ppg=284 Copyright © 2001. It does so because it deliberately set out to be a global city. It was not a history "that Singaporeans like to proclaim from the housetops" and "patriotism required that we perform some sort of collective lobotomy to wipe out all traces of 146 years of shame" (see p. NJ.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Singapore's History "Many have been the times when the prophets of doom predicted the inevitable collapse of an island which they believe should not only survive but had no sound reason for independent existence. "Singapore's past was a matter of supreme indifference for most Singaporeans simply because they believed this island never really had a history worth remembering". his response to the trauma of Separation by arguing for the re-writing of Singapore's post-1965 past as a "Global City". as it was a short 170 years' history of colonialism which paled in comparison to our social memories of millennium-old ancestral roots and traditions. It was to rewrite Singapore's history that Mr Rajaratnam addressed in a number of his speeches and writings. accepting the risks and rewards that go with this role. All rights reserved. East Rutherford. 180-226 of this volume).
Rough Guides Staff. p 269-269. 1 The Romance of Anti-Colonialism Reflecting on the "PAP's First Ten Years" for the Party's tenth anniversary celebrations (see pp.ebrary. rather than city-state.. December 1975
Writing Singapore's History: From City-State to Global City By Kwa Chong Guan ** * "Until very recently. Singapore. which eventually became the beginnings of the Singapore Story. it exists and persists.return their PAP candidate would drop down the waiting list for housing estate renovations. http://site. It had "achieved one of its fundamental aims objectives: The independence of Singapore through merger with the Federation of Malaya" and
. Mr Rajaratnam justifiably pointed out that the Party had much to be proud of. " S Rajaratnam. Singapore’s next general elections are due by mid-2002. This essay reviews the phases in Mr Rajaratnam's writing of Singapore's history. USA: Viking Penguin. and warnings not to push the search for Singapore's beginnings into the pre-1819 era." Mr S Rajaratnam declared in 1987. 2001. 265 of this volume). Nevertheless.
The bulk of the essay then outlines the dilemmas and choices facing the Party as they decide how to progress the anti-colonial struggle while preserving their left-wing credentials against right-wing pro-colonialist pressures to co-opt them into an anti-communist crusade and from the other end of the political spectrum. 225 of this volume). cultural and communal factors in the politics of our country" (see p. it was end for a noncommunist socialist party. the outcome of which was decided in the Referendum and in the 1963 General Elections. It
. As a left-wing party. with Samad Ismail and Lim Chin Siong as two leading lights of the far left inside the Party leadership. Thucydides wrote contemporary history.. lawyers and journalists" in the basement dining room of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's Oxley Road residence. Our future. thwarting pro-communist attempts to capture the Party. 184 of this volume). about events the author directly experienced and participated in. 2 As a genre of history. We have not to fight the communists.. The Party's decision to ride the communist tiger to political power in the 1959 elections posed a major challenge." Unfortunately for Mr Rajaratnam. The "Battle for Merger" became the battle for the future of Singapore." Mr Rajaratnam assessed that the Party had "entered a new and more difficult phase." Mr Rajaratnam's conclusion is that the story of the PAP continues in the challenge confronting the Party of how to negotiate its way in Malaysia politics. because they believed that if they could succeed. he and his party colleagues could not find the "counters to communalism" in time to arrest the escalation of communal politics culminating in Singapore's separation from Malaysia a year later. A major underlying theme of Mr Rajaratnam's reflections is about how the Party were betrayed by the communists within its ranks planning and plotting to capture the Party to seize political power." Mr Rajaratnam recollected the birth of the PAP in the discussions of "a small group of trade unionists. contemporary history is not new. and the future of our country will depend on whether we can find effective counters to communalism. communist dismounted This reflection and recording of Party history by Mr Rajaratnam is the writing of contemporary history in its most pristine form: The history of one's own lifetime." and lead to "a campaign against the PAP through Malay newspapers and speeches. For Mr Rajaratnam. then all would be well. the Indonesian confrontations. and how the Party leaders (often barely) outmanoeuvred the both inside and outside Parliament. The watershed in the Party's history was the August 1961 defection by 13 of its left-wing and communist members of Parliament to form the Barisan Sosialis to challenge the proposal to merge Singapore with the Federation of Malaya. the major aim of the new party would be to end colonialism. "With the outbreak of racial riots in July . they "underestimated the significance of racial. but also communalists. if not grave danger to the Party. the odds of the group establishing a new left-wing political party "were seemingly against it because left-wing parties appeared to have had brief and unhappy lives. which Mr Rajaratnam and his colleagues assessed would not be favourable to left-wing politics. They [extremists in the UMNO] accused the PAP of being anti-Malay. As Mr Rajaratnam noted. and fortuitously the communist tiger. Towards this end. the PAP had admitted as members not only other left-wing sympathisers. teachers." According to Mr Rajaratnam. For Mr Rajaratnam. as did Sima Qian. but also communists. Mr Rajaratnam was disappointed that the "PAP's token participation in the [April 1964] Federal elections was regarded as an attempt to challenge the authority of the central government. who "had all along thought that once the communist back out of the PAP." (see p. what prompted this group of politically inexperienced men to push ahead with the establishment of a new left-wing party was the promulgation of a new constitution for Singapore proposed by a committee chaired by George Rendel.been able to "thwart the manoeuvres of both the right-wing reactionaries and the communist on the far left with a fair degree of success. merger and victory at the 1963 elections was the "moment of truth" for the communists and the Barisan.
then the continuation of the S Rajaratnam on Singapore heroic quest for a more just and equal society was to lead to tragedy. arousing enmity among extremist Malay leaders. and get where we are today. are more problematic and after 1957 become the major challenge to the PAP's identity and survival. must be challenged. Fifteen years later Party Chairman Toh Chin Chye and Secretary-General Lee Kuan Yew outlined a more succinct and up-dated version of this narrative in the Party's 25th anniversary commemorative volume. to invert the dictum of the historical profession's leading role model. an d the audience of party members and their protagonists to define a political party and its purpose. The PAP's vision for a "Malaysian Malaysia" was misunderstood. This re-narration of Party history is also with the intent: To re-constitute the Party through a process of self-renewal. Th e others that the PAP willy-nilly defines itself against are first an d foremost colonialism. People's Action Party 1954-1979. I [Lee Kuan Yew] think getting a younger team together is more difficult. Historic decisions like the registration of the PAP an d whethe r to participate in the 1959 elections to win or only be a strong opposition in the Assembly were muddle d throug h in response to the pressures an d demand s of others. The PAP's "token participation" in the April 1964 Malaysian elections provokes these
. This journey culminates in an epic death struggle with the treacherous communist. as it has all the elements of a classical romance. In this struggle against colonialism. It is abou t how the historian relates his story to his vision of the future in relation to his past. and concludes with the exaltation of the hero. in which either the hero or his foe. or both. like Edmund Spenser's narrative of the quest of St George in The Faerie Queene. the PAP is clear they will have n o dealings with othe r right wing political parties. But other left wing parties. the PAP founders an d leaders as the storytellers. They are dismissed as pro-colonial opportunist and antithetical to the PAP's identity as a left-wing party. the PAP at its 1963 elections victory. 6 It was a narrative that resonated with the Party leaders. But it also challenges von Ranke's injunction that history is no t about "judging the past an d of instructing the account for the benefit of future ages" because it is a "living history" of the historian's lifetime an d experiences. an attempt of a record of "what actually happened " because it is based on the evidence of the incontrovertible experience 4 of the historian. The Tragedy of Separation If the 1963 elections victory was the triumph of the heroic struggle against colonialism and communism. a "living history" that is emotionally charged with the personal experience an d contemporar y concerns of the historian.is also contemporary history in the sense that the Italian historian Benedetto Croce defined it." 7 This is still Party history to rally the party members to accept an inevitable and impending change of their leaders. locating the historian's personal life an d social memories in the passage of time. Mr Rajaratnam's story of the PAP takes the form of a romance. bu t the mor e pragmatic requiremen t of integrating a story. But this narration of Party history in 1979 is underpinned by a new confidence about the future. must die. or to ensure a succession by able and dedicated men who can build upon what has been done. of a perilous journey undertaken in fulfilment of a quest for a grail or vision for a democratic socialist society. The story that Mr Rajaratnam reconstructed is an antiheroic narrative of a group of idealistic and innocen t me n reacting to the political developments of the day. bu t assumed to be evil an d as such. Rhetorically Mr Lee could ask: "What of the past is relevant to the future?" and reflect that he is "not sure which is the more difficult task: To start the PAP. In terms of genres of stories. With the past behind us. Th e PAP's initial self-awareness as a party is defined in its opposition to colonialism. 3 It is. Ther e is an elemen t of moralising abou t the past an d how it may prefigure 5 in the historian's understanding of his present an d projections of his future. especially the communist that the PAP related to. Leopold von Ranke. Mr Rajaratnam's recollection of Party history is not about reconstructing a record of "what actually happened " pe r se. which is undefined.
Between 1934 an d 1954 Toynbee produce d a massive 10-volume study of the rise an d fall of 21 civilisations in response to challenges they confronted. 8 Whereas the PAP leaders may have put behind them the trauma of August 9. Referring to Singapore. This study of the role of cities in history was a spin-off from his lifelong comparative study of civilisations. The trauma of Separation is a tragedy in that Singapore was wrongly punished and sacrificed to protect an unjust political system and unfair economic order in Malaysia. Singapore would collapse. bu t the reverse. an endangered species in the post-Westphalian world of nation states. at possibly greater expense. would collapse. 229 of this volume). Dr Goh argued. established and developed as beachheads of Western imperialism. "it will only be pruden t if we try to broade n ou r external economic ties by attempting to provide services an d goods to countries outside the immediate region. an d expansion of financial an d business services underpinne d the Singapore economy. its admission to the United Nations was evidence of its membership of the society of states. Singapore. City-states may have had an illustrious history dating back to Athens. and arguably. processing. The Irony of a City-State This concept of a "Global City" was drawn from the British scholar an d historian Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) who classical in 1970 S Rajaratnam on Singapore published a study of Cities on the Move. was transforming itself from a "trading city of Southeast Asia. the Spring and Autumn Period of ancient China. and what is their role in the modern world? It was to this consequential issue that Mr Rajaratnam and his colleagues focused their attention after 1965. The PAP's efforts to exorcise the ghost of Separation is to work to prove the viability of their vision of a just and equal society and disprove the assumption that Singapore. are no t the creations of their hinterland. creators of their hinterlands.extremist leaders to demand revenge for the PAP's volte-face on participating in Malaysian politics. Overnight Singapore became a "state" within the international society of states. Dr Goh Keng Swee focused his attention on this issue in an address on "Cities as Modernisers" in April 1967. the experience of that event however continues to haunt them and their vision for Singapore. Mr Rajaratnam could confidently explain to the Singapore Press Club in 1972 why Singapore was proving wrong its critics an d pessimists who believed that separated from its peninsula hinterland.. like Hamlet's ghost haunts and drives the tragedy of Hamlet." Cities. 9 Tracing the rise of Asian cities from their beginnings as beach-heads of European imperialism. 1 1 Toynbee argued that civilisations respon d to decline by transforming themselves into universal states
. "While we will d o everything possible to retain ou r trade links with ou r hinterland.. But Singapore is also a city. the market place of the region. according to Mr Rajaratnam. 1965 as a historical event." It was towards this goal of broadenin g Singapore's external economic ties beyond the immediate region that Dr Goh an d his colleagues turne d their attention to. Dr Goh reminde d his audience that development of the Malay Peninsula as Singapore's economic hinterland "was financed by Singapore capital an d nurture d by Singapore managemen t skills" an d continues in 1967 as "the natural trading centre" for Malaysia an d Indonesian Kalimantan an d Sumatra. into a new kind of city — the Global City" (see p . marketing an d exporting the staple products of the Malay peninsula an d the archipelago ha d bee n broken. Export of Singapore manufactures. By 1973 Singapore's dependenc e upo n its staple por t functions of financing. replacing its staple port functions. divorced from its peninsula hinterland. thus making it a city-state." said Dr Goh. Their demands erupt into racial riots in July 1964 and were the turning point of Singapore's experience of Malaysia. Dr Goh regretted that as a city-state Singapore could no t influence the decision of its neighbours to continu e using its services or developing their own. to transform themselves under their independent national governments into beach-heads of a dynamic modernisation process to transform the countryside. but where is their place. Dr Goh went on to argue that "it is the role of the cities in Asian countries.
" Mr Rajaratnam then listed how Singapore's por t an d air communications are increasingly globalised. its industrial productio n is becomin g internationalised an d financial network is being plugged into the international system.reflected in their capital cities.C. or is being replicated o n othe r continents an d "the megalopolises on all the continents are mergin g to form Ecumenopolis. geographers." It was only with the end of the Cold War that Mr Rajaratnam's vision of Singapore as a "Global City" could take off with a new cycle of globalisation released. Saskia Sassen. "for a Satyr as it was born out of a Tragedy. and sociologists lead byJohn Friedmann. Mr tempting will. Toynbee pointe d to the "conurbation extending from Boston throug h New York. who were planning a major spring offensive which was launched in March 1972. so ought to resemble his parentage. However." For Toynbee. the lack of a hinterland "becomes unimportant . demography or historical development. Castells. unde r the impact of the industrial system a new type of mor e dynamic "mechanised" cities is emerging. Toynbee predicted that what is happenin g in North America will be. injustices and follies and the increasing irrelevance of the heroic in our mundane world. in Francis Fukayama's felicitous phase. have bee n prophetic to assure his audience that "Singapore's economic the years go by. The United States were still attempting to extricate themselves from Vietnam. arguably. in the midst of its Cultural Revolution. marking Britain's withdrawal from east of Suez. Four months earlier. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's historic visit to break the "psychological barriers" between Singapore and Indonesia was still one year away. It will grow and prosper" (see p. Toynbee argued. Mr Rajaratnam appears to have accepted the satiric world of anomalies." as an example of a megalopolis that is stretching an d expandin g to link u p with a Great-Lakes megalopolis. D. like the absence of a hinterland. and attempt to emulate. Friedmann and others argued that cities were less the products of their geographic location. challenging critics of Singapore's success to think of the island not as a regional trading city. Mr Rajaratnam was probably more satirical than prophetic in responding to the tragedy of Separation. but in the metaphor of a "Global City"." For Mr Rajaratnam. or raw materials an d a large domestic market are no t fatal or insurmountable handicaps. China. Mr Rajaratnam borrowed this metapho r of a "Global City" to respon d to the tragedy of Separation an d Singapore's inevitable failure as an entrepo t an d regional city by arguing that "as a Global City the n the smallness of Singapore. In subconsciously resorting to the satiric mode of rhetoric. Toynbee discerned that this new category of "mechanised cities" are "dynamically o n the move. Singapore's relations with Indonesia were still at an ebb. Philadelphia. becom e mor e an d mor e rooted in atfuture in this global system. For in February 1972 Singapore's future in a turbulent region was anything but reassuring. to strike high. The bipolar Cold War was about to become a tripolar confrontation with President Richard Nixon's historic visit to Beijing on February 21. but
. Like Toynbee. In hindsight. but not achieving much in their negotiations in Paris with the North Vietnamese. and adventure dangerously at the most eminent vices among the greatest persons. this new type of city is the World City. because for a Global City the world is its hinterland. at the "End of History". contradictions. as Rajaratnam may. 237 of this volume). an d Baltimore to Washington. A new generation of urban planners. and Manuel Castells 12 reworked the data that Arnold Toynbee had used to construct more comprehensive models of urban development." expandin g into megalopolises. was still actively supporting the Communist Party of Malaya in its second armed revolution from jungle bases in the isthmus of Thailand. Looking at the process of urba n growth an d urbanisation in America. Mr Rajaratnam may well have quoted the poet John Milton. the last Royal Navy warships had formally sailed out of Sembawang Naval Base. 1972. a new type of city. His counsel is prudence and pragmatism: To look around us and see where other cities that Singapore can compare itself is heading.
Cities like London. then what kind of Singapore would have emerged in its place?" (see p. We did not have 'the social glue' to hold together as a nation. in Mr Rajaratnam's recollections. the "who. we prospered. "The Singapore Story: Overcoming the Odds". Mr Rajaratnam argued that Singapore's history must. but not the why approach of "why things happened the way they did. what. Mr Rajaratnam explained to his audience that what happened in Singapore's history." This integration of the story of the PAP as the beginnings of an ongoing Singapore Story culminated in another multi-million dollar 1998 exhibition. the odds were stacked against it and Singapore should have failed. We had no common language. We were groups of diverse and different peoples. The Singapore Story. 13 and the challenge for Singapore is to work out where is its location in this network of global cities. or religion. We had no common past. 264 . when and where" approach has been adequately detailed." Mr Rajaratnam then asked his audience: "If not the Singapore created by the PAP. Singapore has plugged itself into this networking of global cities. ironically. fight against the communists and Battle for Merger became the beginning of this emerging Singapore Story. and the publication of Lee Kuan Yew's memoirs. How did it happen? The basic attributes of nationhood were missing. and global economic forces.266 of this volume). The rational for making the story of the PAP the beginning of the Singapore Story was articulated by Mr Rajaratnam in his address to a 1984 Pre-University seminar on the "Birth of a Nation — Singapore in the 1950s". 249-254. Beginning the Singapore Story with the founding of the PAP then begs the question of did Singapore not have a history before the PAP? Are Singapore's beginnings to be sought in Sir Stamford Raffles' initiative in establishing an East Indian Company factory on this island in 1819? Or are the beginnings of Singapore to be sought in an earlier pre-Raffles past? For Mr Rajaratnam. They saw the political convulsions of the immediate post-war years as the birth pangs of a communist Singapore." Mr Rajaratnam then went on to enumerate why the PAP won the struggle for independence by insisting that it was "a PAP leadership which was not afraid to face unpleasant realities and which eventually convince the people that they too should face up to these realities. New York and Tokyo are today the dominant loci in the contemporary world economy. which he assured his audience "was no joke to thousands of young men and women who took to the jungle or were members of assassination squads and who periodically staged riots and industrial violence. the answer was clear." This "National Exhibition" and a series of other exhibitions at the National Archives and old National Museum 14 over the next decade developed this story of how Singapore survived and prospered. "up till 1965 the dice of history in the circumstances prevailing in the 1950s was loaded in favour of a communist victory. an d no t try to reach back to the ancestral roots of Singapore's peoples. 256 of this volume). Later. Mr Rajaratnam then outlined in dark hues the prospects of a communist Singapore. then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew rhetorically asked: "We survived. In at least two speeches (see pp . for in their recollections. start with its colonial founder.more the consequence of industrial capitalism. Mr Rajaratnam argued that performing "some sort of collective lobotomy to wipe out all traces of 146 years of [colonial] shame" would be dangerou s because a search for Singapore's origins in the ancestral
. From Story of the PAP to the Singapore Story By the early 1980s Mr Rajaratnam and his colleagues were steering a restructured Singapore economy to take off." Mr Rajaratnam then went on to ask: "Why did a non-communist PAP win and the communist lose the battle for independence?" For. The story of the PAP's anti-colonial struggle. Declaring open an $18 million "National Exhibition" to celebrate 25 years of independence. and key nodes in a global networking of cities. culture. They could afford to reflect and reconfigure their memories of why had Singapore not failed.
S. All rights reserved. Kwa Chong (Editor). This writing of Singapore history as a romance of the achievements of great men starting with Raffles battling against the odds. Mr Rajaratnam claimed that this debate over the beginnings of Singapore focused o n the fate of the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles. Throug h correct leadership. For Mr Rajaratnam." Conclusion In confirming that Sir Stamford Raffles' statue would continue to stand on its pedestal at Empress Place. River Edge. despite external pressure an d internal crisis. Should it be removed or left in place? According to Mr Rajaratnam. NJ. but also prospered as an emerging global city in a unequal and unjust world filled with contradictions. USA: World Scientific. http://site. extendin g the mod e of their PAP story about "heroic" (or antiheroic) me n driven by a sense of mission and against the odds to achieve what they did. p 163-177. Mr Rajaratnam was evoking the powerful metapho r of Singapore's vulnerabilities as a fragile multi-ethnic society without the "social glue" to hold it together fragmenting over squabbles over who can claim to have contributed most to the founding of Singapore an d invoking the support of Singapore's history as part of the history of othe r entities in the region. The Lion Television documentary on The History of Singapore: "Mangrove to Metropolis" broadcast in December 2005 builds on this romance of Singapore's history revolving around a series of great men starting with Sir Stamford Raffles. the "price we have to pay for this mor e impressive genealogical table would be to turn Singapore into a bloody battleground for endless racial an d communa l conflicts an d interventionist politics by the mor e powerful an d bigger nations from which Singaporeans ha d emigrated" (see p . unknowingly perhaps. During this period.
Guan. "after attaining independenc e in 1965 there was a debate as to who should be declared the founding fathers of Singapore. 252 of this volume). Mr Rajaratnam an d his colleagues were in effect. culminating in the Battle for Merger and the ensuing struggle for a "Malaysian-Malaysia" tenses the writing of post1965 history of Singapore in an ironic mode of a city-state that should not have succeeded against the odds. has emerge d stronger than ever. 2006. an d mass support. to include Raffles as the first of a series of great men in Singapore's history. Rajaratnam on Singapore : From Ideas to Reality. loyal members . This tension between the romance of Singapore's pre-1965 past and the irony of its post1965 evolving present will challenge the writing of the next episode of the Singapore Story.
Politics in Singapore PAP’s First Ten Years’ Th e People's Action Party is now ten years old. World Scientific.com/lib/singaporenatlib/Doc?id=10201371&ppg=186 Copyright © 2006. Th e debate was brough t to a n abrup t en d when the government fixed responsibility for this on Sir Stamford Raffles an d officially declared him the founder of Singapore. prope r an d realistic policies an d strategies. With the help of the people an d the
. but not only did. the Party.ebrary.roots of its multi-ethnic population could carry a heavy price. the PAP has bee n able to serve ou r country an d our people.
partly out of curiosity and partly out of a genuine desire not to split the anti-Progressive Party forces. integrity and ability to serve the people. Why has the PAP bee n successful so far. that colonialism could be weakened an d ende d throug h constitutional means. a small group of trade unionists. teachers. MDU. Was the time opportune to start a new left-wing party? What would be the consequences for socialism if the new party too. The odds then were seemingly against it because left-wing parties appeared to have had brief and unhappy lives. in the light of changing facts. Some time in the early part of 1954. We have so far shown ourselves capable of thwarting the manoeuvres of bot h the right-wing reactionaries an d the communist left with a fair degree of success. nationalistic in outlook and it has demonstrated by words and actions its honesty. lawyers and journalists met informally but regularly in the basement dining room of Mr Lee Kuan Yew to weigh the odds against the formation of a new left-wing political party. It is sincere and dedicated about its ultimate goals but it is prepared to change its strategy though not its basic objectives. an d why has it grown in stature an d influence in the past ten years? It is because the Party has the capacity to recognise har d facts an d form its theory from the m an d no t the other way round. all the pre-Emergency left-wing organisations. The PAP group met a number of times at Mr David Marshall's flat. MNP and API had either been forcibly liquidated by the British or had found that they could not operate under Emergency laws. Except for the Malayan Communist Party. On the other hand a left-wing party which tried to hinder these British objectives would have had a hard time of it. The new Rendel Constitution published in February 1954 was not tailored to encourage a strongly anti-colonial left-wing party. pro-colonial elements. mor e schools. mor e job s an d better amenities of life. we have no t don e too badly. The talks were not fruitful as it became
. such as PUTERA-AMCJA. has becom e an even mor e viable base with the formation of Malaysia. It is pragmatic. we have succeeded in endin g British colonial rule.cooperation of all anti-colonial forces. We were also right in our analysis an d belief that merge r with the Federation was inevitable an d we have brough t this about throug h sustained discussion an d persuasion. Approaches were made to the PAP group by leaders of the Labour Party and the newly announced Socialist Party who were planning to merge the two into the Labour Front with a view to presenting a united front against the right-wing Progressive Party. There were the clowns of the Labour Party of Singapore. There were the Progressive Party and their feeble leaders. they should do nothing and let providence sort things out for them? A policy of inaction could well have aided the British in consolidating their political position in the Federation and Singapore by strengthening local right-wing. That was a time when only weak men and opportunistic elements thrust themselves on the local political stage. went the way of other socialist parties? Would it not be better and wiser for the men around the table to accept that since a democratic leftwing party could not operate under colonial conditions. The choice then was between these opportunistic elements and a militant underground Communist Party. It is realistic in its approach to all problems. The Birth of the PAP How did the PAP come into being? How did it grow from strength to strength? What were the problems it has faced and how did it overcome the many crises which any dynamic party must face from time to time? The following is a brief history of the Party over the past ten years. We were right in believing that a non-communist democratic socialist party can capture the hear t an d minds of the masses. mor e hospitals. Th e Party has achieved on e of its fundamental aims an d objectives — the independenc e of Singapore throug h merge r with the Federation of Malaya — an d now including Sarawak an d Sabah. an d that a non-violent democratic socialist policy an d metho d can mee t the basic huma n needs of the people for better housing. Looking back at the past ten years.
Once a decision was made to launch the party. After careful consideration. It was this willing subordination othe r problems to the immediate task of combating which helpe d to conceal the reservations that anti-colonial of all colonialism factions ha d abou t the ultimate aims an d objectives of the party. it was finally agreed that if a genuine left-wing party was not launched before the Rendel Constitution came into effect in 1955. The presence of Alliance leaders like Dato Sir Cheng Lock Tan and Tengku Abdul Rahman at the meeting puzzled and alarmed the pro-colonial elements. impatient and unskilled in the use of constitutional tactics. drew u p the manifesto could no t have foreseen in 1954 that Singapore was to be politically isolated from the Federation for a period of years. in particular the British. Singapore and the become one. realised that the common ground was anticolonialism. Get rid of colonialism and all would the ending of colonialism. the PAP group got down to the preparation of its manifesto. again in the PAP merger. To do that would be to wait forever. Th e presence of Alliance n an d Dato Sir Chen g Lock Tan PAP o n Novembe r 21 . Th e analysis was based o n the premise that the anti-colonial struggle in Singapore would be carried ou t within a pan-Malayan context. Malaya appeared be well. With Federation would The 14 convenors of the Party were not the usual run of opportunists who treated
. made a number of attempts to trap the Party into condonin g an d supporting revolutionary violence. In 1954. The manifesto endorsed the use of constitutional means for achieving its ends. What common ground was there between a right-wing Alliance and a left-wing PAP? The more intelligent rightwing.clear to the PAP group that the proposed Labour Front was going to be an election party and not a genuine socialist movement. Ending Colonial Rule On e major assumption was that the endin g of colonial rule would automatically bring about the emergenc e of a united Malayan society. Nearly 1. Th e basic aims an d objectives of the Party are as valid today as they were ten years ago. There were some who were sceptical of the effectiveness of constitutional methods and weapons in weakening the hold of colonialism. then the way would be open for the consolidation of British power through local right-wing groups. the political problems of very simple. the interpretations of terms such as "democracy" main pre-occupation of the grou p was with the nee d to en d the manifesto colonialism. We now know that in its preoccupation with colonialism and the fight for underestimated the significance of racial. It was felt that a dynamic party should not wait for absolutely ideal conditions before venturing forth. This assumption was no t unjustified in leaders like Tengku Abdul Rahma at th e inaugural meetin g of th e 1954. But some of the underlying assumptions mad e in the manifesto have bee n weakened by the marc h of events.500 people were present at the meeting. attendances at PAP meetings were to run into tens of thousands. However. This was considered a fantastically large number for a political meeting at that time though in subsequent years. 1954 lent substance to this Those who assumption. It was in this confident mood that the PAP was formally inaugurated at the Victoria Memorial Hall on November 21. in 1954. The presence of Alliance leaders at the PAP inaugural meeting was a sort of storm signal for the colonialists. cultural and communal factors in the politics of our country. and to be re-united 1963 under a new Malaysian flag. The reaction of the right-wing and pro-colonial elements to the new party was a mixture of bewilderment and hostility. Th e dominan t an d recurring written ten years ago is anti-colonialism. In subsequent years adventurers within the Party. 1954. Th e means an drawing u p of the manifesto easy task particularly when for the new Party was by individuals in the grou p n o ha d different an d views an d "socialism". It was assumed that anti-colonial parties in Singapore an d in the Federation were units of an integrated national movement. them e in Everything else is overshadowed by it. Ha d they succeeded there would be n o 10th anniversary of the PAP an d its bones would today be bleaching with those of the othe r dead left-wing movements in Singapore.
The representatives of the Chamber had always regarded themselves as the natural leaders of the Chinese-speaking masses and had often been treated as such by British officials.155 in the second elections of 1951.000 it was clear that the old-style political parties were doomed. Lim Chin Siong (Bukit Timah) and Goh Chew Chua (Ponggol-Tampines). The Democrats believed that as the traditional leaders of the Chinese-speaking masses. One view was that since the Rendel Constitution was undemocratic and essentially pro-colonial the Party should boycott the elections as an act of protest. Devan Nair (Farrer Park). it was argued. A special party conference was therefore convened in February 1955 to discuss whether the PAP should contest the forthcoming elections while at the same time recognising the defects of the Rendel Constitution. This Party. They were serious about what they were saying. The MDU. Only two out of 20 candidates were elected. By and large they were relying on Chinese chauvinism to propel them into power.the Democratic Party. Dragon dances and appeals to Chinese communalism did not save the Democrats. This being so. The majority opinion prevailed. The other view was that boycott was a negative weapon and could only end in the isolation and possible extinction of the Party. It was agreed that the Party should constitute an opposition force in the Assembly with a view to exposing the shortcomings of the pro-colonial constitution. But with the swelling of the electorate to 300. underestimated the mood of the masses. Under the Rendel Constitution. Since the PAP's proclaimed programme was that of a democratic party the majority felt that the constitutional machinery could be skilfully used to whittle down the power of colonialism by the process of mobilising mass opinion and fervour around the PAP. and thus made inevitable its demise when the Emergency broke out. The personal influence of the candidate rather than organisation and programme was the major factor. the number of voters had been increased to nearly 300. A party committed to constitutional methods of change would be signing its death warrant if it stood outside the constitutional arena and merely protested with words. This was one of the points on which no clear agreement had been reached by the sponsors of the Party. committed this error. The future lay with political parties organised for mass action and mass influence. The 1955 election campaign revealed conclusively that politics in Singapore had entered the age of mass influence and agitation. The large attendances at its meetings were a new development and a source of anxiety
. Rendel Stage The most immediate problem for the Party was whether it should take part in the forthcoming elections. What was most novel was the air of discipline and purpose with which the meeting was conducted. thanks to automatic registration. sponsored by millionaire representatives of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce. A pro-tem committee with Dr Toh Chin Chye as Chairman and Mr Lee Kuan Yew as Secretary was elected to organise the Party. they could sweep the polls.politics either as an interesting hobby or a lucrative racket. But the 1955 elections were to shatter the myth about the influence wielded by chauvinistic leaders — among the Chinese masses.395 in the first elections and 48. The PAP was such a party. The fact that members of the Chamber had played a prominent role in the agitation for Nanyang University was considered another factor in favour of the Democrats. like the Progressives. They were Lee Kuan Yew (Tanjong Pagar). Four candidates were nominated by the Party.000 of which some 70 per cent were Chinese-speaking. The audience at the meeting included prominent trade unionists and intellectuals. In February 1955 another party made its appearance . In previous elections the number of registered voters was small — 22. political campaigns and strategy had more in common with the electioneering tactics in clan and private associations.
This refusal was presented by the right as evidence of pro-communist leanings in the PAP. Every division. In view of the persistent efforts of the colonial elements to bran d the PAP as a communist front. democratic. Three of the four candidates were elected but what was significant was the number of votes polled by the PAP candidates. as the months went by. they also declared. Every effort was made to seclude the PAP leaders into a negative anti-communist alliance with the British and the right-wing parties. right-wingers or communists who tried to destroy the PAP an d what it stood for. Th e PAP knew that all that the rightwing was waiting for was some satisfactory pretext to procee d against the Party. These were brave an d defiant words. every conflict within the Party was invariably presented by the right-wing and pro-colonial forces as a defeat for and a weakening of the democratic and socialist elements within the Party. when it looked as thoug h the right-wing an d procolonial elements were close to sapping the strength an d resistance of the leaders of the PAP which ha d decided that. non-communist Malaya" (Free Press. it became necessary to clarify th e Party's attitude towards communism . But. For this reason it steadfastly resisted all attempts by the rightist an d pro-colonialist elements to coerce it into joinin g an anticommunist crusade. Right-Wing Pressure Ther e were occasions. by local right-wing elements. One of the major controversies inside the PAP revolved around the question: "What kind of mass organisation?" Was it to be a mass organisation for revolutionary and violent seizure of power or was it to be a mass organisation for the democratic and non-violent seizure of power? That was the big question that confronted the PAP following the 1955 elections.to right-wing and colonial elements which until then had consoled themselves with the thought that the people of Singapore were politically apathetic. whethe r colonialists. Within the first few months after the elections. com e what may. it was no t going to ally itself with the reactionary right or be absorbed by the communist left. on its own strength. On the other adventurist and extremist groups. Though the 1955 elections showed that the PAP was a mass party. Violence or Non-Violence that PAP large The election results in April 1955 showed clearly enough the PAP was a party with a mass character. Those in the PAP leadership who believed in the creation of a democratic mass organisation were under no illusion about the magnitude of their undertaking. This the Secretary of the Party did in May 1955 when h e affirmed that the PAP was formed with the intention of establishing "an independent . bu t they did no t conceal the anxiety the PAP supporters felt abou t the possibility of the rightwing an d pro-colonialist elements smashing the Party at the first convenient opportunity. May 5.
. This dange r increased as the Labour Front coalition government. 1955). On one side were the forces of colonialism reinforced. durin g the first six years. got into political difficulties. which the right-wing ha d come to regard as a shield against the PAP. the PAP never forgot on e fact: Its future as a party lay in its preserving its independenc e an d in bein g true to its publicly proclaimed ideals. many years were to pass before it built a mass organisation to suit Malayan conditions. If it increased its influence it should be o n the basis of its own strength an d its own beliefs. No effort was spared to demoralise the PAP supporters by trying to convince them that a democratic socialist party could not. prevent its being swallowed up by extremist and pro-communist elements within and without the party. Throug h all the twists an d turns of events durin g the past ten years. the democratic and socialist elements within the PAP were well aware that they would have to fight on two fronts. they would fight anybody. Th e PAP leaders retorted by saying that if the PAP was pro-anything it was proPAP. The right-wing strategy was to brand the PAP as the stooge of the Malayan Communist Party with a view eventually to closing down the party or crippling it into ineffectiveness. throug h all the convulsions an d acts of treachery inside the Party.
NJ. River Edge.ebrary. Kwa Chong (Editor). S. Rajaratnam on Singapore : From Ideas to Reality.Guan.com/lib/singaporenatlib/Doc?id=10201371&ppg=203 Copyright © 2006. USA: World Scientific. All rights reserved. 2006. World Scientific. p 180-188 http://site.