Elections always pique my interest in why some people hate certain people. And more importantly remind me that the other parties exist. And then there’ll be some googling about the person’s past and amusingly/frustratingly, painted in different lights.
To be honest, I have been confused about what left wing/right wing refers to. Why some articles say PAP is left, some say right? I never understood what legislative council is too. Or how is that different from parliamentary system. Or am I actually comparing oranges to apples? The list of unknowns is infinite.
Either I failed history back then, or my memory failed me, or my pre-JC social studies/history lessons have failed me. Some lines from National Day stuck with me but they were more like patriotism lines to recite and not so much details in the change of tides in terms of politics. “There was a time not long ago… xxx… they spoke a dozen different tongues, though their dreams were all the same.” Insert some chanting thereafter. Ok la, fair enough, I didn’t go read up by myself too. So here I am reading up for lost time and lost knowledge.
Sometimes I dare not believe what I read on the internet regarding historical issues because… well, you know how skewed things can be. But that is the most abundant and easily accessible source at Wifi’s reach (yeah the library is around too, I know). And it’s quite interesting how people get so agitated on forums because they think the information passed down is biased… and then I wonder if they could be the biased ones too.
Anyway, I digressed. Here’s a quick history powerbank for Singapore history, picked up from Wikipedia (LOL lousy source, confirm get slammed by the history teachers). Will expand the relevant events sometime later I suppose.
Ancient Singapore (before 1819):
TLDR: We’ve always been a trading post and were vulnerable to pirates, had many names over the centuries, the “Sang Nila Utama and the ‘lion'” story, different empires fought for the island, Portugese raiders made us obscure till Sir Stamford Raffles dropped by.
- The island was controlled by different kingdoms in SEA so it had many different names. We were also long identified as a trading port.
- The first written records date to the 2nd century. The Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy marked the island as Sabana on his map. I’m actually already quite amazed that we had connections with a Roman dude so far back.
- A written record in the 3rd century described the island as Pu Luo Zhong (蒲羅中), which was likely a direct translation from Pulau Ujong, which meant “island at the end”.
- Sometime later in the 13th century, Sang Nila Utama (prince of the Srivijaya empire ie. Indonesia a very long time ago) survived a shipwreck and ended up on the island. He saw a lion and believe it was an auspicious sign, hence he named the island Singapura (Lion city in Sanskrit). This was documented in the Malay Annals. There is also controversy about whether he really saw a lion cos of the ecology of the island, but I really don’t care about that haha.
- Ok, just a quickie about the different names. Also in the 13th century, there were records from the Mongols about this place called Long Ya Men (龍牙門), where they were supposed to obtain elephants. Wow we had elephants… not sure if they were for trading or wild ones. A Chinese traveller Wang Dayuan described the island as Dan Ma Xi (淡馬錫), a direct translation from Tamasek in Malay. This Javanese poem referred to the island as Temasek in the 1600s. Long story short, the whole Strait of Malacca was important for trade between China and India, some European countries too, but it was also very vulnerable to piracy then.
- Anyway, there are a few variations after Sang Nila Utama. In short, the Srivijaya empire eventually declined and the island was alternately claimed by Majapahit (also Indonesia a very long time ago) and the Siamese (uh Thailand). Err then I got confused about the Sultanate of Malacca and Sultanate of Johor part. Ok honestly don’t know what happened there and then, but the island continued to function as a port somehow.
- Suddenly fast forward to 1511, Portugese raiders burned the settlement (we had things to raid??). Then we became obscure all the way till 1819 where Sir Stamford Raffles appeared.
Founding of Singapore, early growth and British colonization:
TLDR: The Dutch had the most power in the Malay archipelago and the British wanted to establish more power in the area for more economic returns. Raffles effectively bought the island over and it flourished. Sidekicks include William Farquhar, the Temenggong, the Sultan(s) of Johor. More people and economic growth but more social issues. Poor defence in general.
- Prior the Raffles’ appearance, between the 16th and 19th centuries, the Malay archipelago was slowly taken over by the European colonial powers ie. the Portugese, the Dutch, the British etc. The Dutch were the dominant power in the area.
- In 1818, Raffles was the Lieutenant Governer of the British colony in Bencoolen (this area in present day Indonesia). He wanted the British to replace the Dutch as the dominant power because the trade route between China and British India was there and growing in importance as the opium trade rose, the Dutch didn’t allow the British from operating in the Dutch-controlled ports or imposed unfavourable prices for the exceptions.
- British ports there were not good enough geographically so he set off on an expedition for a better one. He found the island, which was ruled by a Temenggong (governor) for the Sultan of Johor. The Sultan of Johor was controlled by the Dutch and the Bugis (Indo people), so he would never agree to a British base. But this sultan was only sultan cos his brother was away getting married when their father died and had been living in exile then. So Raffles and the Temenggong smuggled the brother back and offered to recognize him as the rightful sultan and yearly payment, in exchange for setting up a British base. A treaty was signed and modern Singapore was born.
- Raffles left shortly after signing the treaty and put Major William Farquhar in charge. Singapore was a free port so many traders flocked to Singapore to circumvent the Dutch trading restrictions. There was generally success but when Raffles returned, he disapproved of some decisions Farquhar made, like sale of opium, so the latter was dismissed.
- Second treaty was signed with the sultan and Temenggon to possess the whole island in return for lifelong monthly payments. Another governor was installed.
- The Malay archipelago was divided between the Dutch (the north) and the British (the south), by the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1824. Singapore was grouped with Penang and Malacca into the Straits Settlements which is an administrative unit under the British East India company. The island continued to flourish with merchant houses, middle men, coolies, craftsmen and fishermen etc.
- Social problems like housing shortage, poor health and living standards, secret societies followed with its population growth. Singapore was basically unaffected by the First World War (1914-1918) but the British did invest more in a naval base to deter the growing and ambitious Japanese empire. Sadly, got base, no fleet. And by the time the Second World War broke out, the fleet was occupied with defending Britain.
Wow ok already very long hahaha. But pretty interesting I must say. The Japanese Occupation, post-war and independence events will be continued in another post. And those events itself can be expanded into books themselves so… I shall try la hahah. That’s probably where all the intellectual debate comes in.
Note: Content was mostly ripped off from Wikipedia and I claim no ownership for that.