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Sometimes the best intentions can lead to the worst results. When Great Britain took the moral high ground and agreed to end its lucrative export of opium from Imperial India to China in 1908, it unleashed a century of criminality.
Just as America’s misguided Prohibition of alcohol made illicit fortunes for the Mafia and other American gangsters, so organised crime within the British Empire grew rich on its trade in illegal narcotics in the 20th century.
Having succeeded in stopping the Indian Government from exporting opium throughout South-East Asia, there were millions of opium addicts, mainly Chinese, who demanded their daily fix.
Sir Cecil Clementi.
With Persian growers and dealers happy to step in and undercut colonial attempts to control the price of opium, the illicit trade was growing rapidly, giving greater power to the narcotics crime lords.
The governors of the British Empire’s colonies were getting impatient for action and leading the discontent was Sir Cecil Clementi, Governor of Hong Kong. He spoke in 1927:
‘If no effective opposition is offered, the position of the opium smuggler will grow daily stronger. The Hong Kong market is extremely desirable …’
Unless something was done and done quickly, Hong Kong was in danger of becoming the centre of a world trade in illicit drugs.
Sir Cecil spelled out the problem:
‘There is still enormous wholesale opium smuggling from South China, for which Hong Kong is the natural port of shipment and through which the Colony is brought into disrepute.’
The situation was getting worse day by day because of the civil war raging in mainland China between rival warlords in the wake of the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, 1911.
Puyi was the 12th and final Emperor of the Qing dynasty.
Chinese refugees were flooding into Hong Kong, raising the colony’s population from 600,000 to 900,000 and quadrupling the consumption of opium. According to Sir Cecil, the reduction of opium consumption was quite impossible.
To bolster their war chests, the competing warlords were keen to exploit the money-making potential of the opium trade by growing and selling it. In order to defeat this wave of illegal opium threatening to engulf all British colonies in South-East Asia, there was only one answer Sir Cecil could think of.
Map showing the amount of opium produced in China in 1908. The quote below is by Lord Justice Fry in 1884: ‘We English, by the policy we have pursued, are morally responsible for every acre of land in China which is withdrawn from the cultivation of grain and devoted to that of the poppy; so that the fact of the growth of the drug in China ought only to increase our sense of responsibility.’
That was to become a dealer himself— the biggest dealer in the region. Sir Cecil’s daring idea was the result of a life spent in South-East Asia, dealing with the reality of gang life on the streets of British colonies.
More than anyone else, he knew the danger this posed to Britain’s ability to control the rapidly growing Chinese population in their colonies, and for that reason, he was willing to go further than any other governor and think the unthinkable.
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To defeat the smugglers and their empire of crime, Cecil wanted to buy large quantities of opium directly from Persia and dump it cheaply on his home market – putting the smugglers out of business at a stroke.
To achieve this, he needed to buy 40 chests of opium a month from Persia, as well as 196 chests from India. While he waited for official permission from London, Cecil embarked on his personal drug-dealing exercise by unleashing more legal opium on the market.
Within days, government sales had quadrupled. Initial feedback seemed to justify his gamble. He reported to London:
‘Steps taken in Hong Kong have now passed beyond the experimental stage and the fact that there is no sign of increased consumption to balance the increase in Government sales shows its success. In addition, the daily average of opium offenders in jail has fallen from 540 to 361, a very important factor in view of its chronic overcrowding.’
The governor’s policy seemed a miracle cure for crime. To carry on however, he needed further supplies of opium and asked permission to import more from Singapore while he awaited the influx from Persia.
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Sir Cecil’s pre-emptory action caused a sharp intake of breath among the pen-pushers in Whitehall. At a secret Cabinet meeting, the disapproval of His Britannic Majesty’s Government was made clear.
Everyone now turned to Sir Malcolm Delevingne, Whitehall’s leading narcotics expert, to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by the rogue Governor of Hong Kong.
Delevingne’s position was that if they were to continue with Cecil’s campaign, Hong Kong would be committing itself indefinitely to supplying cheap opium to its consumers.
A photograph of a Chinese Opium House, taken in 1902.
As soon as any attempt was made to reduce the supply of opium in order to suppress the habit, the market would be invaded once again by cheap illicit opium from China.
It seemed an unsustainable stance for Sir Cecil to carry on being the chief supplier of opium to his population. The British Cabinet were making it clear to Sir Cecil that they did not approve of his Hong Kong experiment.
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Despite nearly precipitating a rift with London, Sir Cecil Clementi was certainly not alone in expressing discontent with Britain’s policy on restricting the export of Indian opium, and he remained Governor of Hong Kong until 1930.
He was a modernising ruler, establishing Kai Tak airport, which continued in use until 1998. His obituary in the London Times described his period as Governor of Hong Kong as:
‘a great success, especially in regard to the restoration which it brought about of Anglo-Chinese friendship.’
No mention was made of his attempt to become the biggest opium dealer in South-East Asia or his clash with his colonial masters.
Tim Newark is the author of several critically acclaimed history books and was the editor of Military Illustrated for 17 years. He has also written 7 TV military documentary series, including ‘Hitler’s Bodyguard’. Empire of Crime is published by Pen & Sword Books.
Gertrude Lythgoe is one of the only women to ever operate an alcohol bootlegging ring during the male-dominated Prohibition Era. Records show that the amount of liquor being exported to the United States from the Bahamas grew from 47,300 liters (12,500 gal) in 1917 to 950,000 liters (250,000 gal) in 1923. Bootleggers like Lythgoe were a huge reason why.
Lythgoe would enter the bootlegging business when she met a London liquor exporter. Feeling the pinch in his pockets from the ban of liquor in America, he realized that he could more easily import liquor from Nassau, Bahamas to the United States. Lythgoe opened up a liquor wholesale shop in Nassau and the profits poured in.
She found people to be quite skeptical of her since she was a woman. However, they could not argue with her prices, savvy, and business acumen. Her success eventually earned her the nickname &ldquoThe Bahama Queen.&rdquo
One would-be competitor made the mistake of throwing mud at her name and bad-mouthing her product. She kidnapped him from a barbershop while he was getting a shave, pulled a gun on him, and threatened his life should he ever talk badly of her liquor again. She never received another complaint.
She was eventually arrested in New Orleans and charged with smuggling 1,000 cases of liquor into the city. However, the charges were soon dropped. Lythgoe would later leave the bootlegging business and settle in Los Angeles, where she passed away at age 86.
The Jalisco New Generation (CJNG)
Territory: The west, mainly the Tierra Caliente region.
Formed in about 2010, the Jalisco cartel is the strongest and most aggressive competitor to the Sinaloa.
The group has expanded rapidly across Mexico and is now one of the country's most dominant organised crime groups. Its assets are thought to be worth more than $20bn (£15.5bn).
The cartel is led by Ruben Oseguera, known as "El Mencho", a former police officer who is Mexico's most wanted man. The bounty for his capture? A cool $10m.
The Jalisco cartel is one of the main distributors of synthetic drugs on the continent, according to the US government. It is a key player in the illegal amphetamine market in the US and Europe and is also thought to have links to the drug market in Asia.
It has grown much more powerful in recent years and its rise has been fuelled by its use of extreme violence.
"It remains the most aggressive cartel in Mexico," according to the US-based geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor. "Its efforts to expand its area of control are largely responsible for the persistent wave of violence racking Tijuana, Juarez, Guanajuato and Mexico City."
Indeed, the cartel has gained notoriety for a series of attacks on security forces and public officials.
It has downed an army helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, killed dozens of state officials, and has even been known to hang the bodies of its victims from bridges to intimidate its rivals.
And, according to experts in the region, it is set to expand further.
How Sir Cecil Clementi Became The Biggest Drug Dealer in South-East Asia - History
Leroy "Nicky" Barnes rose to prominence in Harlem in the 1970s after forming "The Council" which was a recognized organization in the criminal underworld with ties to the Italian crime family, the Lucchese's, who they supplied raw heroin. This deal was brokered through a friend of Barnes, Matty Madonna, with whom he had spent time with inside of Green Haven State Prison for drug charges.
Although he had several run-ins with the law, Barnes earned a reputation that no matter what he was caught with - including $500,000 USD worth of narcotics - no prosecutor or judge could make the charges stick so the he was ever forced to endure the entire length of his sentence. Additionally, he would often lead surveillance teams on hundred-mile-an-hour car rides into New York City and then out again with no apparent purpose.
In 1974, police officers discovered more than $130,000 USD in cash in Barnes's car, and claimed that he tried to bribe them. The following year, Barnes was found not guilty in the bribery case, and acquitted in the murder case involving Clifford Haynes who was the brother of a "Councilman" girlfriend who had run away with some of the organization's money.
By 1976, Barnes had at least seven major lieutenants working for him, each of whom controlled a dozen mid-level distributors, who in turn supplied up to 40 street-level retailers.
A New York Times article reported that Barnes owned 300 suits, 100 pairs of shoes, and 50 leather coats. His fleet of cars included a Mercedes-Benz, a Citroen-Macerate, and several Thunderbirds, Lincoln Continentals, and Cadillacs. To prevent his cars from being seized and forfeited, Barnes set up phony leasing companies to make it appear that the cars he drove were not owned by him, but merely rented.
Nicky Barnes solidified his reputation as "Mr. Untouchable" with the release of a 1977 New York Times Magazine cover story written by Fred Ferretti which chronicled his drug exploits and seemed to spit in the face of law enforcement officials who were hellbent on putting him away on charges of distributing heroin.
President Jimmy Carter reportedly saw the article and put pressure on the Justice Department to prosecute Barnes to the fullest extent of the law which resulted in a conviction that same year for flooding black neighborhoods with heroin and charges of narcotics racketeering.
Barnes was sentenced in 1978 to life in prison without parole and was sent to the Marion Federal Penitentiary in Illinois to serve his time.
In the words of the prosecutor, Barnes controlled “the largest, most profitable and venal drug ring in New York City.”
In 1984, Barnes testified against four men who made up the aforementioned "Council" - Guy Fisher, Frank James, Wallace Rice and Ishmael Muhammed - who all received life without parole. Barnes felt he had been wronged by his associates, especially Fisher.
"When I went to the joint, I gave Guy Fisher a woman of mine and told him to look out for her, take care of her," Barnes said. After learning they had become romantically involved, Barnes was ready to speak.
In passing sentence, the judge said that Mr. Barnes's testimony was "convincing, devastating and indeed shocking."
Eventually, Barnes was resentenced to 35 years and housed in a special Witness Security Unit at Federal Correctional Institution and was released in August 1998.
Legends of America
The dice and the guns weren’t the only things loaded in the Old West — so were many of the men and women. Generally, when we think of people being “loaded” in those days, the image of men standing at a long bar knocking down shots of Firewater or White Lightning immediately comes to mind. However, the fact is that drugs such as morphine and cocaine were being used with frequency. These, along with cannabis (marijuana), heroin and other narcotics, were legal, could be purchased over the counter, and were liberally prescribed by doctors for a multitude of ailments, even to children. Coupled with opium dens, patent medicines, and the easy availability of laudanum, it’s a wonder more pioneers didn’t overdose.
Another fun video from our friends at Arizona Ghost Riders
The earliest reference to opium use was in 3,400 B.C. when the opium poppy was cultivated in lower Mesopotamia (Southwest Asia). The Sumerians referred to it as Hul Gil, the “joy plant.” The Sumerians soon passed it on to the Assyrians (Middle East), who in turn passed it on to the Egyptians. Opium was known to ancient Greek and Roman physicians as a powerful pain reliever used to induce sleep and to give relief to the bowels. Its pleasurable effects were also noted.
As people learned of the power of opium, demand for it increased. Many countries began to grow and process opium to expand its availability and to decrease its cost. Its cultivation spread along the Silk Road, from the Mediterranean through Asia and finally to China around 700 A.D. Smoking opium in China began in the 1600s and was commonplace in China by the 1800s.
The first known opiates brought to America is thought to have been by a physician named Samuel Fuller who arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. In his medical kit, he likely carried an early form of laudanum, an opium/alcohol mixture first created in the 16th Century. Like all opiates, it was an effective painkiller, an anti-diarrheal medication, a sleep inducement and was used to treat colds, fevers, consumption (tuberculosis), insomnia, stomach disorders, and more.
By the American Revolution, laudanum was a common medical tool, which was used several well-known personalities including Patrick Henry who was said to have been an addict and Benjamin Franklin who used it to relieve his gout pain. Even Thomas Jefferson, who was generally skeptical of the medical treatments of his day, turned to laudanum in his later years to help ease his chronic diarrhea.
Opium contains more than 25 derivatives that were used in medicine, the most popular of which is morphine. Named after Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep, it was first isolated in 1803. However, Morphine was slow to be adopted as a painkiller because its effectiveness was limited when taken by mouth, though it was sometimes added to whiskey for greater results. It wouldn’t see its full objective until the hypodermic syringe was invented in the 1850s.
During the Civil War, both opium and morphine were widely used as painkillers. In the early years, they were generally taken as a pill, mixed with alcohol to form laudanum, or as a powder which was applied directly to open wounds. In later years, syringes became more readily available to surgeons in field hospitals, and it was injected in liquid form. During the war, some soldiers became addicted and hospitals and doctors were forced to have their medicine supplies guarded by armed men to stop theft. In fact, the addiction was so prevalent among veterans after the war, that it became known as the “Soldier’s Disease.”
Morphine was used to treat the same symptoms as opium as well as being prescribed for hangovers and even in the treatment of alcoholism when doctors thought morphine addiction was the lesser of two evils. It was also used during childbirth.
Another important opium derivative was laudanum, which was a drinkable medicine made by dissolving opium in alcohol. It was commonly used as a sedative and painkiller to treat headaches, toothaches, heart ailments, insomnia, nerve pain, “female complaints”, and was added to cough syrup. Unfortunately, it was also utilized to commit suicide, especially among disillusioned prostitutes in Old West. Some of these included a 21-year old named Sallie Talbot in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1873, Laura Steele in Virginia City, Nevada in 1875, and Ida Vernon, also of Virginia City, Nevada.
A more well-known name was that of Eleanor Dumont, better known as Madame Moustache, who was a gambler who worked the mining camps in Nevada, Montana, Arizona, and California. She died of an overdose after having suffered a large gambling loss in Bodie, California in 1879. Another was Mattie Blalock, who was either the common-law wife or girlfriend of Wyatt Earp. She was known to have abused laudanum while she was with Earp and several years after he left her she took a lethal dose of laudanum and alcohol in 1888. It is not known whether it was suicide or an accident.
Many writers and poets of the time were known to use laudanum including Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Edgar Allen Poe.
The first wide-spread recreational use of opium came to the United States in the 19th century with immigrant Chinese laborers working in and around the mines during the California Gold Rush and during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad. Bringing their opium smoking habits with them, opium dens soon opened up in a number of settlements where a population of Chinese could be found. From about 1850 to 1870 the practice of smoking opium remained primarily a Chinese habit but during the 1870s it began to spread especially amongst those in the underworld — such as pimps, gamblers, prostitutes, and criminals. Opium dens were usually located in the Chinese section of town and often called “Hop Alley.” In the 1880s, Denver’s Hop Alley had 12 opium dens with five more located nearby.
News of the effects of smoking opium soon spread to the general population and opium dens spread across the continent as far as New York City. The importation of opium increased steadily from 24,000 pounds in 1840 to 416,924 pounds in 1872.
Opium imports hit their peak in the 1890s, right around the rise of the temperance movement. This may have been due to the demonization of alcohol, or perhaps because opiate use was easier to hide. In 1900, estimates were that 250,000 people were opium addicts
However, most Americans didn’t need an opium den to get a “taste” of opiates as they were often the main ingredient of many patent medicines. In everything from teething powders, to cough syrup, to aids for “female complaints”, these elixirs were prevalent on the market.
In 1898, the Bayer pharmaceutical company discovered that when morphine was boiled it created another “effective” medicine – heroine. The name was based on the German word heroisch, which means “heroic, strong.” The company quickly began an aggressive marketing campaign to sell its commercial preparation of Heroin as well as another recent invention — aspirin. Heroine was touted as a treatment for asthma, coughs, colds, bronchitis, and tuberculosis, even for children. It was also promoted as being non-addictive and as a substitute for alcohol and morphine. The promotions continued through 1912.
One of the oldest, most potent and most dangerous stimulants of natural origin, the Coca leaf has been used since 3000 BC. The ancient Inca chewed coca leaves to get their hearts racing and to speed their breathing to counter the effects of living in thin mountain air. The Peruvians chewed coca leaves during religious ceremonies and used it as a local anesthetic to dull pain on an open wound.
cocaine was first extracted from coca leaves in 1859 by German chemist Albert Niemann. In 1863, a French chemist by the name of Angelo Mariani made a fortune selling a new beverage called Vin Mariani that was made from coca leaves. Advertised as fortifying and refreshing the body and restoring health and vitality, it was regarded as a wonder medicine for a variety of ailments. Two glasses of drink were believed to contain about 50 milligrams of pure cocaine.
But, it would not be until the 1880s that cocaine started to be popularized in the medical community. In 1883, Dr. Theodor Aschenbrandt, a German army physician, issued a supply of pure cocaine to Bavarian soldiers during maneuvers. He later reported positive results, including beneficial effects on the soldiers’ ability to endure fatigue during battle-like conditions. This got the attention of the medical community as well as others. One such man was Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, who used the drug himself, was the first to broadly promote cocaine as a tonic to cure depression and sexual impotence.
Before long, cocaine was found in a number of patent medicines and cocaine lozenges were recommended as effective remedies for coughs, colds, and toothaches. Doctors and pharmacists often prescribed it for treatment of indigestion, melancholia, pain, and even relieving vomiting in pregnancy. Cocaine was widely available and could be purchased over the counter. It was used in cough medicines, enemas, and poultices. By 1885, cocaine was sold in various forms – cigarettes, powder, even injection by needle. In medicine, it was commonly used as a local anesthetic.
In 1885, John Styth Pemberton of Atlanta, Georgia, who had previously manufactured such patent medicines as Triplex Liver Pills and Globe of Flower Cough Syrup, introduced “French Wine Coca”, advertised as an “Ideal Nerve and Tonic Stimulant.” The product relied heavily on the extract of coca leaves. The next year, Pemberton introduced a syrup called “Coca-Cola” named for the presence of an extract of the kola nut. At various times it was advertised as “a remarkable therapeutic agent” and as a “sovereign remedy” for a long list of ailments, including melancholy and insomnia. Coca-Cola once contained an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass. (For comparison, a typical dose or “line” of cocaine is 50–75 mg.) In 1903, the cocaine was removed.
The oldest known written record on cannabis (marijuana) use dates back to China in 2727 B.C. There, it was considered a legitimate medication. Ancient Greeks and Romans were also familiar with cannabis, while in the Middle East, use spread throughout the Islamic empire to North Africa. In 1545 cannabis spread to the western hemisphere where Spaniards imported it to Chile for its use as fiber. In North America cannabis, in the form of hemp, was also introduced by the Spanish and later grown on many plantations for use in rope, clothing, and paper.
During colonial days, the plant became a staple crop for farmers, who reportedly grew it for its fiber. Along with tobacco, hemp became a major export crop before the American Revolution.
The settlers of Jamestown, Virginia brought the plant to the states in 1611, also cultivating it for its fiber. It was introduced into New England in 1629 and from that time until after the Civil War, cannabis was a major crop in North America, playing an important role in both colonial and national economic policy. In fact, even George Washington was growing hemp in 1765 at Mount Vernon.
In 1775, hemp culture was introduced into Kentucky and large hemp plantations flourished in Mississippi, Georgia, California, South Carolina, and Nebraska until well into the 1800s.
In 1830, an Irish doctor and herb specialist is credited with training his Western colleagues in the benefits for relief of muscle spasm and pain. It was also used to treat migraines and insomnia, and as a primary pain reliever until the invention of aspirin.
From 1850 until 1942, the United States Pharmacopoeia, which lists most widely-accepted drugs, recognized marijuana as a legitimate medicine, under the name “Extractum Cannabis.” In 1851, the United States Dispensary said of it: “The complaints in which it has been specially recommended are neuralgia, gout, rheumatism, tetanus, hydrophobia, epidemic cholera, convulsions, chorea, hemorrhage.”
An autobiographical book by Fitz Hugh Ludlow, called The Hashish Eater was published in 1857. The volume described the author’s altered states of consciousness and philosophical flights of fancy while he was using a cannabis extract. In the United States, the book created popular interest in hashish, leading to hashish candy and private hashish clubs. Within 25 years of the publication of The Hashish Eater, many cities in the United States had private hashish parlors.
Limited non-medical use of cannabis was reported in an 1869 issue of the Scientific American: “The drug hashish, the cannabis indica of the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, the resinous product of hemp, grown in the East Indies and other parts of Asia, is used in those countries to a large extent for its intoxicating properties and is doubtless used in this country for the same purpose to a limited extent”
The use of cannabis products for recreation grew gradually. The December 2, 1876, issue of the Illustrated Police News featured a drawing of five exotically-attired young ladies supposedly indulging their “hashish” habit in a room where hookahs were conspicuous. The News captioned the drawing: “Secret Dissipation of New York Belles: Interior of a Hashish Hell on Fifth Avenue”.
This was the status quo until 1906 when the federal government stepped in with its landmark Pure Food and Drug Act, which required any “dangerous” or “addictive” drugs to appear on the label of products. More regulations followed in an attempt to stop drugs and addition. However, as we see today, little has changed.
Compiled & edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated January 2020.
Whatever you call it, being the new guy is all part of the process.
The FNG or F**king New Guy in the Army is the counter part to the Marine Corps’ B.O.O.T. (Barely Out Of Training). Both are troops fresh out of Basic who have yet to earn their fire team’s respect. They’re prone to mistakes and known for having no common sense. They’re the first ones up to police call a range or sweep the company office.
How Sir Cecil Clementi Became The Biggest Drug Dealer in South-East Asia - History
The history of the modern state of Singapore dates back to its founding in the early nineteenth century, however evidence suggests that a significant trading settlement existed on the Island of Singapore in the 14th century. At the time, the Kingdom of Singapura was under the rule of Parameswara, who killed the previous ruler before he was expelled by the Majapahit or the Siamese. It then came under the Malacca Sultanate and then the Johor Sultanate. In 1819, British statesman Stamford Raffles negotiated a treaty whereby Johor allowed the British to locate a trading port on the island, leading to the establishment of the crown colony of Singapore in 1819. During 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 Malaya to form Malaysia in 1963. However, social unrest and disputes between Singapore's ruling People's Action Party and Malaysia's Alliance Party resulted in Singapore's expulsion from Malaysia. Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965. Facing severe unemployment and a housing crisis, Singapore embarked on a modernisation programme beginning in the late 1960s through the 1970s that focused on establishing a manufacturing industry, developing large public housing estates, and investing heavily in public education and infrastructure. By the 1990s, the country had become one of the world's most prosperous nations, with a highly developed free market economy, strong international trading links. It now has the highest per capita gross domestic product in Asia, which is 7th in the world, and it is ranked 9th on the UN Human Development Index.
The Greco-Roman astronomer Ptolemy (90168) identified a place called ''Sabana'' at the tip of Golden Chersonese (believed to be the Malay Peninsula) in the second and third century. The earliest written record of Singapore may be in a Chinese account from the third century, describing the island of ''Pu Luo Chung'' (蒲 羅 中). This is thought to be a transcription from the Malay name ''"Pulau Ujong"'', or "island at the end" (of the Malay Peninsula). In 1025 CE, Rajendra Chola I of the Chola Empire led forces across the Indian Ocean and invaded the Srivijayan empire, attacking several places in Malaysia and Indonesia. ''Epigraphia Carnatica, Volume 10, Part 1, page 41'' The Chola forces were said to have controlled Temasek (now Singapore) for a couple of decades. The name Temasek however did not appear in Chola records, but a tale involving a Raja Chulan (assumed to be Rajendra Chola) and Temasek was mentioned in the semi-historical ''Malay Annals''. The Nagarakretagama, a Javanese epic poem written in 1365, referred to a settlement on the island called ''Tumasik'' (possibly meaning "''Sea Town''" or "''Sea Port''"). The name Temasek is also given in Sejarah Melayu (''Malay Annals''), which contains a tale of the founding of Temasek by a prince of Srivijaya, Sri Tri Buana (also known as Sang Nila Utama) in the 13th century. Sri Tri Buana landed on Temasek on a hunting trip, and saw a strange beast said to be a lion. The prince took this as an auspicious sign and founded a settlement called Singapura, which means "Lion City" in Sanskrit. The actual origin of the name Singapura however is unclear according to scholars. In 1320, the Mongol Empire sent a trade mission to a place called ''Long Ya Men'' (or ''Dragon's Teeth Gate''), which is believed to be Keppel Harbour at the southern part of the island. The Chinese traveller Wang Dayuan, visiting the island around 1330, described ''Long Ya Men'' as one of the two distinct settlements in ''Dan Ma Xi'' (from Malay ''Temasek''), the other being ''Ban Zu'' (from Malay ''pancur''). ''Ban Zu'' is thought to be present day Fort Canning Hill, and recent excavations in Fort Canning found evidence indicating that Singapore was an important settlement in the 14th century. Wang mentioned that the natives of ''Long Ya Men'' (thought to be the ''Orang Laut'') and Chinese residents lived together in ''Long Ya Men''. Singapore is one of the oldest locations where a Chinese community is known to exist outside China, and the oldest confirmed by archaeological and historical research. By the 14th century, the empire of Srivijaya had already declined, and Singapore was caught in the struggle between Siam (now Thailand) and the Java-based Majapahit Empire for control over the Malay Peninsula. According to the Malay Annals, Singapore was defeated in one Majapahit attack. The last king, Sultan Iskandar Shah ruled the island for several years, before being forced to Melaka where he founded the Sultanate of Malacca. Portuguese sources, however, indicated that Temasek was a Siamese vassal whose ruler was killed by Parameswara (thought to be the same person as Sultan Iskandar Shah) from Palembang, and Parameswara was then driven to Malacca, either by the Siamese or the Majapahit, where he founded the Malacca Sultanate. Modern archaeological evidence suggests that the settlement on Fort Canning was abandoned around this time, although a small trading settlement continued in Singapore for some time afterward. The Malacca Sultanate extended its authority over the island and Singapore became a part of the Malacca Sultanate. However, by the time the Portuguese arrived in the early 16th century, Singapura had already become "great ruins" according to Alfonso de Albuquerque. In 1511, the Portuguese seized Malacca the sultan of Malacca escaped south and established the Johor Sultanate, and Singapore then became part of the sultanate. The Portuguese however destroyed the settlement in Singapore in 1613, and the island sank into obscurity for the next two centuries.
1819: British colony of Singapore
Between the 16th and 19th centuries, the Malay Archipelago was gradually taken over by the European colonial powers, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese at Malacca in 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 monopoly over 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. In 1818, Sir Stamford Raffles was appointed as the Lieutenant Governor of the British colony at Bencoolen. He was determined that Great Britain should replace the Netherlands 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 opium trade 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 to a 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 needed a third port since the British only had the ports of Penang and Bencoolen. The port had to be strategically located along the main trade route between India and China and in the middle of the Malay Archipelago. He convinced Lord Hastings, the Governor-General of India and 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 28 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, freshwater supplies, and timber for repairing ships. It was also located along the main trade route between India and China. Raffles found a small Malay settlement at the mouth of the Singapore River, with an estimated population of about 150 that consisted of around 120 Malays and 30 Chinese. headed by the Temenggong and Tengku Abdul Rahman. Around 100 of these Malays had originally moved to Singapore from Johor in 1811 led by the Temenggong. The entire island may have a population of 1,000 including the various tribes and Orang Laut (sea gypsies). The island was nominally ruled by the Sultan of Johor, who was controlled by the Dutch and the Bugis. However, the Sultanate was weakened by factional division and Tengku Abdul Rahman and his officials were loyal to Tengku Rahman's elder brother Tengku Long who was living in exile in Riau. With the Temenggong's help, Raffles managed to smuggle Tengku Long back into Singapore. He offered to recognize Tengku Long as the rightful Sultan of Johor, given the title of Sultan Hussein and provide him with a yearly payment of $5000 and $3000 to the Temenggong in return, Sultan 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. When Raffles arrived, it was estimated that there were around 1,000 people living in the whole of the island of Singapore, mostly local groups that would become assimilated into Malays and a few dozen Chinese. The population increased rapidly soon after Raffles' arrival the first census of 1824 shows that 6,505 out of the 10,683 total were Malays and Bugis. Large number of Chinese migrants also started to enter Singapore just months after it became a British settlement, by the census of 1826, there were already more Chinese than Malays excluding Bugis and Javanese. Due to continual migration from Malaya, China, India and other parts of Asia, Singapore's population had reached nearly 100,000 by 1871, with over half of them Chinese. Many early Chinese and Indian immigrants came to Singapore to work in various plantations and tin mines and they were predominantly male, and large number of them would return to their home countries after they had earned enough money. However, an increasingly significant number chose to stay permanently by the early to mid twentieth century, and their descendants would form the bulk of Singapore's population.
1819–1942: Colonial Singapore
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 endeavor. 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. Farquhar invited settlers to Singapore and stationed a British official on St. John's Island to invite passing ships to stop in Singapore. As news of the free port spread across the archipelago, Bugis, Peranakan Chinese, and Arab traders flocked to the island, seeking to circumvent the Dutch trade restrictions. During the starting year of operation in 1819, $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 1824, 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. For instance, in order to generate much-needed revenue, Farquhar had resorted to selling licenses for gambling and the sale of opium, which Raffles saw as social evils. Shocked at the disarray of the colony as well as the tolerance of slave trade by Farquhar, Raffles set about drafting a set of new policies for the settlement, such as banning of slavery, closing of gambling dens, the prohibition of carrying of weapons, and heavy taxation to discourage what he considered to be social vices such as drunkenness and opium-smoking. He also organized Singapore into functional and ethnic subdivisions under the ''Raffles Plan of Singapore''. Today, remnants of this organization can still be found in the ethnic neighbourhoods. William Farquhar was also stripped off his post. Farquhar later died in Perth, Scotland. On 7 June 1823, John Crawfurd 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. In October 1823, Raffles departed for Britain and would never return to Singapore as he died in 1826, at the age of 44. In 1824, Singapore was ceded in perpetuity to the East India Company by the Sultan.
1826–1867: The Straits Settlements
s running along a street in Chinatown, which reflects the Victorian architecture of buildings built in Singapore during the earlier colonial period, with styles such as the painted ladies.]] The status of a British outpost in Singapore seemed initially in doubt as the Dutch government soon protested to Britain for violating the Netherlands' sphere of influence. But as Singapore rapidly emerged as an important trading post, Britain consolidated its claim on the island. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 cemented the status of Singapore as a British possession, carving 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 by the British East India Company together with Penang and Malacca to form the Straits Settlements, administered by the British East India Company. In 1830, the Straits Settlements became a ''residency'', or subdivision, of the Presidency of Bengal in British India. 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 the Chinese market, the advent of ocean-going steamships, the dramatic reduction in the time and cost of shipping goods to Europe after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and the production of rubber and tin in Malaya. Its status as a free port provided a crucial advantage over other colonial port cities in Batavia (now Jakarta) and Manila where 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 Canal in 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. The main commercial activity was entrepôt trade 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 had become 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 economic hardship in southern China. Their numbers were swelled by those fleeing the turmoil caused by the First Opium War (18391842) and Second Opium War (18561860). Many arrived in Singapore as impoverished indentured laborers. 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 had become 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 Sepoy troops garrisoned at Singapore by the British. Despite Singapore's growing importance, the administration governing the island was understaffed, ineffectual, and 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 from 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 cholera and smallpox caused severe health problems, 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. The situation created a deep concern in the European population of the island. In 1854 the ''Singapore Free Press'' complained that Singapore was a "small island" full of the "very dregs of the population of southeastern Asia".
1867–1942: Straits Settlements Crown Colony
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 Colony on 1 April 1867. This new colony was ruled by a governor under the supervision of the Colonial Office in London. An executive council and a legislative council assisted the governor. 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 Protectorate under 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 Smith banned 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 revolutionary Chinese organisation dedicated to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and led by Sun Yat-sen, founded its Nanyang branch in Singapore, which served as the organisation's headquarters in Southeast Asia. The members of the branch included Dr. Wong Hong-Kui (黃康衢), Mr. Tan Chor Lam (陳楚楠, 1884–1971, originally a rubber manufacturer) and Mr. Teo Eng Hock (張永福, originally a rubber shoe manufacturer). Chan Cho-Nam, Cheung Wing-Fook and Chan Po-Yin (陳步賢, 1883–1965) started the revolution-related Chong Shing Chinese Daily Newspaper (中興日報, 中興 meaning China revival), with the inaugural issue on 20 August 1907 and a daily distribution of 1000 copies. The newspaper ended in 1910, presumably due to the revolution in 1911. Working with other Cantonese people, Chan, Cheung and Chan opened the revolution-related Kai Ming Bookstore (開明書報社, 開明 meaning open wisdom) in Singapore. For the revolution, Chan Po-Yin raised over 30,000 yuan for the purchase and shipment (from Singapore to China) of military equipment and for the support of the expenses of people travelling from Singapore to China for revolutionary work. The immigrant Chinese population in Singapore donated generously to Tongmenghui, which organised the 1911 Xinhai Revolution that led to the establishment of the Republic of China. World War I (1914–1918) did not deeply affect Singapore: the conflict did not spread to Southeast Asia. The only significant local military event during the war was a 1915 mutiny by the British Muslim Indian sepoys garrisoned in Singapore. After hearing rumors of plans to send them to fight the Ottoman Empire, the soldiers revolted, killing their officers and several British civilians before troops arriving from Johor and Burma suppressed the unrest. 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 dock in the world, the third-largest floating dock, and 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 Force squadrons stationed at Tengah Air Base. Winston Churchill touted it as the "Gibraltar of the East." Unfortunately, it was a base without a fleet. The British Home Fleet was stationed in Europe and the plan was for it to sail quickly to Singapore when needed. However, after World War II broke out in 1939, the Fleet was fully occupied with defending Britain. Lieutenant General Sir William George Shedden Dobbie was appointed governor of Singapore and General Officer Commanding Malaya Command on 8 November 1935, holding the post based in The Istana until shortly before the outbreak of World War II in 1939. He was responsible for forming The Dobbie Hypothesis on the fall of Singapore which, had it been heeded, may have prevented the fall of Singapore during the Second World War.
1942–1945: The Battle for Singapore and Japanese occupation
In December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the east coast of Malaya, causing the Pacific War to begin in earnest. Both attacks occurred at the same time, but due to the international dateline, the Honolulu attack is dated 7 December while the Kota Bharu attack is dated 8 December. One of Japan's objectives was to capture Southeast Asia and 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 because of its flourishing trade and wealth. 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 they 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 , and cruiser . The squadron was to have been accompanied by a third capital ship, the aircraft carrier , but it ran aground en route, leaving the squadron without air cover. On 8 December 1941, Japanese forces landed at Kota Bharu in 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 Kuantan in Pahang, by a force of Japanese bombers and torpedo bomber aircraft, in the worst British naval defeat of World War II. Allied air support did not arrive in time to protect the two capital ships. After this incident, Singapore and Malaya suffered daily air raids, including those targeting civilian structures such as hospitals or shop houses 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. The Allied forces did not have tanks, which they considered unsuitable in the tropical rainforest, and their infantry proved 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 Peninsula and were poised to attack Singapore. The causeway linking Johor 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 Johor in inflatable boats days after. Several 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. However, with most of the defenses shattered and supplies exhausted, Lieutenant-General Arthur Percival surrendered the Allied forces in Singapore to General Tomoyuki Yamashita of the Imperial Japanese Army on 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. Japanese newspapers triumphantly declared the victory as deciding the general situation of the war. Singapore, renamed Syonan-to (昭南島 ''Shōnan-tō'', "Bright Southern Island" in Japanese), was occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945. The Japanese army imposed harsh measures against the local population, with troops, especially the ''Kempeitai'' or Japanese military police, particularly ruthless in dealing with the Chinese population. The most notable atrocity was the Sook Ching massacre of Chinese and Peranakan civilians, undertaken in retaliation against the support of the war effort in China. The Japanese screened citizens (including children) to check if they were "anti-Japanese". If so, the "guilty" citizens would be sent away in a truck to be executed. These mass executions claimed between 25,000 and 50,000 lives in Malaya and Singapore. The Japanese also launched massive purges against the Indian community, they secretly killed about 150,000 Tamil Indians and tens of thousands of Malayalam from Malaya, Burma, and Singapore in various places located near the Siam Railway. The rest of the population suffered severe hardship throughout the three and a half years of Japanese occupation. The Malay and Indians were forced to build the "Death Railway", a railway between Thailand and Burma (Myanmar). Most of them died while building the railway. The Eurasians were also caught as POWs (Prisoners of War).
After the Japanese surrender to the Allies on 15 August 1945, Singapore fell into a brief state of violence and disorder looting and revenge-killing were widespread. British troops led by Lord Louis Mountbatten, Supreme Allied Commander for Southeast Asia Command, returned to Singapore to receive the formal surrender of the Japanese forces in the region from General Itagaki Seishiro on behalf of General Hisaichi Terauchi on 12 September 1945, and a British Military Administration was formed to govern the island until March 1946. Much of the infrastructure had been destroyed during the war, including electricity and water supply systems, telephone services, as well as the harbor facilities at the Port of Singapore. There was also a shortage of food, leading to malnutrition, disease, and rampant crime and violence. High food prices, unemployment and workers' discontent culminated in 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. The failure of Britain to defend Singapore had destroyed its credibility as an 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, epitomized by the slogan ''Merdeka'', or "independence" in the Malay language. The British, on their part, were prepared to gradually increase self-governance for Singapore and Malaya. On 1 April 1946, the Straits Settlements was 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 for the following year.
1948–1951: First Legislative Council
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 right 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.
1951–1955: Second Legislative CouncilA 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 Minister as head of government and Council of Ministers as a cabinet would be picked under a parliamentary system. The British would retain control over areas such as internal security and foreign affairs, as well as veto power 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 Front was 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 People's Action Party (PAP), won three seats.
1953–1954 The Fajar trial
Fajar trial was the first sedition trial in post-war Malaysia and Singapore. The Fajar was the publication of the University Socialist Club which mainly at that time circulated in the university campus. In May 1954, the members of the Fajar editorial board were arrested for publishing an allegedly seditious article named "Aggression in Asia". However, after three days of the trial, Fajar members were immediately released. The famous English Queen's Counsel D.N. Pritt acted as the lead counsel in the case and Lee Kuan Yew who was at that time a young lawyer-assisted him as the junior counsel. The club's final victory stands out as one of the notable landmarks in the progress of decolonisation of this part of the world.
1955–1959: Partial internal self-government
David Marshall, leader of the Labour Front, became the first Chief Minister of Singapore. He presided over a shaky government, receiving little cooperation from both the colonial government and the other local parties. Social unrest was on the rise, and in May 1955, the Hock Lee bus riots broke out, killing four people and seriously discrediting Marshall's government. In 1956, the Chinese middle school riots broke out among students in The Chinese High School and 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. 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. The 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 Minister and cabinet would control all aspects of government except defense and foreign affairs. The governorship was replaced by a ''Yang di-Pertuan Negara'' or head of state. In August 1958, the State of Singapore Act was passed in the United Kingdom Parliament providing for the establishment of the State of Singapore.
1959–1963: Full internal self-government
Elections for the new Legislative Assembly were held in May 1959. The People's Action Party (PAP) won the polls in a landslide victory, 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 organizations. Its leader Lee Kuan Yew, a young Cambridge-educated lawyer, became the first Prime Minister of Singapore. The PAP's victory was at first viewed with dismay by foreign and local business leaders because some party 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 investment with measures ranging from tax incentives to the establishment of a large industrial estate in Jurong. The education system was revamped to train a skilled workforce and the English language was promoted over the Chinese language as 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-rises, low-cost apartments were constructed during the first two years of the program.
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 historic and economic ties between Singapore and Malaya were too strong for them to continue as separate nations. Furthermore, Singapore lacked natural resources and faced both a declining entrepôt trade and a growing population that required jobs. It was thought that the merger would benefit the economy by creating a common market, eliminating trade tariffs, and thus supporting new industries which would solve the ongoing unemployment woes. Although the PAP leadership campaigned vigorously for a merger, the sizable pro-communist wing of the PAP was 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 idea of a merger 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 Guan defected 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 changed their minds about the merger. On 27 May, Malaya's Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, mooted the idea of a Federation of Malaysia, comprising existing Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Brunei and the British Borneo territories of North Borneo and Sarawak. The UMNO leaders believed that the additional Malay population in the Borneo territories would offset Singapore's Chinese population. The British government, for its part, believed that the merger would prevent Singapore from becoming a haven for communism. On 9 July 1963, the leaders of Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak signed the Malaysia Agreement to establish the Federation of Malaysia.
1963–1965: Singapore in Malaysia
On 16 September 1963, Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak were merged and Malaysia was formed. The union was rocky from the start. During the 1963 Singapore state elections, a local branch of United Malays National Organisation (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. 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 the Malaysian Parliament.
Racial tensions increased as ethnic Chinese and other non-Malay ethnic groups in Singapore rejected the discriminatory policies imposed by the Malays such as quotas for the Malays as special privileges were granted 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!"''. 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 Indonesian President Sukarno declared 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 10 March 1965 by Indonesian commandos, killing three people. Indonesia also conducted sedition activities to provoke the Malays against the Chinese. The most notorious riots were the 1964 Race Riots that first took place on Prophet Muhammad's birthday on 21 July with twenty-three people killed and hundreds injured, and also, many people by then still hated the rest. During the unrest, the price of food skyrocketed when the 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 Bank of China branch of Singapore was closed by the Central Government in Kuala Lumpur as it was suspected of funding communists. The situation escalated to such an extent that talks between UMNO and the PAP broke down, and abusive speeches and writings became rife on both sides. UMNO extremists called for the arrest of Lee Kuan Yew.
Seeing no alternative to avoid further bloodshed, the Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman decided to expel Singapore from the federation. Goh Keng Swee, who had become skeptical of the merger's economic benefits for Singapore, convinced Lee Kuan Yew that the separation had to take place. UMNO and PAP representatives worked out the terms of separation in extreme secrecy in order to present the British government, in particular, with a ''fait accompli''. On 9 August 1965, the Parliament of Malaysia voted 126–0 in favor of a constitutional amendment expelling Singapore from the federation. A tearful Lee Kuan Yew announced in a televised press conference that Singapore had become a sovereign, independent nation. In a widely remembered quote, he stated: "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." The new state became the Republic of Singapore, with Yusof bin Ishak appointed as its first President.
1965–present: Republic of Singapore
After gaining independence abruptly, Singapore faced a future filled with uncertainties. The Konfrontasi was on-going and the conservative UMNO faction strongly opposed the separation Singapore faced the dangers of attack by the Indonesian military and forcible re-integration into the Malaysia Federation on unfavorable terms. 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. Unemployment was ranging between 10 and 12%, threatening to trigger civil unrest. Singapore immediately sought international recognition of its sovereignty. The new state joined the United Nations on 21 September 1965, becoming the 117th member and joined the Commonwealth in October that year. Foreign minister Sinnathamby Rajaratnam headed a new foreign service that helped assert Singapore's independence and establishing diplomatic relations with other countries. On 22 December 1965, the Constitution Amendment Act was passed under which the Head of State became the President and the State of Singapore became the Republic of Singapore. Singapore later co-founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 8 August 1967 and was admitted into the Non-Aligned Movement in 1970. The Economic Development Board had been set up in 1961 to formulate and implement national economic strategies, focusing on promoting Singapore's manufacturing sector. Industrial estates were set up, especially in Jurong, and foreign investment was attracted to the country with tax incentives. The industrialization transformed the manufacturing sector to one that produced higher value-added goods and achieved greater revenue. The service industry also grew at this time, driven by demand for services by ships calling at the port and increasing commerce. This progress helped to alleviate the unemployment crisis. Singapore also attracted big oil companies like Shell and Esso to establish oil refineries in 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 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 squatter settlements resulted in safety hazards and caused the Bukit Ho Swee Fire in 1961 that killed four people and left 16,000 others homeless. The Housing Development Board set 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. British troops had remained in Singapore following its independence, but in 1968, London announced its decision to withdraw the forces by 1971. With the secret aid of military advisers from Israel, Singapore rapidly established the Singapore Armed Forces, with the help of a national service program introduced in 1967. Since independence, Singaporean defense spending has been approximately five percent of GDP. Today, the Singapore Armed Forces are among the best-equipped in Asia.
thumb|right|Top view of Bukit Batok West. Large scale public housing development has created high housing ownership among the population. Further economic success continued through the 1980s, with the unemployment rate falling to 3% and real GDP growth averaging at about 8% up until 1999. During the 1980s, Singapore began to upgrade to higher-technological industries, such as the wafer fabrication sector, in order to compete with its neighbours which now had cheaper labour. Singapore Changi Airport was opened in 1981 and Singapore Airlines was developed to become a major airline. The Port of Singapore became one of the world's busiest ports and the service and tourism industries also grew immensely during this period. Singapore emerged as an important transportation hub and a major tourist destination. The Housing Development Board (HDB) continued to promote public housing with new towns, such as Ang Mo Kio, being 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. The political situation in Singapore continues to be dominated by the People's Action Party. The PAP won all the parliamentary seats in every election between 1966 and 1981. 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. The conviction of opposition politician Chee Soon Juan for illegal protests and the defamation lawsuits against J.B. Jeyaretnam have been cited by the opposition parties as examples of such authoritarianism. The lack of separation of powers between the court system and the government led to further accusations by the opposition parties of miscarriage of justice. The government of Singapore underwent several significant changes. Non-Constituency Members of Parliament were introduced in 1984 to allow up to three losing candidates from opposition parties to 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. Nominated Members of Parliament were 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. 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. 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 system tends to exclude minority parties. In 1990, Lee Kuan Yew passed the reins of leadership to Goh Chok Tong, who became the second prime minister of Singapore. Goh presented a more open and consultative style of leadership as the country continued to modernize. In 1997, Singapore experienced the effect of the Asian financial crisis and tough measures, such as cuts in the CPF contribution, were implemented. Lee's programs in Singapore had a profound effect on the Communist leadership in China, who made a major effort, especially under Deng Xiaoping, to emulate his policies of economic growth, entrepreneurship, and subtle suppression of dissent. Over 22,000 Chinese officials were sent to Singapore to study its methods.
Singapore went through some of its most serious postwar crises in the early 21st century, including the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the rising threat of terrorism. In December 2001, a plot to bomb embassies and other infrastructure in Singapore was uncovered and as many as 36 members of the Jemaah Islamiyah group were arrested under the Internal Security Act. Major counter-terrorism measures were put in place to detect and prevent potential terrorist acts and to minimise damages should they occur. More emphasis was placed on promoting social integration and trust between the different communities. There are also increasing reforms in the Education system. Primary education was made compulsory in 2003. In 2004, then Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, took over from incumbent Goh Chok Tong and 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. Other efforts to raise the city's global profile included the reestablishment of the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, and the hosting of the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics. The general election of 2006 was a landmark election because of the prominent use of the internet and blogging to cover and comment on the election, circumventing the official media. The PAP returned to power, winning 82 of the 84 parliamentary seats and 66% of the votes. On 3 June 2009, Singapore commemorated 50 years of self-governance.
Singapore's move to increase attractiveness as a tourist destination was further boosted in March 2010 with the opening of Universal Studios Singapore at Resorts World Sentosa. In the same year, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resorts was also opened. Marina Bay Sands was billed as the world's most expensive standalone casino property at S$8 billion. On 31 December 2010, it was announced that Singapore's economy grew by 14.7% for the whole year, the best growth on record ever for the country. The general election of 2011 was yet another watershed election as it was the first time a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was lost by the ruling party PAP, to the opposition Workers' Party. The final results saw a 6.46% swing against the PAP from the 2006 elections to 60.14%, its lowest since independence. Nevertheless, PAP won 81 out of 87 seats and maintained its parliamentary majority. Lee Kuan Yew, founding father and the first Prime Minister of Singapore, died on 23 March 2015. Singapore declared a period of national mourning from 23 to 29 March. Lee Kuan Yew was accorded a state funeral. The year 2015 also saw Singapore celebrate its Golden Jubilee of 50 years of independence. An extra day of the holiday, 7 August 2015, was declared to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee. Fun packs, which are usually given to people who attend the National Day Parade were given to every Singaporean and PR household. In commemoration of the significant milestone, the 2015 National Day Parade was the first-ever parade to be held both at the Padang and the Float at Marina Bay. NDP 2015 was the first National Day Parade without the founding leader Lee Kuan Yew, who never missed a single National Day Parade since 1966. The 2015 General Elections was held on 11 September shortly after the 2015 National Day Parade. The election was the first since Singapore's independence which saw all seats contested. The election was also the first after the death of Lee Kuan Yew (the nation's first Prime Minister and an MP until his passing). The ruling party PAP received its best results since 2001 with 69.86% of the popular vote, an increase of 9.72% from the previous election in 2011. Following amendments to the Constitution of Singapore, Singapore held its first reserved Presidential Elections in 2017. The election was the first to be reserved for a particular racial group under a hiatus-triggered model. The 2017 election was reserved for candidates from the minority Malay community. Then Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob won the elections though a walkover and was inaugurated as the eighth President of Singapore on 14 September 2017, becoming the first female President of Singapore.
* Abdullah, Walid Jumblatt. "Selective history and hegemony-making: The case of Singapore." ''International Political Science Review'' 39.4 (2018): 473–486. * Kwa, Chong Guan, and Peter Borschberg. ''Studying Singapore before 1800'' (NUS Press Pte Ltd, 2018). * Lawrence, Kelvin. "Greed, guns and gore: Historicising early British colonial Singapore through recent developments in the historiography of Munsyi Abdullah." ''Journal of Southeast Asian Studies'' 50.4 (2019): 507-520. * Seng, Loh Kah. "History, memory, and identity in modern Singapore: Testimonies from the urban margins." ''The Oral History Review'' (2019
* Seng Loh, Kah. "Writing social histories of Singapore and making do with the archives." ''South East Asia Research'' (2020): 1-14. * Seng, Loh Kah. "Black areas: urban kampongs and power relations in post-war Singapore historiography." ''Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia'' 22.1 (2007): 1-29.
The biographical and geographical histories are of particular interest.
Full text of Tunku Abdul Rahman's speech to the Parliament of Malaysia announcing separation
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The dark history behind India and the UK's favourite drink
I say street food, but this is actually a drink, and it is no exaggeration to say it was one of the great engines that drove the globalisation of the world economy.
It caused wars and boosted the trade in slaves and hard drugs.
The conditions it is produced under are still so bad that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge decided not to include it in their recent tour of India.
Yet it is enjoyed in every country on earth, with India the biggest consumer of them all.
And that should be no surprise, because although this product doesn't come from India, the country has been instrumental in its rise to global popularity.
Yes, you've guessed it, today we are drinking tea.
This is the 12th article in a BBC series India on a plate, on the diversity and vibrancy of Indian food. Other stories in the series:
But because this is India, this is tea with a little extra added: this is masala chai.
Masala simply means spice. No Indian can live without masala in their lives.
We'll talk about that later, for the moment let's focus on the "chai" bit and discover how India - and the world - developed its taste for tea.
Chai is the word for tea in Hindi and most other Indian languages, and it begins our journey, because the word itself betrays the original source of these aromatic leaves.
Its root is the Mandarin word chá.
But the story of how India got its taste for what was originally a Chinese product is far from straightforward.
Indeed it was the popularity of another commodity - itself first refined in India - that would get the world hooked on tea.
The Chinese had been drinking tea for millennia and tea was one of the first new goods Dutch merchants brought back from their trips to the Far East way back at the beginning of the 17th century.
The drink quickly became popular, first as a medicine and then as an exotic new menu item in the coffee shops of European capitals, making its way as far as New Amsterdam (New York).
Its popularity grew steadily but for the next century this fragrant but bitter brew was to remain a rare and expensive treat enjoyed only by the elite.
And so it might have remained had the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors not taken sugar cane to the New World.
Indians were the first to develop a process to produce crystals of sugar, way back around the time Jesus was preaching in Judea.
They used juice squeezed from the stems of the sweet grass that had been grown in Asia for thousands of years.
But it was only with the establishment of vast sugar cane plantations in America and the Caribbean, based on the sweat and toil of slaves brought from Africa, that sugar began to be produced on a large scale.
For the first time it became increasingly plentiful and cheap in Europe.
But how to consume this delicious new product?
Someone somewhere had the idea of mixing a spoonful or two into a cup of tea.
Then it became fashionable to add milk too.
Suddenly what was a drink for connoisseurs became something everyone could enjoy.
This process of "domestication" led to an explosion in the popularity of both tea and sugar.
And if Europe's taste for sweet tea helped underpin the slave trade between Africa and the Americas, it was just as destructive on the other side of the world.
It is worth retelling the story of the Opium Wars because they could just as well be called the Tea Wars - they were at least as much about this mild stimulant as they were about the narcotic drug.
That's because in the 18th century tea was grown exclusively in China.
Britain was buying huge quantities of the stuff - it was top of the national shopping list above other exotic Chinese goods like silk and porcelain.
The problem was the Chinese didn't reciprocate.
They weren't too keen on anything produced in the rainy little island that was the centre of the European tea trade.
Then, as now, this was a recipe for economic disaster.
When the British tried to manipulate the market, the colonists in America - another booming market for tea - were not pleased.
They famously tossed a shipload of the stuff into Boston harbour, marking the beginning of the end of British control in America.
And it wasn't just restive colonists that were getting upset, Britain's taste for tea was well on the way to bankrupting the entire nation.
Until, that is, the East India Company, which had a monopoly on trade with the Far East, found a product that Chinese did want to consume - opium.
It took control of the market for opium in the Indian state of Bengal, encouraging farmers to grow more, rationalising production and developing new cultivation techniques.
When the Chinese made the trade in opium illegal the Company sidestepped the ban by auctioning its opium off to smaller traders who smuggled it to China.
When the Chinese emperor protested that the drug was creating millions of addicts, he was ignored.
But when, in 1839, he confiscated some 20,000 chests of opium, the British took action.
There was little discussion in the mother of parliaments about what needed to be done.
Gunboats with a small army were rapidly dispatched to sort the problem out.
Their superior arms and equipment ensured a speedy victory for the British who then "negotiated" a humiliating peace with China.
They forced the Chinese to open up ports to British trade in everything - including opium - and to cede the island of Hong Kong to the Crown to boot (it was only returned in 1997).
Meanwhile, though, the bosses of the East India Company were already working on a plan to avoid future disruption of the tea market.
And, once again, India was the obvious place to start.
In the 1830s, the first tea estates were established in the Indian state of Assam, using tea plants brought from China.
Just like sugar, growing tea is very labour intensive and the obvious thing would have been to staff them with slaves.
But in 1833, slavery was banned in the British Empire.
Those clever men at the East India Company needed to find an alternative - and they did.
Instead of slaves, tea estates used indentured labourers, free men and women who signed contracts binding them to work for a certain period.
But the truth is conditions for these workers weren't much better than for slaves.
What is more shocking still is the fact that many of the practices and traditions established way back when the estates were first planted continue even on estates that supply some of the world's favourite brands, as I discovered last year in an investigation for BBC News.
That investigation persuaded the team organising the British Royal couple's tour of India in April this year that a visit to a tea estate would not be advisable.
Appalling conditions aside, pretty soon India had become the biggest supplier of the strong black teas now favoured in Britain and Europe.
At first, this valuable commodity was strictly for export, but as production grew and the price fell, Indians began drinking tea too.
And, naturally enough, they followed the example of the British and drank their tea with milk and sugar.
Which brings us back to the masala chai that first prompted this reflection.
It may have its origins in the drink an English vicar might serve parishioners on a sunny afternoon on the parsonage lawn, but it has been transformed by some subcontinental adaptations and improvements.
First off, it is much stronger, milkier and sweeter than any British brew.
Chai walas - the artists who make masala chai - boil strong black tea hard with milk, water and lots and lots of sugar until it is almost a syrup.
Good ones will add a good fistful of pounded adarak - ginger - and, right at the very end, a couple of crushed cardamoms.
More adventurous tea stall owners may even add cinnamon and pepper.
The resulting sweet, spicy liquor will be drained through a sieve and served piping hot in a tiny glass or, more fun still, an unfired earthenware cup which you get to smash once you've finished your delicious and reviving dose of chai.
So why not get yourself up a cup of tea and relax?
I'm not expecting you to think about tea's dark history whenever you drink the stuff - that would be too much to ask.
But every now and then, do take a moment to reflect on the momentous global interactions that made the drink you are enjoying possible.
Because, it reminds us that that although the growth of international trade has brought untold wealth to the world, globalisation virtually always leaves victims in its wake.
And to drive that point home, what I haven't yet mentioned is the reason the Chinese had such an appetite for opium.
They had adapted the tobacco pipes brought to Asia from the New World and now used them to smoke opium too.
The result was a far stronger, and far more addictive, hit.
By the turn of the 20th Century, Britain had become the biggest drug dealer the world had ever known, and China had developed the biggest drug problem experienced by any nation ever.
According to official figures, in 1906, 23.3% of the adult male Chinese population was addicted to opium.
If there is an Indian street food you think Justin needs to taste, contact him @BBCJustinR
The Arabs are a small but significant community in Singapore. During colonial times, the Arabs played prominent economic roles in the retail, wholesale and production trades, the Muslim pilgrimage industry and real estate development. They were also involved in philanthropic works such as establishing religious schools and donating land for community projects. The majority of Arabs in Singapore are descendents of Hadhrami Arabs who originally came from the Hadhramaut region in Yemen. 1
The Hadhrami Arabs began migrating to Southeast Asia in substantial numbers from the mid-18th century onwards. 2 They soon became a dominant economic force in the region and competed with the Chinese traders for influence in local affairs in cities like Palembang and Pekalongan in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). The British authorities later encouraged Arab migration to Singapore to enhance the trading life of the colony. 3
The first Arabs were believed to have arrived in Singapore in 1819. They were Syed Mohammed bin Harun Aljunied and his nephew Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied, Arab merchants from Palembang. 4 Most of the Arabs who subsequently came to Singapore were from the Dutch East Indies, where they first made their wealth and became familiar with local customs. 5 In 1824, the census recorded 15 Arabs residing in Singapore. 6 By 1901, the number of Arabs in Singapore had increased to 919. 7
The Arabs were prominent figures in 19th-century Singapore society. They were successful entrepreneurs involved in the retail, wholesale, and production trades as well as real estate. 8 The Arabs, especially those with the honorific title of Sayyid, were believed to be direct descendents of the Prophet Muhammad. As such, many Arabs served as religious leaders in the Muslim community. 9 Given their wealth and influence, the Arabs were also actively involved in charitable and social welfare work among the Muslims. For example, the establishment of Singapore&rsquos first mosque, the Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, in 1820 was funded by Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied.
By the 20th century, the Arabs began to lose their prominent economic position in Singapore due to various factors, including government policies such as rent control and compulsory land acquisition. 10
The early Arab immigrants maintained close ties with their homeland. It was a common practice for Hadhrami Arabs to send their sons to Hadhramaut for a period of time to familiarise themselves with the Hadhrami culture and language. 11 However, over time, many of the Arabs assimilated elements of Malay-Indonesian culture as a result of intermarriage with local Malays and growing familiarity with local customs. The assimilation has been so pervasive that many of the younger generations of Arabs today are no longer fluent in Arabic or the traditions of their community. 12
To arrest this trend, the Arab Association Singapore, or Alwendah, has made efforts to build a stronger sense of identity within the community. 13
The 2010 census records 8,419 Arabs in Singapore. 14
In the 19th century, the Arabs were an economically powerful community involved in various trades and businesses. They were particularly prominent in the retail, wholesale and production trades. Merchant houses such as Alsagoff and Co. imported consumer goods and supplied them to various retailers. 15
At the time, the Arabs were also largely in control of the Muslim pilgrimage industry in Singapore. Arab brokers known as Shaylehs would recruit potential pilgrims from the region, help arrange for their passage through shipping agents, and escort them to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Once there, the pilgrims would be handed over to local brokers for the rest of the journey. 16 Singapore was not only a regional base for Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca, but also a centre for the publication and distribution of Islamic texts. This earned Singapore the reputation as a centre of Islamic life and learning in the late 19th century. 17
The Arabs were successful in real estate as they could afford to buy prime land and property at good prices. The Alsagoffs, for example, owned the Raffles Hotel in the 1900s while the Alkaffs built Singapore&rsquos first indoor shopping centre, the Arcade , in 1909. In 1931, the Arabs, together with the Jewish community, were the largest owners of property in Singapore. 18
Hadhrami society traditionally placed great importance on religious education as well as the maintenance of and visits to the tombs of holy men. The society is also highly stratified with the Sayyid (who claim to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad) class at the top followed by the Shaykh (religious scholars) class. Below these two groups are the Qabila (armed tribesmen) and the Masakin (poor citizens) classes. 19
The Arab Association Singapore, or Alwehdah, was registered as a voluntary organisation in 1946. Initially, the association focused on promoting Islam and the use of the Arabic language to all interested parties by conducting classes. The scope of the association has since expanded. It now provides welfare services and organises social activities to promote community bonding. 20
During colonial times, the Arabs were allocated a plot of land near the Istana Kampong Glam , or Sultan&rsquos Palace, in the Kampong Glam area. 21 The road names in the area, such as Arab Street, Baghdad Street, Bussorah Street and Muscat Street, point to the Arabic connection. 22 Various streets in Singapore are named after prominent Arabs. Examples include Aljunied Road, Alkaff Avenue and Syed Alwi Road. 23
In the 19th century, the most prominent Arab families included the Aljunieds, Alkaffs and Alsagoffs. They were active in charity work, establishing hospitals, schools and mosques as well as funding religious festivals. 24 Notable individuals from these families included:
Syed Sharif Omar al-Junied (b. 1792, Hadhramaut, Yemen&ndashd. 6 November 1852, Singapore): Spice trader, businessman, philanthropist and Arab community leader former patriarch of the Aljunied family in Singapore.
Syed Omar bin Mohamed Alsagoff (b. 1854, Singapore&ndash d. 18 May 1927, Soekabumi, Java): Businessman, philanthropist and Muslim community leader former head of Alsagoff and Co.
Syed Abdulrahman Taha Alsagoff (b. 1880, Singapore&ndashd. 1955): Also known as Engku Aman landowner and philanthropist who helped administer various Muslim charitable institutions associated with the Alsagoff family.
Dato Syed Ibrahim bin Omar Alsagoff (b. 28 April 1899, Mecca&ndashd. 21 July 1975): Businessman, landowner, philanthropist, Muslim community leader and diplomat former head of family businesses such as Alsagoff and Co. and S. O. Alsagoff.
1. Harasha bte Khalid Bafana. (1996, November). The Arab identity: Dilemma or non-issue? Al-Mahjar, 1(1), p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 305.89275957 AMP) Omar Farouk Bajunid. (2010). The Hadhrami Arabs in Southeast Asia: An introduction. In Noryati Abdul Samad (Ed.), The Hadhrami Arabs in Southeast Asia with special reference to Singapore. Singapore: National Library Board, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 016.30589275335 HAD-[LIB])
2. Mobini-Kesheh, N. (1999). The Hadrami awakening: Community and identity in the Netherlands East Indies, 1900&ndash1942. Ithaca, N.Y.: Southeast Asia Program Publications, Southeast Asia Program, Cornell University, p. 21. (Call no.: RSING 959.8022 MOB)
3. Riddell, P. G. (2001). Arab migrants and islamization in the Malay world during the colonial period. Indonesia and the Malay World, 29(84), p. 117. (Call no.: RSEA 959.8 IMW)
4. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819&ndash1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 14. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
5. Ameen Ali Talib. (1997, November 1). Hadramis in Singapore. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 17(1), p. 90. (Not available in NLB holdings)
6. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819&ndash1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
7. Marriott, H. (1991). The peoples of Singapore. In W. Makepeace, G. E. Brooke and R. St. J. Braddell (Eds.), One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 359. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
8. Yasser Mattar. (2000). Ethnic entrepreneurship: Towards an ecological perspective. Singapore: Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, pp. 6&ndash11. (Call no.: RSING q338.04095957 MAT)
9. Roff, W. R. (2009). Studies on Islam and society in Southeast Asia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 81. (Call no.: RSING 297.0959 ROF)
10. Yasser Mattar. (2000). Ethnic entrepreneurship: Towards an ecological perspective. Singapore: Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, pp. 12&ndash13. (Call no.: RSING q338.04095957 MAT)
11. Ameen Ali Talib. (1997, November 1). Hadramis in Singapore. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 17(1), p. 93. (Not available in NLB holdings)
12. Farid Alatas, et al. (1996, November). Hadhrami identity and the future of Arabs in Singapore. Al-Mahjar, 1(1), p. 3. (Call no.: RSING 305.89275957 AMP)
13. Farid Alatas, et al. (1996, November). Hadhrami identity and the future of Arabs in Singapore. Al-Mahjar, 1(1), p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 305.89275957 AMP)
14. Census of population 2010. Statistical release 1: Demographic characteristics, education, language and religion. (2011). Singapore: Department of Statistics, Ministry of Trade & Industry, p. 51. (Call no.: RSING 304.6021095957 CEN)
15. Yasser Mattar. (2000). Ethnic entrepreneurship: Towards an ecological perspective. Singapore: Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING q338.04095957 MAT)
16. Roff, W. R. (2009). Studies on Islam and society in Southeast Asia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 297.0959 ROF)
17. Roff, W. R. (2009). Studies on Islam and society in Southeast Asia. Singapore: NUS Press, p. 82. (Call no.: RSING 297.0959 ROF)
18. Clarence-Smith, W. G. (1997). Hadrami entrepreneurs in the Malay world, c. 1750 to c. 1940. In U. Freitag & W. G. Clarence-Smith (Eds.), Hadhrami traders, scholars, and statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s&ndash1960s. Leiden: Brill, p. 303. (Call no.: RSEA 304.809533 HAD)
19. Riddell, P. G. (2001). Arab migrants and islamization in the Malay world during the colonial period. Indonesia and the Malay World, 29(84), pp. 114&ndash115. (Call no.: RSEA 959.8 IMW)
20. Alwehdah. (2011). About us. Retrieved from http://alwehdah.org/about-us
21. Marriott, H. (1991). The peoples of Singapore. In W. Makepeace, G. E. Brooke and R. St. J. Braddell (Eds.), One hundred years of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 345. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
22. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 21&ndash22, 27, 58, 263. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
23. Savage, V. R., & Yeoh, B. S. A. (2013). Singapore street names: A study of toponymics. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, pp. 14&ndash15, 15&ndash16, 364. (Call no.: RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
24. Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A history of Singapore, 1819&ndash1988. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 99. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS])
The information in this article is valid as at 19 August 2013 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
Republic of Singapore (1965–present)
1965 to 1979
The Jurong Industrial Estate was developed in the 1960s to industrialise the economy.
After gaining independence abruptly, Singapore faced a future filled with uncertainties. The Konfrontasi was on-going and the conservative UMNO faction strongly opposed the separation Singapore faced the dangers of attack by the Indonesian military and forcibly re-integration into the Malaysia Federation on unfavorable terms. 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.  Unemployment was ranging between 10–12%, threatening to trigger civil unrest.
Singapore immediately sought international recognition of its sovereignty. The new state joined the United Nations on 21 September 1965, becoming the 117th member and joined the Commonwealth in October that year. Foreign minister Sinnathamby Rajaratnam headed a new foreign service that helped assert Singapore’s independence and establishing diplomatic relations with other countries.  On 22 December 1965, the Constitution Amendment Act was passed under which the Head of State became the President and the State of Singapore became the Republic of Singapore. Singapore later co-founded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on 8 August 1967 and was admitted into the Non-Aligned Movement in 1970. 
The Economic Development Board had been set up in 1961 to formulate and implement national economic strategies, focusing on promoting Singapore’s manufacturing sector.  Industrial estates were set up, especially in Jurong, and foreign investment was attracted to the country with tax incentives. The industrialization transformed the manufacturing sector to one that produced higher value-added goods and achieved greater revenue. The service industry also grew at this time, driven by demand for services by ships calling at the port and increasing commerce. This progress helped to alleviate the unemployment crisis. Singapore also attracted big oil companies like Shell and Esso to establish oil refineries in 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 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 squatter settlements resulted in safety hazards and caused the Bukit Ho Swee Squatter Fire in 1961 that killed four people and left 16,000 others homeless.  The Housing Development Board set 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. 
British troops had remained in Singapore following its independence, but in 1968, London announced its decision to withdraw the forces by 1971.  With the secret aid of military advisers from Israel, Singapore rapidly established the Singapore Armed Forces, with the help of a national service program introduced in 1967.  Since independence, Singaporean defense spending has been approximately five percent of GDP. Today, the Singapore Armed Forces is among the best-equipped in Asia.
The 1980s and 1990s
Top view of Bukit Batok West. Large scale public housing development has created high housing ownership among the population.
Further economic success continued through the 1980s, with the unemployment rate falling to 3% and real GDP growth averaging at about 8% up until 1999. During the 1980s, Singapore began to upgrade to higher-technology industries, such as the wafer fabrication sector, in order to compete with its neighbours which now had cheaper labour. Singapore Changi Airport was opened in 1981 and Singapore Airlines was developed to become a major airline.  The Port of Singapore became one of the world’s busiest ports and the service and tourism industries also grew immensely during this period. Singapore emerged as an important transportation hub and a major tourist destination.
The Housing Development Board continued to promote public housing with new towns, such as Ang Mo Kio, being 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. 
The political situation in Singapore continued to be dominated by the People’s Action Party. The PAP won all the parliamentary seats in every election between 1966 and 1981.  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.  The conviction of opposition politician Chee Soon Juan for illegal protests and the defamation lawsuits against J. B. Jeyaretnam have been cited by the opposition parties as examples of such authoritarianism.  The lack of separation of powers between the court system and the government led to further accusations by the opposition parties of miscarriage of justice.
The threat of terrorism resulted in heightened security measures including the deployment of Gurkha Contingent troopers at special events.
The government of Singapore underwent several significant changes. Non-Constituency Members of Parliament were introduced in 1984 to allow up to three losing candidates from opposition parties to 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.  Nominated Members of Parliament were introduced in 1990 to allow non-elected non-partisan MPs.  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.  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 system tends to exclude minority parties. 
In 1990, Lee Kuan Yew passed the reins of leadership to Goh Chok Tong, who 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 crisis and 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 SARS outbreak in 2003 and the threat of terrorism. In December 2001, a plot to bomb embassies and other infrastructure in Singapore was uncovered  and as many as 36 members of the Jemaah Islamiyah group were arrested under the Internal Security Act.  Major counter-terrorism measures were put in place to detect and prevent potential terrorism acts and to minimise damages should they occur.  More emphasis was placed on promoting social integration and trust between the different communities. 
In 2004, 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.  Other efforts to raise the city’s global profile included the reestablishment of the Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, and the hosting of the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.
The general election of 2006 was a landmark election because of the prominent use of the internet and blogging to cover and comment on the election, circumventing the official media.  The PAP returned to power, winning 82 of the 84 parliamentary seats and 66% of the votes.  In 2005, Wee Kim Wee and Devan Nair, two former Presidents, died.
The general election of 2011 was yet another watershed election due to the first time a GRC was lost by the ruling party PAP, to the opposition party WP.