According to Countryaah data, Singapore’s original name was Temasek, which in Sanskrit meant “people of the sea”, and later Singa-Pura or “city of lions”. The latter stems from a distant and unverifiable story of a prince who visited the old port city.
The town was founded in 1297 and from 1819 became an exceptionally important base for the English, when Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles selected the area as the local headquarters of the British East India Company.
In 1824, Raffles purchased Singapore island and neighboring islets as a total area of the Sultan of Johore (see Malaysia). The British East India Company appointed a new ruler to Singapore’s throne, Prince Hussein, who granted the company a royal license to improve the port. In the following years, Chinese immigrants quickly made up the majority of the local population.
According to thesciencetutor, Singapore, along with Penang and Malaca, were part of the British colony “Straits” until 1946. That year, the Malaysian Union was formed and Singapore was transformed into a crown colony.
Japan occupied Singapore in 1942, but in 1945 was beaten by British forces and a strong internal resistance led by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). Malaya at that time referred to both Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. For the left, Singapore’s special status was always artificial.
After the end of the world war, work began on the development of a union or federation between the Malay Sultanates and the other parts of the Straits – as a first step towards independence. But this project was marked by contradictions between Chinese and Malays and between conservative and progressive forces. In January 1946, the Singapore trade union launched a general strike, and in 1948 the Communist Party was at the forefront of an anti-colonial uprising, but neither the support of the poor Malays nor the Indians. The Marxist parties were declared illegal and forced to launch guerrilla fighting in the jungle.
In 1949, municipal elections were conducted as a first step towards self-government for the city state. But parliamentary policy addressed only the English-speaking section of the population until the formation of the Popular Action Party (PAP) in 1954. It united, for the first time, the people educated within the British and Chinese traditions, respectively, under the banner of anti-imperialism. After succeeding in gaining Chinese voting rights and gaining internal autonomy, the PAP won the 1959 election and its founder, Lee Kuan Yew, took over the post of prime minister on a program of social reform and independence, under a federation with Malaya, which was became independent in 1957.
PAP was subsequently split into a socialist wing led by Lim Chin Siong and a liberal-conservative wing led by Yew, who preferred to stimulate private business and foreign investment.
In 1961, PAP’s left wing formed Barisan Sosialis (the Socialist Front), which went against the merger of Malaya and Singapore under London’s control. But after appropriate “purges” by opposition politicians, the Malaysian Federation was established in September 1963. It consisted of Singapore, the Malay Peninsula, as well as Sarawak and Sabah, located on the northern and northeastern part of Borneo.
While the federation existed, Singapore was heavily dependent on Malaya. Even the drinking water came from there. But the federation also ran into problems quickly, mainly due to deep contradictions between the Chinese population in Singapore and the Malay majority in the rest of the federation. The consequence was that Lee, on August 9, 1965, dismissed Singapore from the federation.
In the midst of ethnic conflicts and a fierce fight on the left, which the government summed up in a term, “Communist Subversion,” the city-state was transformed into an independent republic, a member of the Commonwealth. A mutual defense and assistance agreement was signed with Malaysia, and on October 15, Singapore was admitted to the UN.
The independence of the first years was characterized by spectacularly high economic growth. The country became an “export enclave” for products made by multinational companies and at the same time a financial center for the entire region.
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But in 1974, clouds clouded over the city-state. The oil crisis shook the export-oriented development strategy. The port of Singapore is the 4th most important in the world and per capita income is surpassed in Japan only by Japan. The economic crisis now triggered student and worker demonstrations that were brought under control only after violent repression. Lee’s policy became so oppressive that the Socialist International in 1975 excluded PAP.