story of Singapore is an intriguing one. It's about how an
island at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula developed into a
modern city state and into one of the most powerful economies in
the Asian region. Singapore has also been one of the real
financial powerhouses in the world.
It's not just a story about power, but one of what was done to
survive adversity and events going on around the world that were
beyond Singapore's control. Also within this story is how
history, location, and people influenced what exists today.
Society reflects some of the hallmarks of utilitarianism and
even Confucianism; conservative, yet extremely modern at the
same time. Economically Singapore has been enormously
successful, yet the quality of life for the ordinary citizen is
now a major issue of contention within the country's citizens
today. Singapore's success today, is actually the challenge it
Although the methods by those who came to power have been
criticized by many commentators, the leading elite of Singapore
have been able to create a unique model of rule and economy that
not only maintained survival as a state, but with fabulous
economic prosperity as well. The story of who rules Singapore is
well worth investigation.
A brief history of Singapore - "The past makes the present"
The human history of Singapore started in the 14th Century with
the probable rule of the Srivijayan Prince Parameswara. At that
time, Singapore, then known as Temasek primarily consisted of
jungle skirted by a small number of coastal sea gypsy villages.
Temasek had no natural resources other than fresh water, and
very poor fertile land. The only strategic geographical asset
was Temasek's position at the bottom of the Melaka Straits and a
natural deep water harbor that had potential as an entrepôt for
East-West trade at the time.
Four Hundred years later Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles landed on
Temasek and immediately saw the potential of the island as an
entrepôt, strategically placed in the centre of the Dutch East
Indies. As the island was nominally ruled by the Sultan of
Johor, who was under the influence of the Dutch, Raffles brought
the elder brother of the Sultan Tengku Hussein to Singapore,
where he recognized him as the rightful Sultan of Johor,
providing him with a yearly payment in return for the right to
establish a trading post.
Raffles proceeded to develop Singapore as a trade centre for
collecting commodities produced within the Malay archipelago,
including bird's nest from Borneo, spices from the East Indies
and India, and gold from Bali. Raffles promoted Singapore as a
free port with no taxes and a as strategic waypoint between
India and China. Within four years, the population steadily
increased to over 10,000 with the migration of Straits Chinese,
Arabs, and Indians coming for trade, Malay traders from
different parts of the archipelago, and Chinese from the
mainland escaping the famine there. By the 1850s a very wealthy
Anglicized elite grew out from the Straits Chinese, Indians, and
Malay traders encapsulating Victorian values that they picked up
from the British.
Raffles was able to attract many wealthy Arab traders from the
Indonesian archipelago, who included Syed Mohammed bin Harun
Aljunied and Syed Abdul Rahman Alsagoff, trading in spices,
coffee, sago, rubber, and cocoa. These families went on to
develop many businesses, controlling the inter-island trade, and
developed many buildings within Singapore. The growing Arab
community founded many wakafs or charitable foundations
which created many Arabic and Islamic schools, and hospitals. At
one stage almost all the land in the central business district
was owned by these wakafs. It was only in the 1970s and
80s that much of this land was compulsorily acquired by the
government with little compensation.
Boat Quay and the adjacent central Square (now raffles place)
became the mercantile and commercial centre of Singapore.
However the free port status hindered the East India Company
collecting badly needed revenue to run the settlement. The drop
in China tea trade in favor of Indian tea that mixed well with
milk, put enormous financial pressure on the company, giving it
problems in effectively policing the island. This lead to a rise
in crime, vice, the rise of secret societies, and even
lawlessness to some extent.
Up until the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 ships sailing to
China from Europe had to go around the Cape of Good Hope and
through the Sunda Straits, stopping at Batavia to take on fresh
water and supplies. However the new Suez Canal enabled ships
from Europe to travel through the Straits of Melaka and utilize
Singapore as a stopover. This led to a substantial rise in trade
through Singapore, transforming the island into a lively
entrepôt where goods from the Malay archipelago were picked up
and shipments from Europe off loaded and broken up for
With the introduction of rubber in 1877, Singapore very quickly
became the collection and shipment centre. With the invention of
canned food, tin mining very quickly became an important
economic activity on the Malay Peninsula, with Singapore
becoming the centre of tin trade. Eventually the British took
over the colony from the East India Company where the island
underwent a building renaissance, eliminating much of the
squalor. The new colonial administrators sent out to govern
Singapore were university graduates, professional civil
servants, and held strong Victorian morals. With the assistance
of the local elite citizens of Chinese origin, the British
squashed the secret societies and began a special relationship
with the English educated Straits Chinese, known as babas.
Singapore grew and continued to thrive under British rule right
into the early 1900s. There was to this point in time no
questioning about the British right to rule in Singapore. Many
migrants from India, the Middle East, and China continued to
settle in Singapore encouraged by the trade opportunities
available and stability of British rule. However very few
migrants at the time actually saw Singapore as their permanent
In 1911, the working class Chinese in Singapore developed a
close interest in the nationalist revolution in China where Sun
Yet Sen declared a republic. However the English educated
Straits Chinese didn't share this sense of affiliation with the
events in China, as the Chinese educated did, which brought
about some differences among the sentiments of the local
In the 1930s Singaporeans became caught up again in events
occurring in China. The Japanese invasion and occupation of
China in 1937 brought about a lot of resentment of the Japanese
on the part of the working class Chinese in Singapore. They
began boycotts of Japanese goods and engaged in anti-Japanese
activities. The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in
December 1941 showed how vulnerable Singapore would be to any
Japanese attack, especially with Singapore's run down military
infrastructure. The Japanese landings in Singora (now Songkhla),
Pettani, and kota Bahru two days after Pearl Harbor brought
great fear into the inhabitants of Singapore as British and
Commonwealth forces were unable to stem the Japanese advance
down the Malay Peninsula. Many troops fell back into Singapore
and local citizens for the first time fought as equals beside
the British in the defense of Singapore.
With the British shamed in surrender, the Japanese proceeded
with an extremely cruel oppression and retribution against the
local Chinese for their anti-Japanese stance. Up to 100,000
Chinese were rounded up and taken to different parts of the
island for mass exterminations. Some Chinese escaped to join the
resistance against the Japanese in the Malay Peninsula, many
joining the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
Upon the Japanese surrender in 1945, the British to the
disappointment of the local Chinese executed very few Japanese
for war crimes. The British actually employed many surrendered
Japanese soldiers as security forces who were unable with
weakened authority to stop looting and revenge killings
throughout the island. In addition electricity, water,
telephone, and harbor facilities had been destroyed by British
bombing prior to the Japanese surrender made living conditions
almost unbearable in Singapore. Disease broke out, food was
scarce, leading to malnutrition, the prices of necessities were
extremely high, and there was mass unemployment. Nevertheless,
returning British troops were welcomed with great fanfare by the
locals, although many Chinese who had survived Japanese
atrocities began to believe that they had some moral claim to
The failure of the British to defend Singapore greatly destroyed
British credibility as the ruler of Singapore. There was a
general political awakening that came from discontent and
disappointment that led to strikes and labor disruptions. A few
Chinese and Malays who had fought the Japanese from the jungles
of the Malay Peninsula now started a communist insurgency, which
was spurred by Mao Tse-Tung's rise to power in China during
1949. There was a movement for independence in Malaya, and
aspirations for independence also started moving through
The initial legislature representation during the early 1950s
was extremely limited to conservatives and professionals chosen
by the Governor and Chamber of Commerce. The seats that were
elected by British Subjects went to an equally conservative
Singapore Progressive Party (SPP) which was not pressing for
self rule. The British suppressed left wing groups through the
use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) that allowed for
indefinite detention without legal representation or trial for
those who posed any threat to order and security. This
suppressed any open talk of independence for a number of years.
With the Emergency dying down by 1953, the Singapore Governor
Sir George Rendel opened the way for limited self government. A
legislative Assembly with 25 out of 35 members elected was
formed. An election was held on 2nd April 1955 with several new
political parties contesting. The newly formed Labour Front won
the largest number of seats and formed a minority coalition
government with the UMNO-MCA alliance. A new party, the People's
Action Party (PAP) won three seats in the new assembly.
David Marshall, the leader of the Labour Front became the first
Chief Minister of Singapore. However his government was very
unstable, not receiving any support from the Colonial
Administration or other parties in the Assembly. Marshall was
pro-independence and led a delegation to London to
unsuccessfully seek independence. Malaya was about to gain
independence from Britain, but Singapore was not.
Labour and student riots broke out in 1955 leading to Marshall's
downfall as Chief Minister and replacement with a determined Lim
Yek Hock. With British approval and assistance, Lim launched an
immediate crackdown on communist and leftist groups, imprisoning
many trade union and pro-communist members of the PAP, including
Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan under the ISA.
David Marshall stayed in parliament and formed the Worker's
Party of Singapore in 1957. He lost his seat in parliament to
Lim Yew Hock, but was re-elected in a by-election in the seat of
Anson in 1961, losing it in the general election of 1963.
Marshall went back to practice law and remained involved in
opposition politics even after J. B. Jayaratnam became leader of
the Worker's Party in 1972. The Worker's Party won seven seats
in the 2011 general election and is now the only political party
to have been able to form any credible opposition in parliament
against the PAP. Although Marshall had many differences with Lee
Kuan Yew, he served as the Singapore Ambassador to France,
Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland.
The people's Action Party (PAP) was co-founded by Lew Kuan Yew
(born Harry Lee Kuan Yew) from a prominent Straits Chinese
family, and Lim Chin Siong, a Chinese educated trade unionist.
Despite many ideological differences, a marriage of convenience
between the English educated Baba middle class and
Chinese educated union radicals was formed with the objective of
obtaining self government and independence.
Lim Chin Siong rose up against colonialism through the union
movement and was a very powerful and charismatic Hokkien speaker
who could inspire the Chinese speaking population of Singapore.
After his arrest by Lim Yew Hock in 1955, Lee Kuan Yew promised
his release along with all the other unionists arrested, should
the PAP gain power. The PAP decisively won the 1959 election and
was forced to release Lim Chin Siong and the other unionists. It
has been alleged that Lee Kuan Yew was actually in collusion
with the British authorities and Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock to
imprison Lim Chin Siong in the first place, to get his rival out
of the way.
In 1961, Lim Chin Siong together with Lee Siew Choh broke away
from the PAP to form the Barisan Sosalis (Socialist Front).
Initially the majority of PAP branches and secretaries went
across to the Barisan Sosalis, threatening the very survival of
In the 1963 general election the Barisan Sosalis won 13 seats
and became the opposition. The Barisan Sosalis was opposed to
the merger negotiated with Malaya and campaigned very hard
against it bringing much displeasure to the Malayan Prime
Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman who put pressure on Lee Kuan Yew to
rid Singapore of communist elements before merger.
The Singapore Government attacked the Barisan Sosalis as being
communists and launched Operation Coldstore to arrest and
detain without trial a number of Barisan Sosalis members
including Lim Chin Siong, Lim Hock Siew, Fong Swee Suan, James
and Dominic Puthucheary, and Said Zahari. The party declined
after Singapore was expelled from Malaysia, with its members
resigning from parliament, with its eventual dissolution and
members joining the Worker's Party.
Singapore joined the Malaysian Federation on 16th September
1963, but from the start had a rocky relationship with Kuala
Lumpur. A number of issues emerged which began driving a wedge
between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The policy of positive Malay
discrimination, and the establishment of Islam as the state
religion, ran counter to Lee Kuan Yew's vision of a
'Malaysian Malaysia'. In addition, trade between Singapore
and the Peninsula was hindered, Singapore failed to grant the
full extent of loans to Sabah and Sarawak as agreed before the
merger, and Kuala Lumpur closed the Singapore branch of the Bank
of China under the pretext it was funding communist activities.
Many in UMNO also feared that Singapore through its economic
power would come to dominate the federation. Relations between
UMNO and the PAP reached a point where they were attacking each
other in the media, and some people within UMNO were calling for
Lee Kuan Yew's arrest. Racial riots erupted in Singapore against
positive discrimination for the Malays. Tunku Abdul Rahman,
seeing no other alternative to avoid more bloodshed, expelled
Singapore from the Federation. Both sides worked out the terms
of separation and Singapore reluctantly declared independence on
9th August 1965.
Lee kuan Yew was genuinely shocked with Singapore's abrupt
expulsion from the Malaysian Federation. Singapore was still
being destabilized by Indonesia. The international media was
skeptical about Singapore's viability and survival as a
city-state with little or no resources. High unemployment, lack
of housing and an abundance of squatters, poor sanitation, the
danger of disease, little land for expansion, and blocked access
to the Malaysian hinterland as both a market and source of
natural resources cut off the island's traditional sources of
income. A large percentage of the population lacked any formal
education. Even the island's new sovereignty felt threatened
with Malaysian troops still stationed in Singapore after the
Singapore very quickly sought diplomatic recognition around the
world joining both the United Nations and Commonwealth within a
month of independence. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, with the
advice of the Economic Development Board set up by Goh Keng Swee
and advised by the Dutch economist Dr. Albert Winsemius,
formulated a plan to develop Singapore.
A definite development strategy became very critical after
Britain announced that it was pulling its troops out of
Singapore, which provided more than 25,000 jobs and 20% of the
island's GDP at the time. Lee Kuan Yew was initially hostile
towards Britain, threatening to withdraw Singapore from the
pound and handover the shipyards to the Japanese. However the
then Minister of Finance Goh Keng Swee went to London and
negotiated a 50 Million Pound soft loan, free transfer of some
key assets, and help with military training for the new
Singapore Armed Forces.
switched abruptly from an
Government fully supported industrialization using the shipyards
and airfields to develop the marine and aviation service
industries. The swamps around Jurong were reclaimed and
industrial parks developed. Labour laws were toughened and
foreign investors given tax incentives for 5-10 years. Singapore
was developed on the philosophy of a free market economy.
Ministers travelled around the world looking for foreign
investment promoting once again Singapore's strategic location
as an entrepôt. With the help of Dr. Winsemius, Philips was
encouraged to set up electronics production in Singapore, as
part of a strategy to develop higher value manufacturing.
The Housing Development Board (HDB) was set up to develop
affordable housing for squatters, along the same lines that
British public housing converted slums in the UK. These housing
estates were built all around the island and the Central
Provident Fund (CPF) assisted people purchase these flats
through installments, believing that people who owned their own
units would look after their environment much better. This
effectively broke up kampongs (villages) and eventually mixed up
all races in Singapore into a developed urban society. The
philosophy that progress must sacrifice tradition was
reluctantly accepted as a necessity by the Singapore people, as
they enjoyed rapidly rising living standards.
In 1968, Lee Kuan Yew sought a mandate from the people for these
industrialization policies and the PAP received a resounding 84%
of the vote.
From the 1970s to 1990s economic growth exceeded 7% every year
and unemployment became almost negligible. Singapore evolved
from relatively low cost manufacturing industries to much higher
value industries like wafer production and other electronics.
Infrastructure like Changi International Airport, the Port of
Singapore, Am Mo Kio housing estates, the Mass Rapid Transport (MRT),
and connecting freeways all around the island were constructed.
Singapore's living standards dramatically improved and a
bolstered education system had developed the best skilled
workforces in the region.
During this period the PAP almost totally dominated politics and
won every seat in the parliament between 1966 and 1981, until
J.B. Jeyaretnam was elected in the seat of Anson as a member of
Lee Kuan Yew ruled
in an authoritarian manner and created a repressive system that
punished free expression, independent political activity, the
freedom of association, and other basic rights that are
considered fundamental to the rule of law.
Opposition politician Chee Soon Juan was convicted for illegal
protests and J.B. Jeyaretnam had a number of defamation suits
lodged against him. This harsh and authoritarian stance has
often been justified as
something needed to achieve the development of the state.
In 1990, after 31
years as Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew stepped down in favor of a
longtime ally, Goh Chok Tong. In 2004, Tong was succeeded by Lee
Kuan Yew's son, Lee Hsien Loong. Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong
maintained influence in Singaporean politics through the
position of Minister Mentor and Senior Minister respectively
until their retirement in 2011.
Lee Kuan Yew was a micromanager of economic and social issues.
Lee Kuan Yew personally knew all the important people involved
in the domestic economy, and in the social arena, his views set
the agenda with by-laws and even the formation of a Social
development Unit to match-make talented Singaporeans, with a
intention that this would produce a new generation of highly
intelligent offspring. After his retirement from the
premiership, he became a senior minister under Goh Chok Tong and
Minister Mentor under his son Lee Hsien Loong.
Of late Singapore
has been diversifying and strengthening its existing industries.
Singapore has made a major investment in biotechnology. More
than US $286 million has been invested in building a Biopolis
biomedical research and development complex,
with another S$12 Billion to be spent on research between
2005-10. The Singapore Government very heavily promoted stem
cell research when the Bush Administration restricted federal
funding for this research in the United States. Singapore has
shopped for the best experts in the world in the expectation it
can attract research to Singapore that is often restricted
through ethical principles in other countries. Companies like
Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Schering Plough, and Eli-Lily have
all set up production facilities in Singapore. The state is
hoping that local start-ups may eventually develop in this
sector. However to date results have been mixed.
In the tourism Sector the new casinos are aimed at attracting
Mainland Chinese and high roller Indonesian money.
Brothels filled with Mainland Chinese prostitutes operate openly
in designated red light areas (DRAs), and direct air routes to
secondary cities in China have been opened up, making it easier
to attract Chinese tourists. Similarly, Singapore is strongly
hedging into medical tourism.
has been built upon the same foundations that Sir Stanford
Raffles envisaged. The Singapore economy has been maintained
with a free market philosophy in a perceived corruption free
environment. Per capita income exceeds that of most developed
countries. Singapore is export orientated with consumer
electronics and information technology products and services as
important exports. Real GDP growth averaged more than 8% between
2004-2007. The economy contracted 1.0% in 2009, but rebounded
14.8% in 2010 because of a serge in exports. However growth
reduced to 4.9% in 2011, and 2.1% in 2012 due to the European
The Singapore Government has continued to drive the economy
through expanding existing activities like banking and ship
repair and has developed new sectors like telecommunications.
Singapore has attracted major investors in some of these areas
and is continuing its efforts to establish the country as the
regional financial and high tech hub.
Singapore is an archetypal ‘city-state’ which could be easily
controlled economically and to a great degree socially as well.
Its external relationship to the rest of the world has been open
for trade, and a place for the rich and political elite to park
their money. Singapore’s banking secrecy has allowed business
tycoons with concessions in protected countries place profits in
Singapore without any scrutiny. While the EU has sort to tighten
banking regulations in Europe and in particular put pressure on
Switzerland to comply, Singapore has been able to move into the
void. A large number of private foreign banks exist in Singapore
for this purpose and recently a casino has been opened to
attract more ill-gotten money from around the region. With
Malaysia and Indonesia as an economic hinterland, much trade was
illegal in those respective countries and as a consequence
Singapore trade figures with those countries were long
suppressed. Luxury housing and shopping is indicative of the
clientele flocking to the ‘city-state’. For as long as other
countries impose tariffs and restrictions on trade, Singapore
could act as a centre to circumvent these rules.
Corporate Singapore - Government owned - The Role of Temasek and
Singapore Investment Corporation
Although Singapore is promoted as a free market economy, the
Government of Singapore through two investment arms is involved
in many sectors of the domestic economy, and has a large
portfolio of international businesses. It is estimated that
companies owned by the Singapore Government make up as much as
60% of the country's GDP.
The Singapore Government is both regulator and player in many
Singapore's economic policies up until the 1970s had little
focus on the role of local companies.
In 1974, the government through the Ministry of Finance created
a subsidiary company Temasek Holdings to develop local
companies, particularly in sectors of strategic importance.
Initially Temasek took minority stakes in a variety of local
companies, and later acquired several companies like Keppel
Corporation (the old British Shipyards), ST engineering, a
military equipment manufacturer, and Neptune Orient Lines to
secure ocean freight to and from Singapore. Temasek has major
stakes in a number of Singapore's premier companies, including
Chartered Semiconductor, Singapore Telecom, Singapore Airlines,
Singapore Press Holdings, MediaCorp, DBS Bank, Capitaland,
Ascott Group, Singapore Petroleum Company, SMRT Corp, PSA Corp,
SembCorp Industries, MobileOne, Singapore Technologies,
Singapore Food Industries, and Singapore Power. Sometimes
Temasek owns more than one company in a particular industry,
i.e., telecoms, being effectively also the competition. All
investments must be commercially viable, as the sell-off of the
historical Raffles Hotel in 2005, showed there are few nostalgic
tendencies in Temasek's management decision making processes.
Temasek's local investment has crowded out the domestic economy,
so it has increasingly made investments overseas. Some companies
owned by Temasek have been able to gain major market share in a
number of niche industries such as transport and communications
in a number of countries, as Temasek's strategy is to create
Singapore companies to compete in the world. Some of Temasek's
investments internationally include a stake in Virgin Atlantic
Airlines, China's Guangzhou Container Terminal Company, and the
Belgium port operator Hesse Noord Naties NV, Bank Danamon in
Indonesia, Dao Heng Bank in Hong Kong, Bank of Southeast Asia in
the Philippines, PT Indosat in Indonesia, Optus Australia, LG
Energy, an electricity distribution utility in Australia, LG
Power in Korea, and Australand Holdings property developers in
The membership of the board of directors shows how inter-twinned
Temasek Holdings is with government, the financial and business
sectors in Singapore. The current executive director Ho Ching is
the spouse of the current Prime Minister,
the Chairman S. Dhanabalan is an ex-cabinet minister and DBS
Bank Chairman, while other directors are involved in some of
Singapore's largest corporations. Temasek's current portfolio is
valued at USD 198 Billion, although only 30% of that is directly
invested within Singapore.
Singapore Airlines is a good example of how the Singapore
Government turned civil servants into entrepreneurs, with Lim
Chin Beng as the first CEO. From its separation from MSA in
1972. The airline was run upon strictly commercial lines and not
as a prestige flag carrier for the country like many other
national airlines. Singapore Airlines very quickly left the
airline regulation authority IATA so it could compete through
providing high quality in-flight service. the iconic
Singapore Girl was created by a local advertising agency
Bately Ads to promote the airline's value proposition. A large
catering service SATS was developed and coordinated with the
airline and Singapore airport vigorously promoted a s a hub. The
Singapore Government found by refining the rules of the market
and coordinating the services provided by connected enterprises,
great successes could be achieved.
The same was done in the shipping industry. Neptune Orient Lines
(NOL) was set up by the Singapore Government as the National
line to secure ocean freight in 1968. Goh Chok Tong, Singapore's
second Prime Minster was the firm's Managing Director in the mid
1970s overseeing the firms expansion into containerization the
European trade. The firm merged with American President Lines in
1997 and was eventually listed on the Singapore Stock Exchange.
Neptune Orient was synergized with the expansion of the Port of
Singapore Authority and Keppel Corporation.
The Currency Act requires Singapore currency to be fully backed
by foreign assets. The Singapore Government Investment
Corporation (GIC), a sovereign wealth fund set up in 1981 to
manage Singapore's foreign reserves and invest these funds
around the world. GIC only disclosed for the first time in 2008
information on its performance. GIC invests in equities, bonds,
and money market instruments. There are two arms, GIC Special
Investments which manages a portfolio of investments worldwide,
including equity in some of the Asia-pacific's premier
companies. These are not easy to uncover as they are often owned
through trusts and holding companies. About 25% of GIC's
investments are thought to be in the UK. It is also believed to
be one of the largest investors in Citicorp Group.
GIC Real Estate invests in some of the premier properties all
around the world.
The Chairman of the board is the Prime Minister, and other
directors come from the cabinet, or senior officers of Temasek
Holdings. The Ministry of Finance claims that because GIC is
managing Singapore's foreign reserves any disclosure would
"would make it easier for speculators to attack the Singapore
dollar during periods of vulnerability".
As The Economist summed up about sovereign funds
"The idea that
secretive foreign governments are up to no good exerts a
powerful hold on the collective imagination".
As the article continues it states the obvious, that no-matter
what the motives are, a sovereign fund will eventually run into
a scandal through either foolishness or corruption. The fund was
reported to have over USD $330 Billion in investments in 2008.
It is almost
impossible to know the true extent of Temasek or GIC's
international investments. For example, Temasek sometimes uses a
holding company in Mauritius, Aranda Investments to purchase
assets in India, which would not appear on Indian FDI statistics
as an investment from Singapore, but from Mauritius.
The "Local Companies"
Any cultural interpretation of Singapore’s style of development
should probably be treated with some skepticism. The success of
Singapore and the Chinese entrepreneurs operating within it,
probably had less to do with cultural and philosophical factors,
as it had to do with strategic relationships, particularly with
the leader of Singapore. Those who were successful represent a
very small group within Singapore’s population.
When Lee Kuan Yew became the Prime Minister of Singapore,
Studwell reports that he didn't have much time for local
businessmen. Being a political organizer, Lee had little
personal experience about business. The more anglicized
businessmen like Lee Kong Chian and Wee Cho Yaw got on well with
Lee, but with the rougher businessmen like Kwek Hong Peng, Lee
was much more reserved.
But in the interest of getting things done, he was willing to
give many of them a free hand without interference.
In Singapore, the relationship between the political
establishment and business is a mysterious one. Very rarely,
some information comes out about how these relationships are
transacted, but the family guard their reputations staunchly,
suing anybody that brings these issues up for defamation.
Reminiscent of the old colonial times, tycoons would set up
foundations, i.e., The Shaw Foundation, Khoo Foundation, Yong
Loo Lin Trust, and The Lee Foundation.
The pioneering entrepreneurs of Singapore after independence
preferred to keep away from export orientated industries and
focused on local industries like retailing, distribution,
hotels, and transport, etc. They found it difficult to develop
efficient and competitive organizations that could compete in
global markets, because their strengths laid in the ability to
understand the local situation, acquire the necessary
permissions to operate, finance the projects, the finesse needed
to negotiate deals, and exploit bureaucratic loopholes, etc.
Although many companies owned by the established tycoons on the
island are listed on the Singapore Stock exchange, the family
holding companies are not. Only selected companies in their wide
portfolios are listed where a majority of shares are still
directly or indirectly held tightly by the families. Its within
these holding companies that transparency is very low. Company
performance within these listed companies appears to be behind
GDP growth rates, making them rather poor investments.
One of the reasons some of these companies are listed is to get
a valuation of the holdings so they can be used as collateral.
These Chinese family companies have tended to maintain their
"little kingdoms" where shareholders know little of what is
really happening within the company. Research has shown that in
3,000 publicly traded companies in Asia, families controlled at
Table 1. Major Shareholders of Some Prominent Singapore
PPB Group 18.32%, Citibank Nominees
Singapore 8.87%, HSBC (Singapore) Nominees 6.21% Global Cocoa Holdings
5.57%, ADM Ag Holding 5.54%, DBSN Services 5.52%, Raffles Nominees
5.37%, Archer Daniels Midland Asia-Pacific 5.24%, Kuok (Singapore)
4.01%, Harpole resources 4.0%, Morgan Stanley Asia (Singapore)
Securities 4.0%, Longhin Holdings Asia #.84%, DBS Nominees 3.39%,
Noblespirit Corporation 3.24%, DB Nominees 3.24%
Just because the shareholding of the local companies are being diluted of family
shareholdings over time, doesn't necessarily mean that the families are losing
control of the companies. The families start-up subsidiaries and associated
companies to engage in some of the most profitable activities. For example, the
major shareholder of United Overseas Bank (OUB) also controls United Overseas
land, United Industrial Corporation, Singapore land, with stakes in Singapore's
Plaza Park Royal, New Park Centra, and Grand Plaza Parkroyal Hotels.
Some interests are privately owned while others are not.
Companies like Creative technologies Ltd. that had a humble start-up is still
primarily controlled by the original founders, their partners and families.
Approximately 40% of shares are in the hands of the public.
Other similar companies that still appear to be controlled by their founders and
families include Popular Holdings,
and Yeo Hiap Seng.
Some companies like Breadtalk that have recently developed from a start-up are
controlled by private owners (up to 50%+), where eventually companies like
United Overseas Bank, Mayban and DBS Nominees may acquire up to 20-30%. JP
Morgan, HSBC, and other foreign based Nominee companies have combined
Some companies in this category like Osim International are now owned through
Nominee companies like HSBC and Citibank.
In terms of SMEs in Singapore, unlike many other countries, seem to play a
minority role in the economy, contributing only around 20% to GDP. Although many
Singaporeans intend to start-up a business, there is a low percentage of actual
new businesses started, relative to other countries.
In addition the low level of entrepreneurship participation in the Singapore
economy according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey indicates
a lack of perceived opportunities to start a new business as an important reason
for this low level of start-ups and participation in the economy.
The majority of new start-ups in Singapore (68%) are in the service industry,
utilizing little business innovation.
The Role of Government
The Government has been almost the sole driver for the development of Singapore.
It has taken a 'top down' and authoritative approach. Everything has been
planned by a small group. Singapore decision making appears to be very similar
to a patriarchal Chinese family company where the founder has given all the
edicts and the managers follow. This has worked well to date because the
managers have shown an unusual cleverness, that has come down to some good
fortune as well as other surrounding factors. And like many family owned Chinese
companies the transition of patriarch has been a smooth and successful one.
How the Government and PAP search for and select "new blood" is a unique
way to evolve government and has much merit in the case of a small 'city-state'
like Singapore. Although both the PAP and Government recruit the best people to
assist in the development and running of Singapore, the big mistake appears to
be that those with similar and compatible views to the current government
thinking are the ones spotted and recruited. This risks a "groupthink
scenario" when it comes to the discussion and evaluation of policy
Politicians and bureaucrats may be aware of the problems existing in Singapore,
but have tended to place their careers ahead of these problems and modified
reports and recommendations to versions that their superiors prefer to read.
Subordinates have a tendency not to say things that may show their superiors to
be wrong and jeopardize careers.
The Economic Development Board is a statutory body set up by the Government to
Singapore to research, plan, develop and implement national economic strategies,
particularly in the area of developing investment, and nurturing talent. This is
the agency where policy development is designated to take place within the
Government. According to the website the Economic development Authority fulfills
a major role in promoting Singapore and attracting investment.
In some attempt to tackle the changes going on and get the public involved in
policymaking, the Remaking Singapore Committee was set up in February 2002 to
complement the Economic Review Committee's work in planning and reviewing
strategies for the 21st Century. The committee was chaired by the Minister of
State for National Development Dr. Vivian Balakrishnam, and comprises members
ranging from government ministers, members of parliament, people from the
private sector, NGOs and academics. The committee looked at five areas titled,
Beyond careers - new roads to success, Beyond Condo - sense of ownership and
belonging to Singapore, Beyond Club - ethnic and religious cohesion, Beyond
credit card - income distribution, social safety, sports, and arts, and beyond
Cars - balancing physical development needs in a small island.
Although the report aspired to remake Singapore through the people of Singapore,
and consider 'soft' issues rather than matters of infrastructure the secretariat
comprised predominately of civil servants. The report did make some constructive
recommendations in the areas of press freedom, foreigners, and electoral
reforms, but there was no consensus and until now nothing has been done about
them, leading to some skepticism, as is represented in many blogs.
With a new initiative emerging from the Prime Minister's National Day speech in
2012, there is a wait and see whether this new dialogue will go beyond economic
issues and encompass social issues; and whether citizens will really be allowed
to express their real feelings about Singapore.
How consultative is the PAP?
The People's Action Party (PAP) was conceptualized out of friendships between
Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee, and Toh Chin Chye during their education in
Britain. In 1954, with the help of trade unions that represented the Chinese
educated majority, a left leaning nationalist party the PAP was formed. With the
help of Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan the party would appeal to the Chinese
educated working class and create a broad base of support. The PAP started out
as a mass mobilization party based upon a Leninist model. Much of this model is
still intact within the party today.
The PAP is well disciplined and cohesive, with extremely powerful machinery on
the ground. Leadership is very much 'top down' through an instituted cadre
system. This has been partly kept to prevent any future hostile takeover
attempts. A potential cadre must be recommended by a member of parliament, and
then the candidate is interviewed a number of times by a committee appointed by
the Central Executive Committee (CEC), which will include 4 to 5 ministers and
members of parliament. There may be up to 1,000 cadres in the party today,
however this exact number is kept a secret. A cadre has the right to attend the
party conference and vote for the leadership every two years.
Political power is centered in the Central Executive Committee, headed by the
Secretary-General, the head of the party, who is usually also the Prime
Minister. There is a very strong overlap between CEC members and cabinet
ministers. Twelve members are elected by the cadre and six are appointed. Any
outgoing CEC member must recommend a list of potential candidates to fill
his/her position for the CEC. The CEC looks after the Young PAP, Women's Wing,
selects cadres, and parliamentary candidates.
Ordinary party members are screened before they can join the PAP. Potential
members must demonstrate some involvement in community before memberships are
approved. Lee Kuan Yew did not want a mass party with populist demands, and also
wanted to avoid the problems of 'quanxi' within the party.
Party members are basically unpaid volunteers, serving their MPs on branch
sub-committees, and help mobilize support during elections.
By international political party standards the PAP is very small, maybe 15,000
members, with a small central administrative machinery. There is a small HQ
executive committee that oversees the daily administration of the party,
i.e., maintaining party accounts, memberships, overseeing committees work,
publications, and branch coordination.
The major ideology of the PAP is pragmatism, meritocracy, multiculturalism, and
The PAP is pro-economic intervention through fiscal policy and government
enterprise involvement, within a generally free market backdrop. The party
strongly rejects the concepts of Western liberal democracy, citing a philosophy
based upon 'Asian values' as the guiding principles of social development.
Perhaps one of the greatest concerns of the PAP, reflected in the way it is
structured and leadership is institutionalized, is the issue of succession,
where it is believed that succession is the root of stability.
Formal and informal rules and norms, and procedures guide who can and who cannot
stand for party and public office.
The Impartiality of the Judicial System
The judiciary system in Singapore is regarded as being one of the fairest and
impartial within the Asian region. Singapore is regularly ranked within the top
countries in international surveys. One of the great strengths of the Singapore
judicial system is the arbitration processes that are offered for commercial
However within the city state of Singapore many judges and arbitrators,
especially within the Supreme Court are closely related to the ruling party and
its leaders according to the US State Department. In addition, government
leaders have traditionally used the legal system, particularly through
defamation actions to stifle critics and opposition.
This has led to perceptions from some quarters that the judiciary reflects the
objectives of the ruling parties in politically sensitive cases.
Singapore's reputation of reliability in the arbitration of commercial disputes
was also challenged back in 2007, in a dispute between the Ontario based firm
Enernorth Industries and the Singapore based firm Oakwell Engineering. In
documents tendered to the Ontario Province Appeals Court, lawyers for the
plaintiff, Enernorth alleged that 'Singapore is ruled by a small oligarchy who
control all facets of the Singapore state, including the judiciary, which is
, where consequently there is no guaranteed fairness in commercial cases.
However the Ontario Province Appeals Court upheld the decision where Judge
Gerald Day stated in his judgment that "historically, there is no evidence of
bias or unfairness by the Singapore court in private commercial proceedings".
The media is strongly controlled by the state, with few free to air alternatives
available to citizens for independent news. MediaCorp controls all free to air
television and 13 radio stations and is fully owned by Temasek Holdings. The
print media is largely controlled by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) which
publishes The Straits Times, and all other daily newspapers except
TODAY, which is owned by Temasek. SPH is listed on the stock exchange, but
has close relationship with the government through directorships. Tjiong Yik
Min, a former head of Special branch was the first chairman of SPH, S.R. Nathan,
a past President of Singapore served as SPH's executive chairman from 1982-1988,
the current president of Singapore and former deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan was
also a former chairman.
In 2013, the media watchdog group
Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 149th out of 179 countries surveyed
in media freedom.
Restrictions on the freedom
of expression also extend to foreign media outlets, which are sometimes
restricted from distributing materials containing negative stories about
Singapore or its political leadership. Such censorship has occurred with the
Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Newsweek, and others. The Financial
Times has agreed to be sold partly censored, while the Economist refuses to be
distributed at all. All magazines deemed pornographic are banned. Political
party newspapers are basically banned through regular use of the slander laws.
In the 2006 elections, the possibility for political speech and thus of
effective political opposition was further restricted by new rules prohibiting
political commentary through websites, blogs, and podcasts that might be
considered biased toward a candidate or party, meaning an opposition candidate.
The Media Development Authority is a statutory board under the Ministry of
Information, Communications and the Arts. It was set up by merging the Singapore
Broadcasting Authority, the Films and Publications Department, and the Singapore
Film Commission in a bid to develop a globally competitive media industry in
Singapore. The basic function of this authority is to both develop and regulate
media in Singapore. It also funds film and other media ventures.
However even with this vision to
develop an internationally competitive media industry under the Media 21
blueprint, the regulatory teeth of this authority show through. For example, in
the case of Alan Shadrake's book "Once a Jolly Hangman" that alleged
certain irregularities about the legal process in capital crimes in Singapore,
the MDA didn't ban the book, but took legal action against Shadrake. He was
arrested just before the book launch and charged with contempt of court for
impugning the impartiality, integrity, and independence of the court. Such
action and a warning by the court on the first day of the trial that other's
from the media would be also charged with contempt of court if they reprinted
any of Shadrake's allegations. Through these types of actions the MDA has
protected the courts from any outside scrutiny. Although the book was not
banned, the MDA wrote a letter to all bookshops in Singapore warning them of the
legal consequences of selling it. The book did not appear for sale in Singapore.
The National narrative - it was about survival, then it became
Singapore faced a number of problems post independence. Race riots were fresh in
everybody's memories and much of the population were born outside Singapore and
still didn't see themselves as Singaporeans. Some of the very first media
campaigns were to promote a sense of national identity and unity. Education
curriculum and morning flag raising ceremonies and national pledge were
instituted through all schools.
Initially after independence from Malaysia, the Lee Government had to maintain
stability and soak up unemployment. Therefore the initial aim in developing a
national narrative was to develop an obedient and docile workforce. However this
docile state prevented creativity which was required for the next stage of
national growth in the 1980s.
Traditionally the media has been used to play an integral role in developing
community coherence and nation building. Singapore very heavily engaged in what
could be best described as social engineering campaigns to achieve policy
One of the first campaigns was the result of a concern for over population of
Singapore in the future, leading to the "Stop at Two" (children)
campaign. The campaign was supported by both incentives and penalties.
This was followed by the speak good English and Mandarin campaigns (1968-1990),
courtesy campaigns (1979-2001), public health campaigns (from 1969),
environment campaigns (from 1970), social campaigns (from 1970), and cleanliness
campaigns (from 1968). Singapore launched more than 200 campaigns during the
1970s and 80s such as water saving, anti littering, and anti-smoking, etc.
These campaigns show the paternalistic attitude of the Singapore Government,
where rules and policies has been modeled on the values of the family. Most
posters and advertisements show the nuclear family. These campaigns symbolize
the paternal government speaking to the citizens who are the "children of
Singapore". These campaigns can be considered condescending, espousing what
people should do, and as a consequence show the power distance between the
government and people who are expected to obey and comply.
During his Singapore National Day speech Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
announced that its time to develop a national conversation about heart, hope,
and home, under a committee chaired by the Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.
This appears to be an attempt to develop new strings of narrative through
engaging a generally political apathetic public.
However when examining the structure of the committee set up, it has members of
the political establishment as participants who may have difficulty grappling
with new ideas and approaches to Singapore's development.
The Role of the Singapore Armed Forces
Singapore needed to develop its own defense forces, particularly with the
British withdraw in 1971. Singapore saw itself surrounded by potential hostile
countries that totally surrounded Singapore and could potentially invade
Singapore very easily. The Japanese invasion of Singapore is also strongly
remembered as members of the government lived through the Japanese occupation.
This was very similar to the Israel scenario and the Six day War. Singapore
forces needed to decisively repel any potential invaders without the luxury of
being able to retreat and regroup. Singapore consequently developed a very close
military relationship with Israel. As early as 1965, the Israeli forces trained
assisted Singapore develop their armed forces along an integrated model
specifically designed to meet potential security needs.
A national service program where all Singapore male citizens were required to
serve two and a half years in the armed services and become reservists after
that was introduced in 1967. Training is conducted in friendly countries like
Australia and Taiwan. Eventually air force squadrons of fighter/bomber aircraft
were stationed in both Australia and the United States with strike capability
through accompanying long ranger refueling aircraft.
The Singapore Armed Forces are seen as a guarantee of Singapore sovereignty.
It's also seen as a way to mould national unity.
The social pervasiveness of national service is reinforced through slick
television advertising and the armed forces own radio station. National service
has probably produced a shared consciousness and sense of identity within the
social fabric of Singapore. National service also integrates the armed forces
into society with the total defence concept, calling on each sector of the
community to play a role in the country's defence. This integration goes right
up to the highest levels of government, with ministers, permanent secretaries,
and top executives of government linked companies being ex-SAF officers. It is
within the SAF some of these people were groomed for leadership in the public
However national service also seems to play a socio-political role of regulating
male aggressiveness, and preventing it from turning into political attitudes
regarded by the government and adverse.
Consequently it's a powerful tool of socialization, and through the reserve some
sort of link and control over the person.
The government has undisputed dominance over the Singapore Armed Forces,
and defence is the highest expenditure item in the Singapore budget, with
spending at 4.9% of GDP.
The Singapore military is apolitical. The first leader of the armed forces was a
civil servant and civil servants are regularly seconded into high positions of
the SAF, often referred to as "a civil service in uniform", obedient to
The local banking system in Singapore for many decades was a little diversified
industry. According to Studwell, the Singapore Government stopped issuing new
full bank licenses in 1973. Foreign banking activity in the local market was
restricted and local banks needed permission to offer new banking products.
Local Singapore banks are required to carry higher capital reserves to assets
than most other countries. Thus OCBC, OUB, and DBS were constrained in their
expansion. The largest local bank was the state owned Development Bank of
Singapore (DBS), then Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC), and Overseas
Union Bank (OUB). The management of these banks was run by a few anglicized
Chinese with reportedly close relations to Lee Kuan Yew.
Singapore is becoming a world centre for private banking. HSBC, Citicorp, Credit
Suisse, UBS, BNP Paribas, LGT, EFG, and Merrill Lynch all operate from
Singapore. Singapore has a very high number of extremely wealthy people, and
many from neighboring countries use Singapore banks to hide their wealth.
Private banks in Singapore deal in hedge funds, foreign currency, managed funds,
commodities, equities, and even fine art. Since the pressure on EU banks to
provide information to governments has increased, Singapore has moved in to fill
the gap in providing confidential accounts. Singapore is being promoted as a
haven for secret banking, however it remains very sensitive to discussion in the
media about this.
Unlike Europe there are no withholding taxes on interest earned by
non-residents. Singapore is also developing Islamic banking to cater for the
regions 500 million Muslims. HSBC, Citigroup, and BNP Paribas have all set up
Islamic banking divisions. Singapore is emerging as a major international
banking centre that will rival any other place in the world.
Conclusion: "Nowhere to run"
'Cause I know
You're no good for me
But you`ve become
A part of me'
Singapore has been able to protect its strategic assets through possession and
history. Foreign interests have only been able to invest in what they have been
allowed. Singapore has been able to successfully develop a very unique model of
a modern mercantile state. The very factors that led to success are also the
factors that are forcing change. The problem is that economic liberation is
bringing pressure for social liberation. Changing demographics and aspirations
are exerting pressure for change.
In addition, the economic challenge for Singapore is to prevent the economy slip
into the post industrial society syndrome where economic decline may take
place. The government needs to identify the next driver of the economy to
maintain Singapore's survival in the form of the present city state. The
government feels that there are no alternatives to this vision and consequently
patience is very short with any political opposition parties with contrary
Through its investment arms, Temasek Holdings and GIC, the Singapore Government
has more than adequately backed the Singapore dollar with assets worth many
times the value of Singapore's currency. Singapore has also effectively through
property and equity acquisition increased its wealth dramatically and influences
many world markets. The Singapore Government is conquering the world, not
militarily but through acquisition, thus expanding its economic space.
However this also makes Singapore very dependent upon the world economy, and the
state of the economy appears to echo international cycles.
Singapore has been able so far to define the situation when particular
industries decline and move on from the island state, thereby preventing
community collapse. The government has managed three industry transitions.
However other problems like the cost of living for Singapore nationals have
emerged as one of the major issues to solve in the future. Jobs today exist for
Singaporeans that didn't exist twenty years ago, and it is hoped that the
government now that scientific and technical innovations will be the source of
jobs in the future.
Yet each transformation has created its own opportunities, and along with high
quality education, Singaporeans have been able to rise economically over the
decades - transforming from docile factory workers four decades ago to
professionals today. However this evolution has been criticized as being
utilitarian, at the cost of developing rich social aspects of peoples'
lifestyles. A number of recent studies have indicated that Singapore is an
unhappy society with the Gallup Poll in 2012 showing the country to be the least
positive nation out of 148, and least emotional country out of more than 140
The utilitarian psych of government has created a vacuum in contentment.
Singaporeans are travelling and foreigners are bringing in new values that can't
be suppressed and have to be accommodated. Changing demographics may not allow
the same to continue. The young generation will strongly influence elections in
The key to the future of Singapore is innovation. Innovation means the freedom
to come up with new ideas. However the vibrancy and dynamism of ideas has been
compromised with the Government's dominance of the economy and monopoly on
market development. The concept of education still needs to be widened. To date,
only civil servants have been the major source of new ideas, and innovation of
late has been by commercial acquisition, rather than creation. This has been a
major platform of control in Singapore society.
Since 1963 the Singapore Government has turned the island from a sleepy
backwater into one of the world's most vibrant economies. Although nobody can
fault the ruling party which has governed Singapore for more than 50 years of
abandoning its responsibilities, many wish that it would tackle these
responsibilities with some heart and connect emotionally with the people.
Times are rapidly changing in the island republic. There is genuine
disenchantment with rising prices, the influx of foreign workers, competition
for jobs, crowded public places, rising home prices, rising cost of education,
and the widening income gap in Singapore. There is even some feeling among
Singaporeans with the migration of foreign professionals, they may descend to
becoming second class citizens within their own country.
Migration will be expected to continue as the local Singapore population is
aging. Today it is not uncommon to see the old and infirm waiting on restaurant
tables, clearing rubbish in the streets, or even scavenging into rubbish bins.
Singapore's GINI index has declined from 0.433 in 2000 to 0.465 in 2010 and is
similar to many African and South American countries.
According to Wilkinson and Pickett, social ills like erosion of trust, crime,
obesity, teen pregnancy, mental health and drug addiction, is more closely
associated with income inequality rater than low average per-capita income.
Consequently the electoral landscape is quickly beginning to change, where the
PAP will not in the future be returned to power uncontested on nomination day
due to the failure of opposition candidates to nominate for election.
The scrapping in of the PAP's preferred candidate Tony Tan for president in 2011
showed that there is a growing proportion of the Singapore electorate that wants
a change to the PAPs heavy handed style of government and more scrutiny.
However one of the issues that may hinder any further decline in the PAP's
fortunes is that there is currently a lack of any credible opposition in
Singapore as an alternative government.
From another paradigm, Singapore could be seen as the domination of one group
over another. Most of the leadership has been drawn from the Baba Chinese
community, a group cultured in Malay and "Colonial British".
Babas strongly hold family values, community cohesiveness, and tend to
respect authority. This is in contrast to the Southern mainland Chinese migrants
to Singapore who fled oppression, and tended to oppose authority. Singapore has
been run more in the manner like a British Colonial administrator would have
aspired. Thus patriarchal leadership with neo-Victorian values is not something
the migrating Chinese accepted openly.
Singapore has seen many campaigns, incentives, and deterrents to achieve the
values of the Baba class.
One of the major legacies of Lee Kuan Yew was the authoritarian style of
leadership and the fear it invoked into the Singaporean psych. For decades
Singaporeans were expected to fall in line with what leaders expected without
question, as they were told that this was best for them. The bounds of what
couldn't be done were clearly set, i.e., not to criticize leaders, not to
discuss 'sensitive' issues, or not to give alternative opinions. If these
boundary crossings were noticed, harsh penalties would be applied to those that
The strong control of Lee Kuan Yew was the dominant driver of society, and the
state itself also had the responsibility of being the 'agent of change'. This to
some degree squeezed out small private businesses as an alternative engine to
growth of the Singapore economy. This persona of authority and control still
Singapore Government ministers appear to be disconnected with the people who
elected them. They have become so concerned about running Singapore from an
elite bureaucracy, trusted to make the best decisions for the country to protect
and improve the livelihoods of its citizens. However as they live in some of the
choicest real estate in Singapore and have rewarded themselves with some of the
highest salaries in the world, they have have become out of touch with the
struggles and plight of the common people of Singapore.
For Singapore to prosper in the long term. And for Singapore to maintain the
unique system of government that has evolved, with all the good, and perhaps
less of the bad and ugly, the PAP needs to re-evaluate itself for the future and
decide whether it is a broad based political party, or just the extension of one
man and an elite group that has ruled over Singapore for the last 50 years?
Under the present structure of the PAP, it will be impossible for the party to
reform itself from the grassroots and allow new ideas to reach the top. The
ability of people to rise through the ranks of the party with new ideas is
heavily restricted. The Lim Chin Siong legacy saw to that. The very way the PAP
has sought both meritocracy and stability has become its 'Achilles heel',
paralyzing the ability to adapt to changing Singapore,
where ironically the country has been so successful in adapting to outside
factors of change while being so internally rigid. The cadre system itself
prevents change, as the selection process is a closed system selecting only same
minded people to the leadership,
subjecting government to the risks of groupthink. The challenge of change brings
uncertainty and with this comes insecurity about the continuation of a
successful paradigm of government that has served Singapore so well in the past.
Lee Kuan Yew had dominated
Singaporean politics, economy, and society since the 1950s. The family has
influenced affairs in Singapore for over 50 years, much longer than any other
political family in the region. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Loong became Prime
Minister in 2004. Lee Hsien Loong's wife Ho Ching is CEO of Temasek Holdings.
Lee Kuan Yew's youngest son Lee Hsien Yang is the head of Singapore Telecom. The
Lees have achieved their positions on merit and are genuinely an exceptionally
talented family. Officially, the reason given for this is by former Prime
Minister Goh Chok Tong is the small talent pool in Singapore.
Both the political and business sectors appear incestuous in Singapore, but due
to the 'city-state' nature of the country, there appears to be little in the way
of any solution to this. When the opportunities rose under Goh Chok Tong's
Premiership in the mid 1990s, no moves were made to check the power of the Lee
There is no doubt that the Lee's legacy is embedded in Singapore and its
influence will last decades. Just how and when this influence will begin to
dissipate remains to be seen.
Is there truth to the old Chinese proverb that "in three generations, a
family or dynasty will have run its course?"
Notes and References
 Tan, J., Q., & Jomo, K., S., (2001), Comet in Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong
in History, Insan Publications.
 Bloodworth, D., (1986), The Tiger and the Trojan Horse,
Singapore, Times Books International.
 Jones, M., (2000), Creating malaysia: Singapore Security, the Borneo
Territories and the Contours of British Policy, 1961-1963, Journal of
imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 28, No., 2, pp. 85-109.
 See: Studwell, J., (2007), Asian Godfathers: Money and power in Hong
Kong and Southeast Asia, New York, Grove Press, P. 46.
 Tay, S., C., (1996), Human Rights, Culture, and the Singapore Example,
McGill L.J., Vol. 41, pp. 743-779.
 Arnold, W., (2003), Singapore Goes for Biotech, The New York Times,
August 26th, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/26/business/singapore-goes-for-biotech.html
 The CIA World Factbook - Singapore https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sn.html
Business Times, "GLCs shine - with or without privatisation,
September 6th 2002.
 Porter, M., E., (1990), The Competitive Advantage of Nations, New
York, Free Press, P. 566.
 Ho ching, a national university and Stanford educated electrical
engineer who first joined the Ministry of defence and then state owned Singapore
 Backman, M., (2008), Asia Future Shock: Business Crisis and
Opportunity in the Coming Years, London, Palgrave MacMillan, P. 119.
 GIC manages its investment portfolio for the long term, Ministry of
Finance, 23rd September 2011, http://app.mof.gov.sg/TemNewsroomDetail.aspx?pagesid=20090924508092100125&pagemode=live&type=forum&cmpar_year=2011&news_sid=20110923697233305980&AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1
 Sovereign-wealth funds: Asset backed insecurity, The Economist,
17th January 2008, http://www.economist.com/node/10533428?story_id=10533428
 Editorial team, (2008), Sovereign Wealth Funds: Shrek or White Knight?,
27th Feb., EEO.com.cn, http://www.eeo.com.cn/ens/feature/2008/02/27/92907.html
Business Times, "Temasek takes 10% stake in Indian logistics
company", November 24, 2004.
 See: Studwell, J., (2007), "Asian Godfathers", P. 46.
 See: Corruption in the Lee Family: http://sgforums.com/forums/10/topics/127699,
See also: Hoyt, C., (2010), Censored in Singapore, The New York Times,
April 3rd, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/opinion/04pubed.html?_r=0
 Backman, M., (2006), The Asian Insider: Unconventional wisdom for
Asian business, London, Palgrave MacMillan, P. 16.
 Classens, S., Djankov, S., & Lang, L., (1999), Who controls East
Asian corporations?, Washington D.C, World Bank.
 Chernyshenko, O. S., Gomulya, D., Phan, W. M. J., Lai, Y. Y., Ho, M. H.
R., Uy, M. A., Chan, K. Y.& Bedford, O. (2012) Global Entrepreneurship
Monitor 2011 Singapore Report, Singapore, Nanyang Technological University,
pp 12 & 19.
 Chernyshenko, O. S., at. al., (2012), "Global
Entrepreneurship Monitor 2011 Singapore Report", P. 10.
 Chernyshenko, O. S., at. al., (2012), "Global
Entrepreneurship Monitor 2011 Singapore Report", P. 22.
 Ong, E., (2011), Why Singapore government become like that?, New
Mandala, 18th December, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2011/12/18/why-singapore-government-become-like-that/
 Report of the Remaking Singapore Committee: Changing Mindsets,
Deepening Relationships, June 2003, P. 10, http://was.nl.sg/wayback/20070115030104/http://www.remakingsingapore.gov.sg/Full%20Version%20of%20Remake%20Sg.pdf
 Mauzy, D., K., & Milne, R., S., (2002), Singapore Politics Under the
People's Action Party, London, Routledhe.
 Mauzy, & Milne, R. (2002), "Singapore Politics Under the People's
 Tremewan, C., (1996), The Political Economy of Social Control in
Singapore, London, Palgrave Macmillan.
 Tan, N., (2009), Institutionalized Hegemonic party: The Resilience of
the People's Action Party (PAP) in Singapore, P. 4, http://www.mcgill.ca/files/isid/Tan.Singapore.pdf
 Gallagher, M., & marsh, M., (1988), Candidate Selection in
Comparative Perspective, London, Sage Publications, P. 265.
 One famous case was the prosecution of the sole opposition Member of
Parliament Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam in the mid 1980s for financial fraud in
connection with donations made to the Workers' Party. On appeal to the Privy
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expressed deep disquiet that by a series of judgments Jeyaretnam had suffered 'a
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mounted electricity generating plants in India. The project ran into trouble,
where Enernorth bought Oakwell's stake in the project for S$2.79 Million and
royalties once finance was obtained. Any disputes would be settled by Singapore
courts. Enernorth failed to raise the financing and defaulted on payment to
Oakwell. The Singapore High Court and later Court of Appeal awarded Oakwell the
disputed amounts, full costs and interest amounting to S$5.4 Million. Enernorth
had no assets in Singapore, so Oakwell applied to the Ontario Superior Corth to
enforce the ruling in Canada. The Superior Court ruled in Oakwell's favour.
Enernorth appealed the ruling with a fierce attack on the integrity of the
system, claiming the standards of the Singapore legal system did not meet the
standards of the Canadian legal system for rulings to be upheld in Canada.
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Singaporean Experience, Oxford, Routledge
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Before, FMT News, August 11th, http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2011/04/30/singapore%e2%80%99s-rulers-fighting-like-never-before/
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equal societies almost always do better, London, Allen Lane.
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August 31st 2011, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904332804576540230830563192.html#articleTabs%3Darticle
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generation's take, New Mandala, 26th March, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2012/03/26/democracy-in-southeast-asia-a-new-generations-take/
 Backman, M., (2006), "The Asian Insider", pp. 92-93.
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Opportunity in the Coming Years, London, Palgrave MacMillan, P. 101.
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Rice Bowl, http://sonofadud.com/stories-from-the-stairwell/the-cadre-system-our-biggest-obstacle-to-democracy/
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IGK pismo u vezi agende Vuka Jeremića u UN
March 14, 2013
H. E. Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada
H. E. John Baird Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs
H. E. Roméo A. Dallaire Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide
and Other Crimes Against Humanity (Canada)
H. E. Guillermo E. Rishchynski Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations
H. E. Tom Mulcair Leader of the Official Opposition and Leader of Canada's New Democrats
H. E. Bob Ray President of the Liberal Party, Canada
H. E. Brian Masse Member of the Canadian Parliament and member of the Parliamentary Friendship
Group Canada - Bosnia and Herzegovina
Distinguished Prime minister,
Allow us to address You on behalf of the survivors, victims and witnesses of the
aggression on Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens and to request
that on April 10th of this year at the UN General Assembly , where public
discussion titled “Role of the International Criminal tribunal in accomplishment
of justice and lasting peace between nations”, Canada uses its influence as one
of the most respected members of the UN and not to allow representatives of the
member nations whose citizens were convicted of war crimes by international
courts and whose governments still refuse to acknowledge conviction for genocide
in Bosnia and Herzegovina which has been delivered by a number of international
legal bodies, to actively participate in this event.
We firmly believe that it is not prudent to have Vuk Jeremic, president of the
UN General Assembly, participate in this event since he is a citizen of Serbia
who in a very aggressive way promotes nationalistic interests of Serbia, country
that still denies genocide committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We are confident that even on April 10th of this year his presentation at the UN
General Assembly seating will be geared toward “equating guilt” and critique of
the International Court for War Crimes for former Yugoslavia.
We would like to remind you that Vuk Jeremic was personally responsible for
scandalous play of Serbian nationalistic song “Mars na Drinu” which is a symbol
of the extreme Serb nationalism, song which was used by fascist and nazy
collaborators lead by Draza Mihajlovic as a motivator to commit crimes in Bosnia
and Herzegovina during the Second World War. The same song during the most
recent aggression and genocide committed against citizens of Bosnia and
Herzegovina Serb aggressors were listening to while they were raping, destroying
and expelling and mercilessly killing Bosniak civilians in the cities and
concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995. This song was
prohibited by the previous Government because it was inciting ethnic hatred, and
even Serbian Government refused to use this song as a national anthem because of
its provoking text and its history.
Institute for Research of Genocide is grateful to His Excellence Ban Ki Moon,
Secretary General of the UN, for the fact that he publicly apologized on January
17th, 2013 expressing regret for pain that this incident caused to the victims
and witnesses of the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina and genocide against
its citizens. Secretary General has admitted that this song should not have
been a part of the official program and that he was not aware of its historic
Such behaviour of Vuk Jeremic is unacceptable and therefore we humbly appeal to
you to prevent Vuk Jeremic from executing diplomatic lie at the UN General
Assembly event to be held on April 10th, 2013. This would be a great Canadian
contribution to the truth and justice in the world.
Please do not stay silent as a democratic country which has accepted us as its
citizens after our traumatic ordeal caused by the aggression against our
country, crime against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Bosnia and
Herzegovina, we survivors and direct witnesses of the above crimes ask for your
help to have our voices as Canadian citizens heard. If we remain silent we will
be accomplices of the above mentioned crimes.
thought us that all major projects start falling apart not with major but rather
small errors which can bring suspicion and disgust against projects and
institutions – such as the UN as a global guarantor of peace, and we wish to
remind you that with your efforts to have diplomatic sanctions imposed against
Vuk Jeremic, president of the UN General Assembly, and barring his attendance at
the public hearing to be held on April 10th of this year, you will demonstrate
dedication to protection of integrity of the UN and to send a clear message to
those who would dare damage the integrity of the UN in the future that such
destructive acting would not be tolerated; that is does not pay to endure on the
symbols of crime and spite against the international community where Canada has
a very important role.Institute for
Research of Genocide, Canada believes in open debate and free speech for all
people, and is not trying to remove anyone's ability to do so in this matter.
But the clear track record of open denial and obfuscation of the indisputable
facts regarding the acts of genocide in Bosnia by nationalist forces of the
Bosnian Serbs and their enablers in Serbia, makes providing a grand
international forum to spread lies and disinformation about the genocide by
their modern agents of historical distortion something that IGC cannot and will
At the same time we invite all representatives of Bosniak and Bosnian and
Herzegovina associations and individuals from all around the world to write a
letter of similar content to their politicians and government representatives in
order to prevent a diplomatic fraud which is in works for April 10th of this
year at the UN General Assembly event perpetrated by Vuk Jeremic and in fact
state of Serbia where he is coming from and to the detriment of the idea of
humanity and peace, basics on which the Organization of UN is based upon.
Thank you for your attention regarding this urgent matter.
Professor Emir Ramic Director of the Institute for Research of Genocide, Canada, President of the
Congress of North American Bosniak, Canadian Branch
Professor dr. Christian Schwarz-Schilling Former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina
Professor dr. Francis Anthony Boyle University of Illinois, College of Law, General Agent for the Republic of
Bosnia and Herzegovina before the International Court of Justice with
Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Powers
Professor dr. David Pettigrew Southern Connecticut State University, Steering Committee Member, Yale
Genocide Studies Program
Professor dr. Marko Attila Hoare University Kingston, London, England
Professor dr. Gregory H. Stanton President, Genocide Watch, Research Professor in Genocide Studies and
Prevention, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason
University, Arlington, VA, USA
Professor dr. Keith Doubt Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio, USA, Editor Spirit of Bosnia
Professor dr. Carole Hodge Post Genocide Education Foundation
Professor dr. Erhard Busek Coordinator of the South-Eastern Cooperative Initiative and Chairman of the
Institute for Danube Region
Professor dr. Steven Leonard Jacobs The University of Alabama
Professor dr.Anatoly Isaenko Appalachian State University, Boone
Roger M. Richards Filmmaker-Photographer-Author
Rebecca Tinsley Lower, London, United Kingdom
Chris Mathieu Editor, Bosnia twenty years later and I love Bosnia
Matteo Bastianelli Photographer and filmmaker
Igor Gontcharov Univerzitety, Toronto, Canada
Academician, Professor dr. Smail Čekić Univerzity, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Direcor of the Institute for
Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law of the Sarajevo
Academician, Professor dr. Vladimir Premec Academy of Sciences and Arts of BiH, Faculty of Philosophy, University of
Academician Professor. dr. Esad Duraković Member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Professor dr. Senadin Lavić
Univerzity Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, President of Bosniak Community
Professor dr. Kasim Trnka,
Professor of constitutional law
University of Sarajevo
Professor dr. Dzemal Najetovic Unversity of Sarajevo
Academician, Professor dr. Mustafa Ceric President of the World Bosniak Congress
Academician, Professor dr. Mehmed A. Aksamija
Academician, Professor. dr. Ferid Muhić President of Bosnian Academy of Arts and Sciences
Professor dr.. Admir Muratovic Director of the Research Institute of crimes and genocide, University of
Novi Pazar, Sandzak, Srbia
Professor dr. Mevlud Dudic Rector of the International University of Novi Pazar, Srbia
Professor dr. Janja Beć-Neumann, Univerzity Vienna, Austria, The founder of the first course Heard of war
crimes and genocide, the Nobel Peace Prize-nominated 2005
Professor dr. Muris Osmanagić University, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, In the name of the Appeal of
the name of the most prominent 220 university professors and public figures
Professor dr. Nijaz Ibrulj University, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Professor dr.Goran Bandov
Univerzity Zagreb, Croatia
Professor dr. Sead Berberovic Univerzity Zagreb, Croatia
Professor dr. Elvir Musić Univerzity Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Professor dr. Admir Mulaosmanović
Institute for History, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Professor dr. Fahrudin Novalić Univerzity Zagreb, Croatia
Professor dr. Šemso Tanković Univerzity Zagreb, Croatia
Amir Ahmic Bosniak liaison officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for areas of
the former Yugoslavia
Master Fatmir Alispahic Author, writter
Prof. dr. Hariz Halilović Univerzity Victoria, Australia, Researcher of the Crime of Genocide
Master Marjan Hajnel Author, writter, Israel
Nadira Avdic Vllasi Author
Šaćir Srebrenica President of the Association of the Concentration-camp Detainees in Bosnia
Cc: H.E. Ambassador Mirsada Colakovic
Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the United Nations
INSTITUTE FOR THE RESEARCH OF
GENOCIDE CANADA 7 Southside Place, Unit 6 | Hamilton, Ontario, L9C 7W6
Phone: (905) 385-3606 |
The Thai Deep
South: Both Malaysia and Thailand Desperately Seeking Success
the last nine months the insurgency in the Deep South of Thailand has escalated
dramatically. Just within the last week two bombs went off in Narathiwat
province, another bomb exploded within the Pattani commercial centre, and five
people were injured in a drive by shooting also in Pattani. Even with the Thai
military killing 16 insurgents during an attack on a marine base just recently,
there is little evidence of military progress in the insurgency.
At the same time Malaysia is heading into what could be called a "watershed"
election. Premier Najib's personal popularity rating has fallen, there have been
a number of campaigning mishaps for him of late, and there is an embarrassing
military stand-off in Sabah with a group loyal to the Sulu Sultan, where the
Philippine President Aquino is the one taking initiatives.
In this environment, both governments are in desperate need of a breakthrough
with the insurgency. Of late, the insurgents have undertaken many embarrassing
ploys like displaying Malaysian flags in the South last August 31st on Malayan
Independence day. In addition, troops and other security forces are all tied in
the south trying to protect major towns like Hat Yai and Chana from attacks, and
Premier Yingluck Shinawatra has her brother's legacy of poor handling of the
Southern insurgency problem hanging over her. Premier Najib badly needs some
form of diplomatic coup to bolster his credentials, particularly with the rural
Malays in Kelantan who are not unsympathetic to the insurgents cause, and the
general population of Malaysia with the oncoming election due anytime in the
Perhaps this is why the surprise of an agreement signed between the Thai
Government during Premier Yinluck Shinawatra's visit to Kuala Lumpur with one of
the major insurgent groups the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), should actually
not be a surprise.
A memorandum was signed in Putra Jaya by Lieutenant-General Panradom
Pattanathabur, Secretary general of Thailand's National Security Council, and
Utaz Hassan Taib who was identified as the chief of the BRN liaison office in
Malaysia. The document was witnessed by Mohamed Thajudeen Bin Abdul Wahab who is
the Secretary General of the National Security Council within The Prime
The simple text of the document reads as follows under the heading "General
Consensus on Peace Dialogue Process":
"The Government of Thailand has appointed the Secretary General of the National
Security Council (Lieutenant-General Panradom Pattanathabur) to head the group
supporting favourable environment creation to peace promotion in the Southern
Border Provinces of Thailand.
We are willing to engage in peace dialogue with people who have different
opinions and ideologies from the state (note not directly referring to the BRN
only), as one of the stakeholders in solving the Southern Border problem under
the framework of the Thai Constitution while Malaysia would act as facilitator.
Safety measures shall be provided to all members of the Joint Working Group
throughout the entire process."
- dated and signed 28th February 2013
This document was heralded by all as an historical agreement and has been
reported widely in both the mainstream Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur Press, although
it's interesting Malaysia's online press hardly mentioned it.
The BRN was formed in 1963 and is one of up to 20 different insurgency groups in
the Deep South of Thailand. Although the BRN may one of the largest groups, it
is yet to be seen if any other groups may come onboard with these negotiations,
or even take a hostile view of these negotiations believing that they have been
left out and should be the group that the government be negotiating with. With
jealousies between some of these groups, this is a minor risk that the Thai
Government has taken.
As it has actually not been spelt out by the various insurgency groups what
demands and aspirations they have, this process will at least put these points
on the table for examination. In this sense the memorandum is a potential
breakthrough because it may establish the gambit of positions both sides will
talk from. Ironically through this insurgency, very few concrete demands or
aspirations have actually been aired, although the various groups harbor ideals
and aspirations alone a wide continuum.
The role of Malaysia will be interesting. The Federal Government wants peace
along the border and there are actually great trade advantages to a peaceful
south through the IMT-GT. The Malaysian military and police are generally
cooperative with the Thai authorities over border security issues and
established good relationships. However some insurgents within the Deep South
are also Malaysian citizens, or at least have very close Malaysian relatives,
and to some degree integrated within the "pondok communities" within Kelantan.
Perhaps Malaysia's prime role will be just acting as a chairman to these
meetings to maintain negotiations, rather than acting more proactively in
suggesting solutions. The true value of the Malaysian role will therefore be
just to hold the process together, which may not be an easy task, given the
emotional issues involved.
Any success will depend upon there not being any hidden agendas between the 2+1
parties during these talks. With the complexities of Thai politics, the
military, the various insurgency groups and their splinters, and Malaysian
politics, particularly related to the constituency of Kelantan, this could be a
tall order. However there is also the hope that all sides are tired and through
this process, there can be reaching out to other insurgency groups. Much of this
will personally depend upon the skills and attitude taken by Panradom
Pattanathabur and the reception he gets from members of the BRN delegation. The
other question here is who does Hassan Taib actually represent within the BRN
which has a number of splinter groups? Even if Hassan is speaking for a wide
series of groups, every point of negotiations would have to be discussed in
community Syura in every province to obtain any consensus, which could be
One must remember this is not the first time peace talks have been attempted
with many different moderators including former Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr
Mahathir Mohamed in the Langkawi talks a few years ago, and later with former
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra where both went nowhere.
One aspect that has not been tackled by both governments in this agreement is
the role drug traffickers, bandits, gangsters, and other criminal elements are
playing in this insurgency problem. It is in their interest to have turmoil in
the Deep South so they can carry out their trade. These groups are part of the
problem and they need to be dealt with in any process for it to be a success.
The first meeting is scheduled to be held in Malaysia within the next two weeks,
and every fortnight afterwards. It would be surprising if much information about
these talks actually leaks out. However the meeting itself is something positive
and who actually turns up to these meetings from the insurgents side will be
very telling of eventual success of this process.
What is sure, the violence will not stop immediately, but the immediate level of
violence may indicate how seriously various groups look at this upcoming process
of negotiation. The Yingluck Government has given some authority to the military
to negotiate, who may take a more hardline than the government would. However
from the Thai point of view some process is going on which is better than no
process. The agreement to the Malaysian Government as the moderator is a
redeeming event in foreign policy for the Najib Government. The BN will be
hoping that this may provide some positive mileage among the rural Malays of
Kelantan, who they need to win over if any positive electoral.
Meanwhile the people of the Deep South will continue to go about their daily
lives with extreme caution.