Monday, May 2, 2011

Father of modern Singapore

As I write this, my country is in the midst of a General Election. The populace will elect or re-elect a government in a few days time according to their vote.

In the press, on the Net and in the coffee shops, arguments and counter-arguments, points and counterpoints, insinuations, mudslingings and the usual campaign gimmicks are all the talk of the day.

One particular piece of writing on the Net caught my eye. This person described the venerable Mr Lee Kuan Yew as the founder of modern Singapore. Hmmm, I was wondering. Is this what is being taught in schools now? I don't know.

From my own pathetic knowledge of local history, I thought that modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles back in 1819?  Was I wrong? 
Then again, when I took History of S.E.Asia as an A Level subject, it was way back in 1972, but I still can recall certain facts vividly because of my interest in local history at that time. Or has history been re-written since then?

From my aging memory, I recalled something like this....

The region around us then (i.e. S E Asia) was divided and controlled by both the Dutch and British, who were bitter enemies at that time.
Stamford Raffles, the British lieutenant-governor of Bencoolen in Western Sumatra, wanted to impress his bosses, the East India Company. He sought permission from his superior, Lord Hastings in India, to try and establish a greater presence right in the middle of the Dutch territories. (very garang! especially because the EIC Court of Directors were against this idea, but he went ahead anyway)

Raffles considered places like Bangka, Karimon, Bintan and Lingga before finally settling on an island called Singapura.  All these places were within the domain of the Rhio Sultanate, now know as Riau, Indonesia.  (Trivia- his initial preferences were actually Bangka or Bintan.)

The Sultan of the Rhio Sultanate, Sultan Mahmud, had recently died and his throne, based at Lingga under the Dutch, was usurped by the younger son Abdul Rahman instead of going to the rightful elder son Hussein Long.

Through political intrigues, Raffles brought the elder Hussein Long to Tumesek and installed him as the Sultan to be recognised by the British, in exchange for trading and administrative rights over the newly founded trading port (Singapura). The date was 6 February 1819.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew was not the founder of modern Singapore. He happened to be the incumbent prime minister of the island when Singapore was kicked out of the Federation of Malaysia on 9 August 1965. By default, he became the head of the government of a newly independent country.

Full credit must go to him and his team of people in the immediate period following Singapore's independence as a soveriegn country and the most difficult task of continuing to govern without much resources.

In 8 years time in 2019, Singapore will celebrate its bicentennial of its modern founding and its 54th year as an independent country. We should celebrate our modern founding with as big a bang as we can.
200 years of Singapore!

I hope I will still be around then.

Photo by hjtann

No comments:

Post a Comment