Government and politics
Singapore is a republic with a Westminster system of a unicameral parliamentary government representing different constituencies of Singapore. The bulk of the executive powers rests in the hands of the Cabinet of Singapore, which consists of ministers led by the Prime Minister of Singapore. The office of the President of Singapore was, historically, a ceremonial one as head of state, but the Constitution of Singapore was amended in 1991 to create the position of a popularly elected President and also to grant the President veto powers in a few key decisions such as the use of the national reserves and the appointment of key judiciary positions. The legislative branch of government is the Parliament. Parliamentary elections in Singapore are plurality-based for group representation constituencies since the Parliamentary Elections Act was modified in 1991.
Singaporean politics have been dominated by the People's Action Party (PAP) since the country's independence in 1965. Foreign political analysts and several opposition parties including the Workers' Party of Singapore and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) have argued that Singapore is a de facto one-party state. Many consider the form of government in Singapore to be closer to authoritarianism such as illiberal democracy or procedural democracy rather than true democracy. Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its 2005 Worldwide Press Freedom Index. It has also been alleged that the PAP employs censorship, gerrymandering by the Elections Department and the filing of civil suits against the opposition for libel or slander to impede their success. Several former and present members of the opposition, including Francis Seow, J.B. Jeyaretnam and Chee Soon Juan perceive the Singaporean courts as favourable towards the government and the PAP due to a lack of separation of powers. Although no PAP member has ever lost a defamation case in court, there are three cases in which opposition leader Chiam See Tong sued PAP members for defamation and successfully obtained an out-of-court settlement.
Singapore has what its government considers to be a highly successful and transparent market economy. The PAP's policies contain some aspects of socialism. The Housing Development Board oversees a large-scale public housing programme and education in Singapore is a rigorous compulsory public education system, and the dominance of government-controlled companies in the local economy. Although dominant in its activities, the government has a clean, corruption-free image. Singapore has consistently been rated as the least-corrupt country in Asia and amongst the top ten cleanest from corruption in the world by Transparency International.
Although Singapore's laws are inherited from British and British Indian laws, including many elements of English common law, the PAP has also consistently rejected liberal democratic values, which it typifies as Western and states that there should not be a 'one-size-fits-all' solution to a democracy. Laws restricting the freedom of speech are justified by claims that they are intended to prohibit speech that may breed ill will or cause disharmony within Singapore's multiracial, multi-religious society. For example, in September 2005, three bloggers were convicted of sedition for posting racist remarks targeting minorities.Some offences can lead to heavy fines or caning and there are laws which allow capital punishment in Singapore for first-degree murder and drug trafficking. Amnesty International has criticised Singapore for having "possibly the highest execution rate in the world" per capita. The Singapore government argued that there is no international consensus on the appropriateness of the death penalty and that Singapore has the sovereign right to determine its own judicial system and impose capital punishment for the most serious crimes. However, more recently the PAP has relaxed some of its socially conservative policies.
Chinese 76.8%, Malay 13.9%, Indian 7.9%, other 1.4%
The name Singapore is derived from the Malay words singa (lion) and pura (city), which were themselves derived from the Sanskrit words siMha and pura.Hence, Singapore is also known as the Lion City. The naming is attributed to a prince named Sang Nila Utama, who according to folklore, saw a lion as the first living creature on the island and decided to name it Singapura as a result.
The first records of Singapore's existence are in Chinese texts from the 3rd century AD. The island was an outpost of the Sumatran Srivijaya empire and originally bore the Javanese name Temasek (which means sea town). Temasek rose to become a significant trading city, but subsequently declined. There are few remnants of old Temasek in Singapore, but archaeologists in Singapore have uncovered evidence of the civilization, as well as other settlements. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Singapore was a part of the Sultanate of Johore. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1617, Singapore was set ablaze by Portuguese troops.
Statue of Thomas Stamford Raffles by Thomas Woolner, erected at the spot where he first landed at Singapore. He is recognised as the founder of modern Singapore.In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, an official with the British East India Company, signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johore. He also established Singapore as a trading post and settlement, which saw instant growth and immigration from various ethnic groups. Singapore was later made a crown colony by Britain in 1867. After a series of colonial territorial expansions, the British Empire soon raised Singapore's status to that of an entrepot town, due to its strategic location along the busy shipping routes connecting Europe to China.
During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Malaya and the surrounding region in the Battle of Malaya, which culminated in the Battle of Singapore. The British were unprepared and swiftly defeated, despite having more troops. They surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. The Japanese renamed Singapore as Syonan-to, Japanese for "Light of the South", and occupied it until the British arrived to repossess the island a month after the Japanese surrender to the United States in September 1945.
Singapore became a self-governing state in 1959 with Yusof bin Ishak as its first head of state and Lee Kuan Yew from the People's Action Party (PAP) as its first Prime Minister, after the 1959 elections. The Merger Referendum passed in 1962 and led to Singapore joining the Federation of Malaysia along with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak as a state with autonomous powers in September 1963. Singapore was expelled from the federation on 7 August 1965 after heated ideological conflict developed between the state government formed by PAP and the Federal government in Kuala Lumpur. It gained official sovereignty two days later on 9 August 1965, which later became Singapore's National Day. Malaysia was the first country to recognise it as an independent nation.
The fledgling nation had to become self-sufficient, and faced problems including mass unemployment, housing shortages and lack of land and natural resources such as petroleum. During Lee Kuan Yew's term as prime minister from 1959 to 1990, his administration immediately curbed unemployment, raised the standard of living and implemented a large-scale public housing programme. The country economic infrastructure was developed, the threat of racial tension was eliminated and an independent national defence system was created. Singapore evolved from a developing nation to first world status towards the end of the 20th century.
In 1990, Goh Chok Tong succeeded Lee as Prime Minister. During his tenure, the country tackled the economic impacts of the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2003 SARS outbreak, as well as terrorist threats posed by the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) post-September 11 and the Bali bombings. In 2004 Lee Hsien Loong, the eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew, became the third prime minister