Monday, March 26, 2007


Singapore the Pearl of the East

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A Phoenix in real life.

Once remained as a fisherman’s village and passed through numerous turbulences of history; Singapore has traveled much to become the world’s fourth largest financial center after London, New York and Tokyo. The name Singapore is for Singa = Lion + pore = pur = land - meaning land of the lion in Malay with its origin in Sanskrit. Singapore was literally burned down by the invading Portuguese in 1613, that later colonized it. But like the phoenix of the legends it arose from its ashes to one of the most happening place in the world.

In the beginning “Tomasek”!

Singapore was earlier known as Tomasek (meaning sea-town) in the early times. It is a group of 63 small islands situated at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Jurong is the largest among these while Pulau, Tekong, Pulau-Ubin etc are among the major ones. Singapore has a rich culture to its credit ranging from the12th century, the remnants of its architecture and monuments had been recovered by the archaeologists.

There comes the Empire.

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Singapore was being ruled by the Sultanate of Johore when the Portuguese set it in to flames; the British who came a bit late (in 1819) banished the Portuguese and took control of the islands. It was Sir Stafford Raffles who reached in to a treaty with Sultan Hussein Shah of the Johore dynasty, paving way for an era of British rule in to this land. The British have been helpful in giving this fisherman’s island a modern fit and finish.

Had to be Shonan for a while!

World War II also brought its own perils to this tiny group of islands in the form of Japanese soldiers under General Tomayuki Yamashita in February 15, 1942 they defeated the ill-prepared British army stationed there and took control of the island. After gaining control the Japanese changed the name of Singapore in to “Shonan”, and Singapore had the ill-fate to live with that name until September 12, 1945 when the British recaptured it and got the real name back.

Then “Crown Colony”, with all burdens!

The British granted “Crown Colony” status to this state which meant that the government of Singapore was answerable only to the British Crown; later in August 1965 sovereignty was allowed making it a free state under Lee Kwan Yew. At the time when Lee took over the charge of the “crown colony” in 1959, Singapore was not what it is today, Un-employment, shortage of houses, illiteracy etc were rampant and to crown all these the strife between ethnic groups were also of common occurrence.

Starting from the scratches!

Mr. Lee Kwan Yew was undaunted by all these problems, he started to tackle the challenges head on, with panache and proved to the world that there is nothing un-attainable to one who is bold and committed. Opening up of trade, improvement of infrastructure (port, roads, rail MRT (mass rapid transit) were all something he brought out of his sleeve to tackle poverty and un-employment.

Real revolutions!

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Education was made compulsory and those who violated laws were seriously dealt with frequent ethnic violence which dogged this state were efficiently tackled by iron hands.

Military service was made compulsory to all male citizen, these were just some of his revolutions! Compulsory military service strengthened the forces and made Singapore not a sitting duck to invaders. Mr. Lee’s tenure was rather prolonged 1959 to 1990, these 31 long years were more than enough for Mr. Lee to develop a mere fisherman’s village in to the glittering pearl of South Asia.

He made it clean.

Mr. Lee was stringent in cleanliness, spitting on the roads, littering, polluting etc were All subjected for heavy penalties. As Mr. Lee was aware that only physical hygiene was not enough for a model state as real neatness should be in the minds of its citizen, he sprang upon the corrupt elements and proved to the world that corruption can be banished from government as well as from land itself. As a result Singapore arose as a nation with least corruption in the world; “Transparency International’s” report has declared the same in their report.

There is much to be seen!

Singapore is not just clean it has much to offer for the visitors the well refurbished historical locations, ultramodern buildings which spell class in architecture, well preserved ethnic neighborhoods (China-town, Little India etc), top class museums, the botanical garden with more than 3000 varieties of rare orchids, an undersea aquarium which is similar to a wild safari where fish and a variety of sea animals roam free while spectators are caged in big glass houses!. Bukit Tima Hill is the highest hill and an exclusive tourist location it is about 538 feet in height.

Mind your language!

Almost all languages like Chinese, Tamil, Malay English, Singlish etc are widely used in this land. English has been awarded the official status. “Singlish” is a mixture of local languages with English and was once very popular. Of late it is being discouraged by the government as it has backwardness attached with it.

Expanding sideways!

Land being at high premium nearby sea gets reclaimed when small islands get joined with bigger ones and bridges connect islands together. Singapore is expanding sideways its initial area was about 224 Sq. Miles it is now about 269 Sq. Miles! The onus to upkeep of all the wonders rest on the “Urban Development Authority” which is the government agency for the development works going on, it is to be admitted that the agency is doing a tremendous job. It is Singapore doing a creditable job is only a way of life and not an aberration as is the case elsewhere.

Never learn anything!

It seems strange that the rulers of the third world have studied nothing from the glaring examples of Singapore. They pay occasional visits to Singapore to avail the luxuries, roam all around for sight-seeing and return as ignorant as they were. The money spent by them in this island is waste, as long as they study nothing from them, if they had spent some time to learn any lessons regarding management of a nation from Singapore, the whole world would have been a much better place!

The legacy remains.

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Mr. Goh Chok Tang followed Mr. Lee when he relinquished office in 1990 as the second Prime Minister of Singapore. Mr. Hsien Loong the eldest son of Lee arose to be the third Prime Minister in 2004. For the fortune of this island nation both of them followed the foot-steps of Mr. Lee and the “Lee legacy” goes on as usual. As a river sung “men may come and men may go, but I remain for ever!

A good team with a good leader!

The author’s request to the visitors to this island is to enjoy the marvels offered by this island nation and return enlightened to their land, tell it to everybody about what this little nation has achieved through commonsense and hard work. A good team with a good leader is wonderful, and that is Singapore. When a bad team with a good leader is amicable, a good team with a bad leader would be a disaster unfortunately most of the third world nations belong to the third order and hence they remain as third world nations.

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