Readers' Submissions

Reflections on Singapore: A Correction


I generally agree with the original article but the initial section titled “Singapore is still part of the British empire” is so full of errors I had to write this submission.

First, the strong connection Singapore had with Great Britain has long since been severed, not just formally but in many other ways as well. True, it is an ex-colony and they patterned their government and institutions on the old British model, but after fighting and dying the Japanese in WWII and paying a heavy price for it, they were told they could no longer depend on the British for protection after 1971. As Singapore had voluntarily joined the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 when they became independent, they were involuntarily thrown out of the Federation in 1965. They suddenly found themselves alone in a very hostile world. At that time, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even China were considering a wholesale invasion of the island. As no major power wanted to get involved in this sticky situation, it was Israel, at the urging of the US, which taught the young nation how to build a small but potent military force. This gave their neighbors pause and while they considered their options, Singapore joined the United Nations and the Commonwealth, and quickly made new friends. To this day, the older Singaporeans who were around in those days still harbor hatred for the turncoat British (their words, not mine). As such, Singapore now has a very strong alliance with the US for defense but not through ANZUS. This organization includes just 3 nations: NZ, AUS, and the US. There is no extension of a treaty between the US and Britain (that’s called NATO) nor is there any relationship between the RAF and the SRAF, which now uses mostly US built planes. However, this does not preclude the possibility that a secret defense agreement exists with the US that ensures Singaporean security. Did Singapore build that deep-water port at Changi that has regular visits by US aircraft carriers just for laughs?

I am not sure where the writer gets his information on the power of the British monarch over Singapore. For Christ’s sakes, the Queen would be ticketed for letting her dog soil public ground in Britain if she ever walked her dog in public. Indeed, the only power she has in Singapore is to generate newsprint for the local rags on some new crazy situation her family is involved in. And where are these scare stories about the Freemasons coming from? Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of my country, was a Freemason and all he did was write the Declaration of Independence from Britain and propose inclusion of a Bill of Rights into our Constitution. These are people to be afraid of?

As far as the law is concerned, yes it is based on British Common Law but it has been dramatically changed through the years through such that it is now clearly Singaporean. Also, unlike British law, Singapore judges will take into account foreign judgments as precedent from countries like Canada, the US, and even India. I can’t imagine that English and Singaporean lawyers are that interchangeable; hell, even US lawyers from different states have to “test out” before they can practice.

English was the language of choice for bureaucrats and businessmen when Singapore was a British colony (of course). When they became their own country, it was decided to expand its use for all official work, including schools, to prevent further marginalization of its minority populations and to integrate more closely with the rest of the world, whose leaders at that time spoke mostly English. Interestingly enough though, their national anthem is sung in Malay! After that, everyone speaks a second language based on their ethnic origin. Although let’s be clear, they speak a variant of English called Singlish and it is mostly unintelligible to any native Anglo.

Indeed, this fact alone debunks the next assertion that a Singaporean education is interchangeable around the western world. True, compared to other countries in this hemisphere, the Singaporean educational system is highly regarded; yet it is still suspect in many industries and in many countries. Singaporean high school graduates would have to have exemplary grades from good schools to be accepted into most US colleges without some sort of remedial course work. Also, the idea that ex-pats are hired for the very top positions in Singaporean corporations is just wrong. Yes, many ex-pats have high positions in foreign owned corporations as you might expect, but almost all Singaporean corporations are run by Singaporeans and almost all are of Chinese origin. Even my own American company uses Singaporean business people as executives for our operations there. This makes sense and is just plain good business practice as it is in most other countries. However, the Singapore government recognizes that they need foreign labor to compete in business, so ex-pats are encouraged to move there as long as they have the needed skills. Some of these are fortunate enough to have great positions, but almost never as CEO or any other high level executive position in local businesses.

Overall, the parts of the original article that I agreed with seem to be areas where the author had personal experiences in, which may explain why in the one section that involved history, government, and corporate operations, his notions were a bit off. Also interesting, at least as far as this website is concerned, he did not mention the comparison between the naughty nightlife of Singapore and Bangkok. Again, maybe from a lack of personal experience which I certainly applaud, but based on my personal experiences, Singapore’s is not as in-your-face as Bangkok’s, yet it is much more varied and can be just as much fun. Perhaps for some wayward soul this would make a good submission.

Stickman's thoughts:

It's good to get another perspective. I notice that, for some strange reason, submissions on Singapore always seem to get people's emotions going – and I have no idea why that is!