Archive for June, 2017

Hypocritical anti-colonialism

June 30, 2017

I refer to the 1 Jun 2017 Straits Times letter “Colonial era an important part of Singapore’s story” by Mr Gabriel Cheng Kian Tiong.

Hypocritical anti-colonial sentiments

It’s quite easy to see through the hypocrisy of those who purport to hold anti-colonial sentiments on account of Britain’s inability to defend Singapore during WWII. All that is required is to check if those persons patronise the many Japanese restaurants in Singapore or enjoy popular Japanese cuisine such as sushi or rahmen. Those persons cannot purport to bear more grudge against the British who failed to defend us against the Japanese than against the Japanese themselves who had inflicted cruelty and bestiality upon our ancestors. As an analogy, it would be unlikely for a lady to say that she is angrier with her boyfriend for failing to protect her than with those who violated her provided the boyfriend didn’t run away but tried to protect her. In our case, the British didn’t run away but tried to protect Singapore. Many British and Australian troops suffered 3 years 8 months of Japanese captivity which was as long as our ancestors suffered under Japanese Occupation.

Lee Kuan Yew didn’t fight for Singapore’s independence

It’s falsehood to say that Lee Kuan Yew stepped up to fight for Singapore’s independence. It was the Leftists who were at the forefront of fighting for Singapore’s independence. Given Lee’s adversarial stance towards the Leftists and his cruel treatment of the latter through detention without trial, Lee was the antithesis of the Leftists and therefore the antithesis of Singapore’s independence fighters.

Instead, Lee fought to transfer Singapore from British sovereignty to Malaysian sovereignty, with no gain whatsoever to our own independence. In fact, Lee didn’t even want independence and cried on national television when independence was thrust upon us. It is ridiculous to credit Lee for fighting for our independence when he didn’t even wanted independence.

More meaningful

It would be more meaningful to remind Singaporeans that Singapore’s progress has been a long continuous one since 1819 and that it was upon the strong foundations laid during colonial years that our post independence successes stood.

False seeds for multiculturalism

June 9, 2017

I refer to the 3 Jun 2017 Straits Times letter “Seeds for multiculturalism planted long before Raffles arrived in Singapore” by Anthony Oei.

False multiculturalism

Mr Oei’s claim that Singapore’s multiculturalism took root in the 14th century is based not on facts but on misinformation, speculation and false understanding.

Just as Mr Oei going to London for a six month business trip doesn’t make him a London immigrant, so similarly, having Asian merchants come to Singapore in the 14th century to do business doesn’t make them our earliest immigrants. The thousands of international tourists residing in Singapore today are not Singapore immigrants. They do not contribute to Singapore’s multiculturalism. Singapore’s multiculturalism has to be premised on those who live in Singapore on a permanent basis.

Mr Oei offers no evidence of 14th century merchants settling down in Singapore. Instead, he offers the wishful thinking that perhaps some 14th century merchants settled down after marrying local women. The standard of the Straits Times forum has gone down so low that even wishful thinking is now being showcased as evidence.

False assumption of 14th century trading port continuing till 1819

Mr Oei betrays his terrible lack of understanding of Singapore history when he reasons that Singapore’s 14th century existence as a Malay trading port implies that Singapore was more than a fishing village when Raffles arrived in 1819. What Mr Oei fails to account for is the fact that the ancient city of Singapore founded by Sang Nila Utama didn’t survive till 1819. Instead, it was sacked and burnt down by the Portuguese in 1613.

In 1613 Singapore’s main settlement was burnt down by Portuguese raiders and the island slipped into obscurity, with the ports of Melaka and Johor dominating the lucrative shipping routes that linked Europe and India with China and the East Indies.
[The Statesman’s Yearbook, Part of the series The Statesman’s Yearbook pp 1105-1111 Singapore, Barry Turner]

So between 1613 and 1819, Singapore ceased to exist as a trading port and became a small fishing village.

It is also for this reason that any purported 14th century multiculturalism could not have gone past 1613 and continued to 1819.

False understanding and application of Raffles’ separate enclaves

Mr Oei further embellishes his tale by claiming that Raffles’ division of the land around the Singapore River into separate enclaves for various ethnic groups is proof that Singapore was more than a fishing village before Raffles’ arrival. But contrary to Mr Oei’s assertion, there was no such separation of land into various enclaves in Raffles’ original town plan of 1819.

raffles town plan 1819

[Map 2 Raffles’ Town Plan 1819 (SSR, L10, pp.71-75; Raffles to Farquhar 25/6/1819; C Buckley, An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore 1819-1867, Kuala Lumpur: University of Malaya Press, 1965)]
[The Singapore River: A Social History, 1819-2002, Stephen Dobbs, page xiii]

It was only three, four years later in Raffles’ revised town plan of 1822-1823 that distinct land parcels for separate ethnic groups appeared. By that time, Singapore had already received three, four years’ loads of coolies from China and sepoys from India.

raffles town plan 1823

It is therefore utter rubbish for Mr Oei to claim that Raffles merely built upon what was already there when Singapore had nothing but forest, swamps, marshes and a few huts when Raffles arrived in 1819.

singapore 1819

Mr Oei misses the point

Mr Oei misses the point when he quotes from the book “Raffles and the British Invasion of Java” to paint Raffles in a bad light. That book is centred almost entirely around Raffles’ missteps in Batavia between 1811 and 1816. But Batavia between 1811 and 1816 has absolutely nothing to do with the crux of the issue being discussed here, namely that of Raffles’ founding of Singapore in 1819. The book says absolutely next to nothing about this important achievement of Raffles which is what really matters for Singaporeans. While it is quite obvious that the book’s author Tim Hannigan has an axe to grind with Raffles, even so, Hannigan has no choice but to admit that Raffles was not only the founder of a very successful Singapore but was also ahead of his times.

This is Raffles the hero, Raffles the pioneer, and around him stood all that Singapore had become … Raffles might have been ahead of his time in the 1800s … he had had the dot of land at the bottom of the Malay Peninsula ceded in entirety to the British Crown, and Singapore was prospering … perhaps Raffles really had had the right ideas after all.
[Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, Tim Hannigan, pages 355-356]

The rest

Mr Oei mustn’t forget that it was the Leftists who fought tooth and nail against colonisation but in the end, they were all subjected to the cruelty of detention without trial by Lee Kuan Yew. If there was ever an enemy of the heroes of our freedom fighters, it was Lee Kuan Yew.

Mr Oei is sorely mistaken in characterising Raffles as someone who came to colonise us. It is a fact that Mr Oei’s ancestors weren’t even around in 1819 for Raffles to colonise. Instead, Mr Oei’s ancestors only came after Raffles had established the new port of Singapore for reasons as common as escaping the poverty of Manchu China or the chaos after its fall. There is therefore no volte-face in commemorating the true founding father of modern Singapore – Sir Stamford Raffles and that we are all sons and daughters of Raffles.

Conclusion

Mr Oei’s essay is chockfull of mistakes. He argues on the basis of wishful thinking, not facts. He ignores the sacking of ancient Singapore in 1613 and instead assumes that ancient Singapore survived till Raffles’ arrival in 1819. He conveniently points to Raffles’ land allocation by race but fails to consider that that allocation was in 1823, not 1819. He completely misses the point by using evidence from a book that is almost entirely about Batavia between 1811 and 1816 and nothing about Singapore in 1819.