Are you a JC H1 General Paper pupil searching for sample essays on political issues?
Or are you preparing for this topic of issue of politics for your upcoming GP exam? Sure, then use our complete full-length essays on this topic on politicians, voting systems, governance, aims of government, racism, democracy, authoritarian systems, etc (Find other GP topics here)
Bookmark us, so that you can return to us anytime you wish to.
Q1: Should politicians be the best paid in the land?
The political structure of the world has become increasingly complex and unpredictable in nature. Not only is it more demanding, it is also more dangerous to be engaged in politics. Thus, politicians of our modern world should be well-paid unlike in the past. However, they should not be the best paid in the land for many economic and social reasons.
By choosing the path to become a politician, one has much to lose. Privacy becomes almost impossible for a politician as being a politician, one is very much in the limelight and is constantly under the exposure of the multi media. The case in even more so in the industrialized economies in the west such as Britain and also America where the freedom of the press results in the constant surveillance of politicians by the press. Thus politicians have to be cautious of everything they do, for one wrong move would result in his scrutiny by the press or even the entire nation. The recent White water incident which was brought to light by the press is an example and it resulted in much criticism of the politicians involved in it, such as Bill Clinton, among others. Everywhere he goes, he is constantly under the surveillance of bodyguards and the press, thus he has no private life to speak of. With regards to this, a politician should be well-paid to compensate for his loss of privacy.
Yet more importantly, politicians should be well-paid because of the qualities they possess and the responsibility they have to claim. As leaders of the nation, not only. must they be responsible but must also have creativity, foresight, integrity, good social skills and many other qualities related to good leaders. Only with such qualities can they lead the nation to prosperity and it is be cause of this that politicians should be rewarded for these qualities they have, which are no doubt, absent in mil lions of others, making them special. Economists refer to this as the rent of ability for they have the skills to lead the country. Furthermore, if politicians were not well-paid, then corruption might set in, like in the Philippines and many African nations. With corruption, there will be a slow-down in the growth of the country’s economy as investments are lower. Thus, for the security of the nation and the well-being of its economy, the politicians must be well-paid or corruption will set in. Thus, I strongly believe that politicians should be well-paid.
In addition, if politicians were not well-paid, then no capable citizens who could earn more by entering the law or medicine field, would come forward and become politicians. Thus, that will be a loss to the nation as less capable people will lead the government and thus resulting in less impressive, if not, unimpressive development of the nation. Only if there are ample rewards to the politicians then will there be capable people who are willing to be come politicians, and thus to the benefit of the nation and its citizens in the long run.
The stress and decisions that politicians have to face and make are so heavy and important that it can terrify any other person on the street. Not only does a politician decide the nation’s fate but also that of the future generations. Thus, with respect to these reasons, a politician should be well-paid, yet not the best paid because of the reasons which I will now discuss.
True, it is that the service of politicians is important to the nation, yet so are doctors, lawyers, engineers and many others. They too should be highly rewarded not only for their occupational contributions to the welfare and development of the nation but also their many years of training which had put them there. Furthermore, contradictory as it may sound to a previous statement I have made earlier in the passage, if politicians were the best paid people in the land, then everyone would want to be politicians and no one would want to be lawyers, doctors and others, whose contributions are no less than that of the politicians. Furthermore, it will lead to an over-saturation in the field of politics and in the future, it will ultimately result in the fall in wages of politicians relative to present wages. Thus people would not want to become politicians, even though politicians are well-paid, because they would not be as well-paid as before. There will also be a lack of leaders for major and minor companies alike, thus in the long run, even if there are brilliant politicians but not brilliant entrepreneurs, the economy of the nation would still decline, resulting in an overall drop in wages and employment.
In addition, if politicians are the most highly paid, then. the politician might treat their occupations as occupations only, and not a contribution or a responsibility. This affects their productivity, and having earned enough, they might quit when they’re still young, creating a scenario where there is no immediate successors as the young politicians are still in training and lack experience. Further more, politicians might be viewed as “blood-suckers” having the highest pay, in a society where an unequal distribution of income is inevitable, thus the public be gins to distrust and dislike politicians, which affects the social cohesion of the nation and ultimately affecting the productivity and success of policies of the nation. Thus, politicians should not be the best paid in the land.
I conclude by once again stating my opinion that politicians should be well-paid but not the best paid in the land because of the public’s reaction to this and the con sequences it would have both on the society’s well-being and on that of the economy. After all, Americans view politicians as liars and we shouldn’t be paying liars the highest wages in the land, should we? I certainly don’t think so!
Q2:”We live in an increasingly violent world.” Do you agree?
“Government of the people, by the people and for the people.” (Abraham Lincoln). Has any contemporary nation succeeded in establishing such a government?
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal….”
Thus Abraham Lincoln’s charismatic Gettysburg Ad dress began, eventually leading up to its last enigmatic line, “And that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.” Lincoln spoke of his image of political and social paradise, not utterly without bias. Abraham Lincoln was a Republican so, quite expectedly, Lincoln’s image of perfection was somewhat Republican in nature. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘republic’ as ‘a state in which the supreme power rests in the people and their elected representatives or officers as opposed to governed by a King or the like; commonwealth’. As you can see, by mere definition, a Republic gives a vague idea of the meaning of Lincoln’s of the people, by the people’. How ever, these vague guidelines to governing need to be made more lucid.
In a speech to the 166th Ohio Regiment, Lincoln said, “I beg you to remember this, not merely for my sake but yours. I happen to temporarily occupy this big Whitehouse. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has.”
It is a Republican ideal that all men are born into this mortal soil equal, and on that premise, Lincoln extended the invitation to any American regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or background to join the American government. I am of the opinion that it is from here that we may interpret what Abraham Lincoln meant when he spoke of a “government of the people”. He simply meant in no uncertain terms that said government would be formed of ordinary citizens with no qualifications or birth. rights required. When challenged over his viewpoint with regards to the wisdom of allowing ‘commoners’ into the government he said, “God loves the common people, that’s why he made so many of them.”
To be a member of the government of the people’, one merely has to be a citizen of the country to which the government belongs. There is however, one other condition. To become a member of the government, one must also be voted into office by one’s fellow citizens, which brings us to Abraham Lincoln’s phrase “by the people”. If the person in the loftiest post of the governmental hierarchy were able to pick members of government at his whim from the myriad of citizens which inhabit the country which he governs, would he not choose those most sympathetic to his cause or those that would pretend not to see any errors or misdemeanours perpetrated by him? They would still be of the people’ but they would not be very effective. This led Lincoln to add the clause by the people’ which indicates that those who hold posts in the government would have to be sanctioned by the people’ which fits neatly into the Republican train of thought that a country’s power should belong solely to the people and their elected representatives.
Many governments are easily able to satisfy the first two criteria put forth by Lincoln but unable to shoulder the immense responsibility required for the last. Abraham Lincoln spoke of a government that would be for the people’, meaning that no matter what the circumstance might dictate, the welfare of the common people would not be compromised. From a third person’s point of view. that would seem to be a simple question of morals. How ever, a government, being a political body, would have many problems which could sidetrack them from their idealistic path. The more fact that most governments of and by the people are internally divided into various political parties, which fight tooth and nail for votes during the elections, further dampens hope for the government being absolutely for the people’. For example, the ruling party might use its power over the city’s ordinance to develop and upgrade “friendly constituencies while neglecting ‘opposition constituencies in an attempt to force’ voters to vote for them, or they might even use state-owned media such as radio stations, newspapers, television broadcasting stations to slander or libel potential political candidates because of their opposing political inclinations. These are both flagrant violations of the for the people phrase and have caused the downfall of many a political system.
After analyzing Lincoln’s statement, we are left with an unsettling question. Has any present day nation been able to form such a government? Analyses of the various countries with radically different styles of government could provide us with some insights.
The Peoples’ Republic of China presents an illuminating case study. The words ‘Peoples’ Republic’ have often been assumed by politically neutral journalists to embody Communism. One must not be misled by the fact that the country’s economy is slowly but surely. metamorphosising from communist to capitalist for, in this case, capitalism is no longer the monopoly found in a democracy. That the government is of the people’ is doubtless as all members of the government are native Chinese commoners. However, that the government is by the people’ is extremely questionable. The cream of the Chinese government is a corps of elitist, geriatric hardliners who have assumed control of the nation through t military might; their successors are chosen not by the people’ but by them, thus ensuring that the hierarchy of hardliners is perpetuated. It is merely because the younger generation has accepted that capitalism is essential to survival that it has been implemented, much to the dis may of the older generation which still possess visions of a China that can exist without foreign aid. When stripped down to bare ideology, the communist’s purpose is a noble one, seeking to provide ‘Peace, Bread and Land’ for the people as Vladimir Lenin put it. However, taking other factors into consideration, the communist leaders of China openly display favouritism to the factions which they head, such as feeding the soldiers while the peasants wallow in hunger, and corrupt practices are rife as the people lack the power to stop their leaders from embezzling state funds. In modern day China, capitalism increases the prof its reaped from corruption, thus making China fail to possess a government for the people’. As you can see, China miserably fails to embody Lincoln’s criteria, being neither “by nor for the people.
A contrasting situation is found in England where the system of government is that of a constitutional monarchy today. At present, the English parliament is divided into the “House of Lords” and the “House of Commons”. The “House of Lords”, which is formed by those of no be birth, and those conferred the titles which bring with them the privileges, serves more of a ceremonial role. The limit of their power is the delaying of the passing of a bill by a year. The real decision-making is done in the “House of Commons” where representatives of the people’ voted by the people’, debate over the passing of bills or laws. The populace is allowed a free hand in choosing their leaders, usually from two main parties, the Conservative and the Liberal Democratic.
Then again, despite the fact that the royalty is largely ambassadorial and ceremonial in function, millions of dollars in tax payers’ money go towards maintaining the royal family each year. While this has caused general unhappiness in a growing portion of the populace, the government has not done much in the way of reducing the money wasted in the maintenance of the royal family’s opulent lifestyle. Furthermore, the fact that a special interest group, in this case the noblemen, is able to delay the passing of a bill by any period of time indicates that the government is not entirely for the people as it means that a minority has a measure of power that can protect its own interests while compromising the well-being of the majority, the ordinary citizens. Therefore I would say that the government is ‘of’ and ‘by’ the people (I do not take the ‘nobles’ to be part of the government as they are not directly involved in the passing of bills) but I would not venture to say that the government is entirely for the people as they have in a small way compromised the welfare of the people by giving the powers of government to a minority group not sanctioned by the people’.
Lastly, I wish to focus on the land of freedom’, the United States of America. As any patriot would, Abraham Lincoln spoke with fervent hope for his motherland, the United States of America, not of what it was, but of what he hoped it would become. His was an era when patriot ism could be referred to without so much as a single snigger of cynicism. I will now show you where America has gone from there. Since Washington became the first elected President of America, the government has been of and by the people, with the people electing their Senate and heads of government every election, as they still do. However, I am of the opinion that over the years, the meaning of the phrase “for the people has become more and more grossly misinterpreted. Whereas once upon a time the government convened to debate on what was best for the people as a whole, this is no longer their focus. They no longer believe in ‘for the people’ but rather for the rights of the people. As a result, individual citizens are able to play havoc with the legislature and thus the constitution, by claiming that a particular law disregards their rights. History has proven time and again that the average individual is somewhat short-sighted in terms of decision-making and, indeed, economics has proven that any rational individual would seek to maximise his own enjoyment in life regardless of the discomfort of others which is the premise on which Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand” operates. The Republican ideal which Lincoln adhered to indicates the importance of country over state and state over individual, which eventually led to their downfall after they refused to set up social security after the Great Depression. I am of the earnest opinion that Abraham Lincoln would turn in his grave if he ever learnt of the current state of affairs with regards to the rights of the individual. The nation-wide educational level has been dropping, as can be seen from the gradually waning number of graduates annually, medical costs have been skyrocketing as doctors have the right to charge what they deem is the right price. Is giving the individual the right to be ignorant and the right to exploit his fellowmen for the people’? I honestly think not. Despite America’s politically correct ‘of’ and ‘by’ the people, they have morally failed their ex-president.
Abraham Lincoln was one of America’s greatest states men and he was an idealist. Like Martin Luther King, Lincoln had a dream, a dream deeply entrenched in the American dream. He spoke not of the America that you and I know of but of the perfect America, his vision of Utopia. From a practical point of view, his government of the people, by the people and for the people’ is nearly unattainable; certainly no nation has yet achieved the set ting up of a government which has fulfilled all three criteria but, then again, dreams are dreamt so that hopes may be fed. Unknowingly, Abraham Lincoln has laid down his image of perfection. Just like the breaching of space by man which was once thought of as impossible by those who limited their thoughts to terrestrial travel, perhaps we may fulfil Abraham Lincoln’s dream where our predecessors could not due to their self-imposed limitations. Although none among all the nations can boast of having realised Lincoln’s dream, the fact that some have attempted to may indicate that the dream is within reach. It took a great man to dream the dream and per haps another will arise to realise it.
Q3: Democracy means different things to different people at different times.” Discuss.
The statement is true to a great extent. However, there is obviously a straightforward dictionary definition of the word. Often it is the actual working of the system that differs at different times to different people. Therefore, the basic definition of the word “democracy” (“demokratia’) is “rule”(“kratos’) by the “people”(“demos’). Abraham Lincoln in Getteysburg in 1863 gave us the definition most often quoted, that is, that democracy is “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
The Different Faces of Democracy:
1. Direct democracy.
– This was the “original” notion of democracy as practised by the ancient Greeks in the small Greek city-states eg. Athens around the 5th century. Because these city-states were small, all adult males participated in the governing process. The males would meet at the market-place to dis cuss issues, some would make speeches and the citizens would then vote on the issues. The growing population of cities soon made this impractical.
2. Representative liberal democracy
– Through the years, there were more and more concepts of “democracy” but in the 20th century, certain concepts have remained firm in the more advanced West. These concepts include the ideas of competing parties, rule of law, universal suffrage involving both sexes and the periodic change in governments. Since it was no longer practical to involve every one in the governing process, the electorate would now elect representatives from political parties to rule in “Legislative Assemblies”. “Liberalism” was subscribed to because it meant that minority rights, equality and freedom of speech would be looked after. In the American mode of democracy, the President is separate from the Legislative Assembly (known s Congress).
However, in Britain, (which had come up with the notion of “parliament”), the President, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are part of the Legislative Assembly, which their party controls thence proving that it could be the procedures that differ, the concepts and definitions remain the same).
3. The Communist Definition (or Directed Democracy)
When the Communist Movement gained strength and established itself, it too claimed it practised “democracy”. However, their definition differed from that of the liberal west, for it stressed rule for the sake of the people, for whom they (the small ruling class) had the best interests. Since only a few people knew what was best, true “democracy” could only be achieved when the Communist had gained social and economic wealth and equality (what is known as “Utopia”), and only then could the people be left to choose their own leaders.
The election process was also different. There is only one party, and the party selects the people they feel would best represent the party’s ideology. These names are then given to the electorate who simply vote as a means of confirming the decision. Some newly independent developing countries have chosen this model of democracy because they feel that their electorate is not educated and aware enough to select the people who will be able to steer their country towards progress. Instead, they could be swayed by charisma.
4. The Asian Model (sometimes called “soft authoritarianism”)
The Asian countries which have seen their economies grow from strength to strength in the post WWII era (China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan etc.) have by and large dismissed the West ern liberal concept of democracy. Instead, they have developed their own model where society is put before self, i.e. the government rules for the good of society at large (paying special attention to the economy), and the people are urged to work for the good society as well (rather than give in to self-gratification or individualism).
This is different from liberal democracy because the government would not tolerate dissent, and would go to great lengths to suppress it. Thus, issues of human rights (as seen from the Western liberal perspective) have become inter twined with the idea of democracy, since the West regard that the basic right to free speech has been violated. The Asians, however, have reacted by saying that human rights to them is, among other things, the right to a comfortable life, and the way to gain that is through a successful economy and hence, shared rewards.
Balance: It does indeed seem as if “democracy means different things to different people at different times”, but perhaps what differs is the system of implementation and procedure, rather than a total ideological difference, since ultimately, it is “rule by the people”, according to what the people decide they want.
Q4: Racism rearing its ugly head in many parts of the world today. Discuss.
-briefly define racism; a form of prejudice based on the colour of the skin; unfair, unreasonable and blind
-from the Pacific College Dictionary: a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support that claims to find racial differences in character, intelligence etc and that seeks to maintain the supposed superior -ity and purity of some races; practice of racial dis crimination based on racialism.
-could be subtle and / or overt and official egs of the latter: Apartheid in South Africa, Immigration Laws
“All men are equal, but some are more equal than others” from Animal Farm
“Fifty years from now, the world would witness the revival of unrest as a result of racial differences.” Hermann Goering (Nazi) 1946
-prophesy accurate with a burst of racism and hatred in many parts of the world today egs: ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia, Russia, former Soviet Union, Germany and the Neo Nazis, USA many reasons, indeed a NEW WORLD DISORDER!
THE REASONS / WHY?
1. End of Cold War/Communism
-End of Cold War and bipolar world, demise of communism and therefore no common ideology to bind people of different ethnic groups together
-as a result, differences and hatred surface and reinforced egs: former Yugoslavia and former USSR, Russia
2. Need for recognition, identity
-with the collapse of communism, many states once bound together by common ideology gained independence
-need to find a niche in the New World, need recognition as now rudderless
-in order to gain recognition, attention, manifests its superiority by attacking the minorities within its own nation or neighbouring nations
-minorities easiest targets as different and small in numbers hence, weak relatively, egs: former Yugoslavia, former Russia, “Slavo Russiya”
-rising trend of nationalism, idea that nations should fend for themselves, be self-sufficient
-excessive may lead to racism
-fight for freedom may be transformed to a bullying attitude
4. Belligerent leaders
– presence of ambitious but maniacal demagogue; racist attitudes, eg: former Yugoslavia, Serb leader
5. North-South and East-West syndrome racist attitudes to people from poorer nations especially immigrants from these nations who immigrate to the richer and industrialised nations not just Asians or blacks, but especially to the former Eastern Europeans who immigrate to the West or those who travel overseas
_refer to article in The Straits Times, Monday June 7 1993, “In Line For New World Disorder: The Cold War is over but the world is being split by North-South conflict, largely along ethnic divisions.”
1. Economic recession: many parts of the world, especially industrialised nations suffering from economic recessions, USA and Germany (Reunification) increase in the number of unemployed and poverty among own citizens
-flow of immigrants from Third World countries, Asian countries (Hong Kongers) and former communists countries into the North; usually they are relatively more hardworking and some even rather successful; as a result may cause jealousy may worsen the situation but definitely used as scapegoats as they are the most visible, convenient and dispensable blame them for stealing jobs and causing unemployment
egs: Los Angeles Riots, blacks against whites, attacking of the Koreans when the Koreans were not the issue; proliferation of hate-groups in the USA, David Duke, Republican candidate for governor, Louisiana
1. Concept of continuity/historical roots eg: Germany history of racist practice against Jews, Nazism and Hitler
-trickles to the present, rise of Neo-Nazism, anti Semitism in Poland and France, LA Riots (blacks and white superiority)
particularly intense now, reinforced by the poor economic situation
1. Fear of “the others” culturally different
_particularly pertinent now; fear of the Asians or “Asian Hordes” Samuel P. Huntington’s essay, “The Clash of Civilizations”
_West decline, Asia fast growing; egs: China, Ja pan, NICS, Muslim countries: therefore fear of the Asian century may stir racist attitudes, actions egs: Racism manifested in the case of US actions; US/West applauded when cruise missiles struck Baghdad, swift retribution to nonwhite Iraqis or Somalis but not to white Serbs
2. Religious – Islamic fundamentalism
1. Greed/Conquests? primal urge to dominate?
2. Backlash especially in the US
-whites tired of the nice and kind attitude to the blacks especially in the recession ridden decade?
senseless bloodshed must be stopped in the case of the extremes through education? better understanding? better economic conditions?
Q5: Critically examine the impacts of immigration on a country.
“Give me your tired, your poor, The wretched refuse of your teaming shore…”
So reads part of the inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island in the United States. It was meant to welcome the floods of immigrants who came to the US from the four corners of the globe, seeking a better deal in life, a chance to begin again. America was seen as a haven for immigrants from the eighteenth century to the present day. Yet the American government is at present trying to clamp down on the numbers of people coming in every year to live. This would suggest that immigration is not entirely beneficial to a country.
To be sure, much talent comes in when a country’s gates are opened. The thrill of opening up of new lands and territory attracted many of Europe’s bravest, most intelligent and resourceful people to America and Asia in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Emigration for them served the purpose of draining away from . genteel, civilised Europe the mavericks and those who found no challenge in their lives, the potential trouble makers who flourished in a new, unexplored country. In this way, the social fabric of the immigrants’ home countries would not be overstrained.
The skills the immigrants bring with them can also contribute greatly to the technological development of the host country. For example, Werner von Braun, the esteemed German rocket scientist, fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and enabled the Allies to perfect the V-2 rocket that had a principal role in the Allies’ success later on in the second World War,
Immigration also enriches the cultural background of a country. Singapore, originally a Malay-dominated is land, saw a huge influx of Chinese and Indian workers from 1820 to the 1900s. As a result, it enjoys the benefits of cultural diversity: a wider outlook on life and an open mindedness a culturally homogenous country simply cannot achieve.
As immigrants are usually hard-working and resourceful, they bring prosperity to the country they live in. As some countries allow only people prepared to invest heavily in their countries, these countries will profit economically. Immigration also aids a country in its international business deals and diplomatic contacts, since it now hosts people who can provide an insightful view into their original country’s character, unspoken traditions and styles of doing business.
However, immigration also brings with it a large share of problems. Chief among this is the racial tension that is bound to occur when two groups of people who do not fully understand each other are forced to live and work side by side. Language may also be a dividing factor. They have different value systems, different outlooks on life. Canadians were outraged when the large Chinese population in Vancouver started demolishing houses and building large ‘eyesores’ on the spot. Canadians saw it as destroying the character of the neighbourhood, but the Chinese retorted that they should be able to display their hard earned wealth and went so far as to say that they needed. larger houses because they were filial enough not to put their aged parents into nursing homes! Truly a case of cultural ‘mixed signals’, one that caused much unhappiness and tension. Only time perhaps, will eventually demolish this barrier.
Blacks and whites in America also live under the shadow of slavery. Millions of blacks were forcibly re moved to America and sold as slaves to whites. The emotional scarring of the national psyche by that experience still creates much racial tension today.
Impoverished immigrants, legal or otherwise, put much of a drain on a country’s resources. It must feed them. clothe them and try to find jobs for them. If they do not speak the host country’s language, so much the worse. Some never integrate fully, draining resources from the economy. Illegal immigrants cause even more trouble because they must be housed until they can be repatriated. When their own country refuses to take them back, the people are stuck in legal limbo. Some Vietnam ese refugees have lived in Hong Kong for at least ten years, costing the Hong Kong government about 10M a year.
Immigrant children also slow down the school system if they do not speak the language and are slow to master it. However, those who adapt sometimes do spectacularly well, and enrich a country through their advancement in the fields of science and technology.
Gangs and triads also follow a country’s people as they emigrate, and cause trouble in the host country by drug trafficking or bringing in illegal workers. Chinese triads are surfacing in America, where they terrorise Chinese shop owners and demand protection money.
Religious tension is also another issue. For example, the sudden influx of Jews into the Middle East when Israel was formed in 1948 upset the delicate racial balance there, especially when the Jews claimed Jerusalem as theirs – a holy place to Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
Loyalty also tends to be a problematic issue. Immi grants sometimes still consider themselves part of their homeland, and are not particularly loyal to the host country. Chinese immigrants to Singapore in the nineteenth century perceived Singapore as a place to work and get rich – they wished to return to China in their old age.
Therefore, while immigration may be beneficial to a country in terms of the financial and technological benefits it brings, the country should also be aware of the hidden tensions and stresses that immigration can also bring, and control it accordingly to the benefit of all its citizens, both new and old.
Q6: Which period in the history of S’pore appeals most to you? Discuss why.
The period in the history of Singapore which I like most is the founding of modern Singapore. The growth of the new settlement between the years 1819 to 1824 appeals most to me. It was during this period that there was vast economic and social growth in the country.
The first reason why I like the time when modern Singapore was just founded is because that was the turning point in the economic and social history of Singapore. It all started off with a British company named the East India Company looking for a third trading port in the Malay Archipelago. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles was in charge of this project. Raffles landed in Singapore on 28 January 1819. He took an immediate liking to this place because of its strategic geographical position. Raffles had the foresight to see that with its strategic location and natural deep harbour, Singapore would grow into a trading centre. Thus, a treaty was signed between Raffles and the headmen of the island at that time, Sultan Hussein and the Temenggong on the sixth of February 1819. The treaty stated that the British were allowed to occupy the southern part of the island. This treaty was the stepping stone to the rise of modern Singapore.
The second reason why this period appeals to me is because a successful nation was built right from scratch. After the treaty was signed, Raffles left Singapore in the charge of his assistant Major William Farquhar. Singapore was merely a small Malay fishing village at t that time and most parts of the island were covered with swamps and forests. Major Farquhar ordered his men to clear the land to prepare for the new settlement. To get a new settlement going, there had to be new settlers as well as people who would come to trade. Major Farquhar had friends who were important people in Malacca. He asked them to help him get food supplies and new settlers for the settlement. He also stationed British officials on St John’s Island to inform trading ships which were passing by about this new place.
The third reason why this period of history appeals to me is because I am impressed by the very fast growth of such a small and newly discovered island. News of the new trading port spread not only to the other countries in Southeast Asia but also to countries like India, China and Europe. Singapore took over most of the trade of the neighbouring Riau islands as well as the trading business of Penang. Soon, Singapore was also visited by trad ing ships from Vietnam, Siam and Cambodia. By 1821, large Chinese junks were making yearly trading trips to this trading port. In fact, in the year 1821 itself, three thousand trading ships came to Singapore. The trading value of goods that year amounted to about eight million dollars. That was a very impressive amount for such a young trading port.
Another reason why this period of Singapore’s his tory appeals is the accelerated social growth during that time. When Raffles first landed on the island, there were only a few Chinese, Malays and Orang Laut living here. However, by 1821, the population of the settlement had risen to five thousand. People from other countries came to know about Singapore through the trading vessels. Very soon, merchants, craftsman and labourers came to Singapore all the way from China either to set up business. in this fast growing settlement or in search of well-paid jobs. Close on their heels were Indian settlers, Europeans, Eurasians, Armenians and Bugis from the surrounding Riau Islands. The population rose to 11,000 in 1824!
Last but not least, what appeals to me most about that period of time is the planning and organisation of the settlement which took place. When Raffles came to Singapore for his third and last visit in 1822, the settlement had adopted a most disorderly manner of physical growth. Buildings had sprung up everywhere on the island. There was no proper network of roads either. In order to make the settlement a more organised place Raffles came up with a proper plan for the settlement. He had the land to the north of the Singapore River reserved for government buildings. The Commercial Square, which is the present Raffles place, and Boat Quay were constructed on the land to the south of the Singapore River. This formed the commercial heart of the city where the European and Asian traders worked side by side. The people of different races in Singapore were also grouped into villages called “kampungs”. The parallel network of roads was also constructed then. Houses could only be built along these roads and they had to be properly numbered.
This meticulous town planning is an aspect of the his tory of Singapore which can still be seen today. From it our government learned the importance of planning and organising for a whole community.
The rapid growth of the young settlement really appeals to me. It is a wonder that a small Malay fishing village could be transformed into a renowned world port. This is a part of history which should never be forgotten by Singaporeans. It can serve as a motivation for all of us. Our pioneers proved to us that we can achieve our goals through hard work, even if it means building up a nation from scratch.
Links to other GP Topics: The Arts | Philosophy | “Repeated Trends” | Science & Technology | “Singapore” | Global & regional Issues| Economics Issues | | Religion | Mass Media |