Singapore Politics under the People's Action Party

Singapore Politics under the People's Action Party

Singapore Politics under the People's Action Party

Singapore Politics under the People's Action Party


This book is a comprehensive overview of politics in Singapore since self-governance. The authors explore the nature of the Singaporean government, as well as major issues such as ethnicity, human rights and the development of civil society.


In 1965, the tiny, newly independent island-state of Singapore was not so different in its stage of development from much of the Third World then being de-colonized, although its prospects were perhaps less promising given its almost total lack of natural resources. Why was it that Singapore was so successful at achieving socio-economic modernization and political stability in contrast to so many others? What is remarkable or exceptional about Singapore? What have been its achievements, and its mistakes?

Images of Singapore

Singapore can mean different things to different people. This is particularly true of the scenes that its pre-Independence mental images bring to mind. There is an early twentieth-century picture of rubber being transshipped from Malaya and bound for Europe. A 1920s Singapore might suggest dinner or dalliance at the Raffles Hotel, and a later impression would be of the 1941 Japanese invasion (see p. 14) and prison camps and civilian life under Japanese rule.

Later mental pictures might be less distinct, perhaps because the focus was more on its neighbor, Malaya, where the struggle to put down a Communist insurrection (‘‘the Emergency’’, 1948-60) was more dramatic than anything that Singapore could provide. Yet there was indeed an anti-Communist struggle in Singapore, referred to in the next chapter of this book, which took the form not so much of open violence, as of intrigue, rumors and maneuvers, clandestine meetings, loyalties and defections. Singapore’s Independence from the British, followed the emergence of the People’s Action Party (PAP), led by political neophytes (see p. 38), who nevertheless used their political skills to achieve truly impressive results. After the PAP was elected to power in 1959, it governed into the next century and Singapore emerged as one of the top three or four states in income per head, not just in Asia, but in the world. Who were these people and how did they contrive to do what they did? This book tries to answer these questions.

After this introductory chapter, the sequence is: how the PAP came to power and built and maintained its political support base, the ideology and values of the elites and the socialization of the citizenry, and how it managed ethnicity and the vexing issues of language and education. The book tells how it constructed the economic ‘‘engine’’ which achieved prosperity - a significant achievement (see pp. 66-8) - and today emphasizes a Knowledge-Based Economy, founded on the

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