Situated at the southernmost tip of the Malay Peninsula with a land area of 685.4 km2, Singapore is an island-state with a 4.2 million population. It consists of one main island and 63 islets, some of the more well-known ones being: Pulau Tekong, Pulau Ubin, St John’s Island, Kusu Island, Pulau Hantu, Jurong Island. Pulau means “island” in Malay.
Modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 when it was little more than a swamp. Only until the “rightful” Johorean heir agreed to sell the island to the British that it became a colony. Widely known and recorded by many sojourners as Temasek – Sea Town – by the 14th century, Singapore was a thriving vassal state of the Sri Vijayan empire.
Legend has it that a Palembang prince called Sang Nila Utama was responsible for the present-day name, Singapura meaning Lion City. In Sanskrit and Malay, Singa = Lion + Pura = City. It was while seeking refuge from a storm with his entourage that Sang Nila Utama spotted a mousedeer – which he was told a lion. But lions’ natural habitat is the grassy plains or the savannah, not jungles.
As the British had ruled Singapore for about a hundred and forty years till 1963, one of the legacies is the English Legal System. As well as English which is the language of administration, business and instruction in schools from kindergarten upwards. In addition to Malay, Mandarin and Tamil that make up the official languages of the country.
Furthermore, Malay is the national language as enshrined in the Constitution. This is partly in recognition of the indigenous status of the Malays. The national coat of arms depicts a lion and a tiger, the latter indicating Singapore’s historical links to Malaysia. This is a visual reminder to Singaporeans that they cannot severe their ties with Malaysia. Even many Malaysian Malays still view Singapore as Malay territory till today.
What is more interesting is a Dutch economist who developed Singapore’s economic blueprint; helping the country to attain success. The late Dr Albert Winsemius, who passed away in 1996, was appointed as the country’s Chief Economic Advisor from 1961 to 1984.
There you have it, Singapore’s history in a nutshell.