Background and Constitution 

The name Singapura comes from the Sanskrit singha (“lion”) and pura (“city”). According to Malay Annals, this name was given by a 14th century Sumatran prince named Sang Nila Utama who, after landing on the island after a thunderstorm, discovered an auspicious animal on the shore. His chief minister mistakenly identified this creature as a “singha”, or lion. The first recorded settlement dates from the 2nd century AD, the island was an outpost of the empire Sumatran Srivijaya and originally bore the Javanese name Temasek (“sea city”). In the third century, Singapore was referred to in a Chinese account as Pu-luo-chung, or “island at the end of a peninsula”. Temasek (Tumasek) quickly became a major trading settlement, but declined in the late 14th century. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries, Singapore Island was part of the Sultanate of Johor. During the Malay-Portugal wars in 1613, the settlement was set on fire by Portuguese troops. The Portuguese subsequently held control in this century and the Dutch in the 17th century, but for most of this period the island’s population consisted mainly of fishermen.

What is now Singapore was founded by the British in 1918. With the expansion of their rule over India and increasing trade with China in the second half of the 18th century, the British saw the need for a port of call in the region South-East Asia. Sir Stamford Raffles , Lieutenant Governor of Bencoolen established a trading post on his landing on 29 January 1819; on 6 February 1819 he concluded a formal treaty with Sultan Hussein of Johor and the Temenggong, [2] the de jure and defacto rulers of Singapore respectively.

In 1824, Singapore’s status as a British possession was formalized by two new treaties. The first was the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of March 1824, [3] by which the Dutch withdrew all objections to the British occupation of Singapore. The second treaty was concluded in August with Sultan Hussein and Temenggong Abdu’r Rahman, [4] by which the two owners ceded the island to the British in return for increased monetary payments and annuities.

The Straits Settlements and Japanese occupation

Singapore became Straits Settlements, along with Malacca and Penang, the two British settlements in the Malay Peninsula, in 1826 under the control of British India. As a result, British common law applied in Singapore as it did in India, particularly the Penal Code, which was imported from the criminal laws then in force in India [5].

By 1832, Singapore had become the center of government for the three territories. On 1 April 1867, the Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony [6] under the jurisdiction of the Colonial Office in London.

In the following decades, Singapore flourished as a trading post and as an important strategic naval station for the British in the Far East. This was interrupted when Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942 and was renamed Syonan (Light of the South). [7] It remained under Japanese occupation for the next three and a half years. During this time, Japanese law applied.

To Self-Government – Birth of the Constitution

British forces returned in September 1945 and Singapore came under the British Military Administration. When the period of military administration ended in March 1946, the Straits Settlements was dissolved. On 1 April 1946, Singapore became a Crown Colony with a new Colonial Constitution. [8] Constitutional powers were initially vested in the Governor, who had an advisory council of civil servants and appointed non-officials. This evolved into the separate executive and Legislative Councils in July 1947. The Governor retained firm control of the colony, but there was the possibility of electing six members of the Legislative Council by popular vote. Therefore, the first election in Singapore was held on 20 March 1948.

When the Communist Party of Malaya tried to take over Malaya and Singapore by force, a state of emergency was declared in June 1948. The state of emergency lasted for 12 years. Towards the end of 1953, the British government appointed a commission at Sir George Rendel, to review Singapore’s constitutional position and make recommendations for changes. The Rendel proposals were accepted by the government and served as the basis for a new constitution that gave Singapore a greater degree of self-government.

The 1955 election was the first active political contest in Singapore’s history. The Labor Front won 10 seats and David Marshall became Singapore’s first Chief Minister on 6 April 1955 with a coalition government consisting of his own Labor Front, the United Malays National Organization and the Malayan Chinese Association. Marshall resigned on 6 June 1956 after constitutional talks in London on achieving full internal self-government failed. Lim Yew Hock , Marshall’s deputy and Minister for Labor, became the Chief Minister. In March 1957 the constitutional mission in London, led by Lim Yew Hock, succeeded in negotiating the main terms of a new Singapore Constitution.

On 28 May 1958, the Constitutional Agreement was signed in London. The British Parliament passed a State of Singapore Act [9] and Singapore’s status was changed from a colony to a state. The Singapore (Constitution) Order-in-Council [10] was enacted and the position of a Yang di- Pertuan Negara as constitutional head of state, a prime minister and a 51-member Legislative Assembly were created.

Self-government was obtained in 1959. In May of that year, Singapore’s first general election was held to elect 51 MPs to the first fully elected Legislative Assembly. The PAP won 43 seats and collected 53.4 percent of the total votes. On 3 June, the new Constitution, which confirmed Singapore as a self-governing state, was enacted by the proclamation of the Governor, Sir William Goode, who became the first Yang di- Pertuan Negara (Head of State). The first government of the State of Singapore was sworn in on 5 June, with Mr. Lee Kuan Yew as Singapore’s first Prime Minister.

Moving 50 years forward, the world have started to notice this tiny red dot. 

Singapore is recognised for these strong factors 

The following factors play an important role in determining the quality of life in a particular country:

  • Political and social environment
  • Economic environment
  • Socio-cultural environment
  • Health and sanitation
  • Schools and education
  • Public services and transport
  • Leisure and recreation
  • Natural environment
  • Consumer Goods
  • Housing
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