Raffles' arrival did not mark founding of modern S'pore

Mr Loke Hoe Kit raised two major aspects of Singapore's history that need addressing (Put spotlight on the 200 years of Singapore's modern development; Dec 31, 2018).

One of his points was that 1819 marked modern Singapore's founding. Actually, in keeping with the purpose of colonisation, Sir Stamford Raffles came not to improve our lives and undertake nation-building, but to promote British economic and political power in Asia. The colonial government ruled with that mission in mind.

Thus, as the focus was on the welfare of the colonialists, many locals remained poor throughout the colonial era, living in a Third World country full of slums.

The journey towards prosperity and a First World status began only in 1959, when the People's Action Party took over the government.

Clearly, then, Sir Stamford could not have been the founder of modern Singapore. I hope this fact finds a permanent place in our history books for posterity to replace long-held misconceptions.

The other point that Mr Loke raised was that features like a multiracial population and culture, and the rule of law and its institutions were absent in pre-1819 Singapore.

According to the book Singapore And The Silk Road Of The Sea by Dr John N. Miksic, ancient Singapore was a thriving city by 1350. Among other things, it boasted a sophisticated and complex society, and a multi-ethnic and multinational population living peacefully under the rule of a local chief.

Colonisation is long dead. We are an independent and sovereign nation. It is time to cut the colonial apron strings once and for all.

Anthony Oei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2019, with the headline 'Raffles' arrival did not mark founding of modern S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe