The countrys postcolonial rulers abducted the advantages left them by the British territory and used them, for the most constituent, for the benefit of wider society, writes Jeevan Vasagar, a onetime Guardian education editor
Bombay is Mumbai, Leopoldville is Kinshasa, Cecil Rhodes has been hoisted from his plinth by a crane; but when I moved to Singapore a few years ago these votes in quickly became clear that is something that of its colonial legacy had been left intact.
There is a lighting white bronze of Thomas Stamford Raffles, the founding fathers of modern Singapore, at the riverside spot where he is said to have arrived. Extraordinarily for a colonial illustration, it was put up in 1969, four years after Singapore became an independent republic.
The country’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew formerly said the statue reminds his parties of Raffles’ imagination of Singapore growing” the emporium of the eastern”, adding that Singapore was different from most of its south-east Asian neighbours because it had” no racist hangover” from colonialism.
It’s an handsome narrative. In non-eu countries, the end of imperial pattern has required a detox government of brand-new identifies and new precepts. Singapore has made a different path.
The Singapore model mixes economic liberalism- in keeping with Raffles’ free-trading vision- a politics that subordinates the individual to the collective, and efficient government. The city’s skyline is a mix of Victorian neoclassical grandeur, neon-lit department towers, and Taoist temples with bushy idols and sinuous porcelain dragons on their roofs. In this edition, Singapore offers the best of both world-wides: a neighbourhood where Asian cultural traditions remain intact but western know-how is exploited to build a prosperous society.
Singapore’s progress leaves a deep thought on visitors from other onetime colonies. When Helen Zille, a foremost South African foe politician, saw Singapore last-place March she tweeted that there was much to learn from a country that had built on” irreplaceable aspects of colonial heritage “. She went on:” For those claiming gift of colonialism was ONLY negative, think of our independent judiciary, transport infrastructure, piped liquid etc .”
Zille is not alone in admiring how Singapore has employed its imperial inheritance; from the tactical site between China and India that Raffles identified to the English communication and the English common law system. Its partisans range from Deng Xiaoping to Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president.
Unlike some other Asian commonwealths, Singapore does not have a simple fib of colonial victimhood.
For modern China the opium crusades are a representation of national abasement; the painful counterpoint to its present-day might.
The legacy of these battles in Singapore is more complex; the opium transaction accounted for between 30 and 55% of the colonial administration’s receipts for most of the 19 th century. It saw lucks for Chinese middlemen in south-east Asia.
Modern Singapore- which nowadays enforces the death penalty for drug trafficking- is structured around the issue of trafficking in hard drugs. When Bruce Gilley, a political scientist at Portland State University, published an paper in September calling for a return to colonialism, he announced on developing countries to mimic the colonial governance of their past” as successful countries like Singapore, Belize and Botswana did “.
Gilley’s essay has ignited a sequence between historians, with intellectuals mainly lining up to criticise an strive to whitewash imperial violence.
But beyond the academic debate, Singapore shows us that colonialism can work. Its postcolonial governors seized certain advantages left them by the British territory and used them for the well being of wider civilization; Singapore at independence was a acutely unfair civilization in which many of its parties were unskilled labourers living in slums.
It is now a rich country in which the majority of the population was living in borough residence while their children attend excellent regime academies. There is a further critical change from the colonial past; Singapore now comprises elections to choose its leaders. This was not the case until near the end of British settle, when the colony was countenanced a measure of self-government.
But the Singapore story too shows us the cost civilizations pay when their lords make use of the right tools colonial sovereignties left behind. Under British pattern, quarantine without inquiry was used to suffocate the threat of communism while a licensing plan continued the press contained. As countless Singaporean dissenters have argued, Singapore has cuddled this illiberal colonial tradition to create a tightly ascertained modern state.
The outcomes are a country that, while wealthy, has a chilling climate for free speech and no independent trades union. While Singapore does hold elections, there is little opening for opposition politics- human rights radicals say defamation regulations has often been been used to silence opposition voices.
When Gilley and other like-minded academics endorse colonialism as a pattern for development, they find themselves- in the end- originating the event for a paternalist position. Western pattern is not required, as Singapore reveals, only an openness to modern plans- which, in the future, will not ever come from the west.
* Jeevan Vasagar is a onetime Guardian education editor