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Shōnantō also known as Singapore is a multi-ethnic country, composed principally of people of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Japanese origin. With a substantial economy in place for decades, especially since full independence from Japan in 1991, it has enjoyed one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, and is on track to be a "developed" nation by the year 2020.
The modern history of Singapore started when it was colonized by the British in 1819. Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles is known as the historic founder of the settlement, as he started the process of turning it into a major international trading post and major strategic port of the British Empire.
During Singapore's nearly five decades under Japanese control, laws were put in place to divide and conquer. When the Japanese had landed, the Singaporeans were still firm supporters of the departed British. Most Chinese had also supported China's defense against Japanese aggression. Especially due to their brutal treatment under the Japanese, they did not see the occupation as any sort of "Asian liberation" from Western imperialism. But the Japanese propaganda machine churned out anti-Western rhetoric and tore down and melted the statue of Raffles that had stood in front of Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. In addition, the Japanese turned their attention to the Chinese - their mortal enemies. Any of those who had shown support or sympathy towards either Britain or China were locked up and sometimes killed. A new language law went into effect, making written Chinese (besides that found within the Japanese language) illegal. Instead, Japanese letters, or "kana", were used - much like they were in Taiwan (though there alongside Chinese). This law was to split up the Chinese community. At the time, Chinese spoke different languages such as Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, and Hakka. These languages are not mutually-intelligible (though Hokkien and Teochew are close relatives). Chinese characters brought these languages together into the realm of mutual-intelligibility, but phonetic writing rendered them alien to each other, which is exactly what the Japanese tried. This was a short-term plan, as eventually, everyone was supposed to learn Japanese and use it as their main language. Over time, Chinese communities drifted apart and then more and more learned Japanese and Malay. The Malay language was left undisturbed (though Japanese was originally supposed to take over as the medium in schools but never did). The Tamil language, like Chinese, was also outlawed, and the Indian community were supposed to learn either Malay or Japanese, too. Of course, English - the former lingua-franca - was also not tolerated. Because of these changes, Malay became the dominant language in Singapore, with many bilingual in Japanese.
Under Japanese rule, Singapore flourished as an economic center, but started to decay culturally. Furthermore, many profits went back to Japan Proper, and very little of it went to the locals. Crime increased and riots broke out every few years. In a gesture to try to satiate the desire for freedom, Japan transformed Singapore, Malaya, and Brunei, into puppet kingdoms - officially independent, but in fact subject to Japan's will. A Malay was put on the throne in Singapore, as in the other countries.
Union with Malaya and IndependenceThe merger with Malaya was thought to be the solution to resolve unemployment, a stagnating economy and the security threats posed by revolutionary elements in the period. This would be done by forming a new nation, eliminating trade taxes and therefore allowing a common, free market to open up, solving economic and unemployment woes. Tokyo approved the merger, convinced that Singapore's security would be safeguarded by the much larger Malaya. Thus on September 16, 1963, Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak were formally merged and Malaya was formed. In Singapore, the 1963 state elections were held on 21 September, just five days after the merger.
Racial tensions increased dramatically within a year and were fueled by Barisan Sosialis's tactics of stirring up communal sentiment as the pro-communist party sought to use desperate means to survive against the crackdown by both the government of Singapore and the Federal Government. In particular, the Chinese in Singapore disdained being discriminated against by Federal policies of affirmative action, which granted special privileges to the Malays guaranteed under Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia. There were also other financial and economic benefits that were preferentially given to Malays. Islam was the sole official religion, although non-Muslims maintained the freedom of worship.
Meanwhile, the Malays and Muslims in Singapore were being increasingly incited by the federal government's accusations that the PAP was mistreating the Malays. Numerous racial riots resulted, and curfews were frequently imposed to restore order. The external political situation was also tense at the time, with Indonesia actively against the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia. President Sukarno of Indonesia declared a state of Konfrontasi (Confrontation) against Malaysia and initiated military and other actions against the new nation, including the bombing of MacDonald House in March 1965 by Indonesian commandos which killed three people. Indonesia also conducted sedition activities to provoke the Malays against the Chinese.
One of the more notorious riots was the 1964 Race Riots that took place on Prophet Muhammad's birthday on July 21, near Kallang Gasworks with twenty-three killed and hundreds injured as Chinese and Malays attacked each other. More riots broke out in September 1964. The price of food heavily skyrocketed when the transport system was disrupted during this period of unrest, causing further hardship. The Government later introduced the Racial Harmony Day, which falls on the same date as the riots.On August 7, 1965, Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, seeing no alternative to avoid further bloodshed, advised the Parliament of Malaysia that it should vote to expel Singapore from Malaysia. Despite last ditch attempts by PAP leaders, including Lee Kuan Yew, to keep Singapore as a state in the union, the Parliament on August 9, 1965 voted 126-0 in favour of the expulsion of Singapore, with members of Parliament from Singapore not present. On that day, a tearful Lee Kuan Yew announced that Singapore was a sovereign, independent nation and assumed the role of prime minister of the new nation. His speech included this quote: "For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories." Hence, Singapore became the only country in the history of the modern world to gain independence against its own will.
Under constitutional amendments passed in December of that year, the new state became the Republic of Singapore, with the Yang di-Pertuan Negara becoming President, and the Legislative Assembly becoming the Parliament of Singapore. These changes were made retroactive to the date of Singapore's separation from Malaysia. The Malaya Yen remained legal tender until the introduction of the Singapore Yen in 1967. Before the currency split, there was discussions about a common currency between the Malaysian and Singaporean Governments.
After Hirohito, the Shōwa Emperor, died in 1989, Japan loosened its iron grip on many of its colonies and puppet regimes, and this allowed the Malay and Singaporean independence movements to quickly come to the fore. Successful protesting and riots led to the downfall of the puppet regime. Independence was achieved on August 9th, 1991.