Singapore: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, size, population, and government of the land Singapore.

SINGAPORE

NITTY GRITTY

Location--An island and scattered islets at the southern tip of the Malay peninsula in Southeast Asia. The main island is separated from the mainland by the narrow Strait of Johore which is bridged in one location by a 4-lane causeway.

How Created--It is believed that an important trading center existed on the island sometime before the 13th century. However, when Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles stopped there in 1819, the island was an almost uninhabited swamp.

Raffles, concerned about the lack of a British port between India and China and aware of Singapore's strategic location on the Strait of Malacca, through which all sea trade between those 2 countries passed, immediately began to develop the island. Control of Singapore later went to the East India Company and eventually, in 1867, to the British Government.

In 1959 the British granted Singapore internal self-government, and in 1963 the island helped form the Federation of Malaysia. Racial and commercial hostility between Singaporeans and other Malaysians made this marriage unworkable, so Singapore seceded, by mutual agreement, in 1965. The separation was not marked by much acrimony, but there have been disputes over the "property settlement." In the early 1970s the 2 nations were still dividing joint institutions, such as their joint airline and shared stock market.

Size--226 sq. mi. (586 sq. km.).

Population--2,250,000: Chinese, 76.2%; Malay, 15%; Indian, 7%; other, 1.8%. Most major religions are represented.

Who Rules--Singapore has one legislative body--its 65-member Parliament. The Parliament elects the President, who in turn appoints the Prime Minister. There are no local governments.

Who REALLY Rules--Since achieving independence in 1959, Singapore's politics have been dominated by Lee Kuan Yew, a Cambridge-educated lawyer. Though not a military man, Yew has the reputation of being a "strongman." His Government jails many of its opponents and it has shut down critical newspapers, including the Singapore Herald in 1971.

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