Views of people of British As Rulers in Singapore

histBefore Japanese Occupation

At the beginning of the 20th century, people believed that European culture was superior, and that they had the responsibility to make those they ruled more civilised. The belief in British superiority was reflected in how Singapore was governed. Not many locals were involved in the government. Most high-ranking officials in  the colonial government were British, and even well-qualified local people were not given important positions in the governments.

Local people were involved in the colonial government as non-official members in the Legislative Council. They had little influence over government policies. The fact that there were fewer non-official members than official members in the Legislative Council, made it difficult for the non-official members to persuade the colonial  government to act on their suggestions.Also, most of the Europeans is Singapore were given privileged treatment.An example of this superiority is shown in the following source.” I called Mr Tan Ah Hung, a senior Chinese teacher, ‘Sir’ when I spoke to him, until I was advised that this embarrassed him in the kind of world we lived in. My starting salary $400 was far higher than his even though he had many years of most valued service.Salary and skin colour were what mattered, not personal merit and achievement”

Some people questioned the unequal system, and sought to negotiate with the colonial government for changes. For example, the local non-official members tried to negotiate with the colonial  government to increase  the number of non-official members in the Legislative Council. Besides  negotiating  for more local  involvement in the government, some people also formed associations, such as the Straits  Chinese British Association and the Kesutuan Melayu Singapura which is the Singapore Malay Union when translated to English, to improve the lives of the people.

During Japanese Occupation

View of the Selarang Barracks during World War II. Some of the POWs were crowded in the Selerang Barracks Square. Source: National Archives Of Singapore

The Japanese sought to dispel the myths of ‘White Man’s’ Superiority. After the British surrendered, the Australians, the British and other Europeans, including women and children, were interned by the Japanese at the Sime Road Camp, Selarang Barracks and Changi Jail. The Japanese ordered the Prisoners of War (POWs) to do do menial tasks outside of their camps, such as repairing and cleaning waterworks, dock facilities and the airfield damage by Japanese bombs. The Eurasians were treated harshly and despised for their association with the Europeans. Those suspected for helping the British were killed.

The idea that the Asians were just as good as Europeans were also spread actively by the Japanese through propaganda.

jap poster
Japanese poster circulated in Singapore in the 1940s promoting the idea of Asia for the Asians.

Through attempts to win local support, they encouraged the Malays to be involved in the defence as well as the administration of Singapore. The Japanese promised more opportunities in education in order to prepare the Malays for their roles. The Japanese also promised to assist the Indians in their movement to gain independence from the British as some of the Indian immigrants were influenced  the rise of the anti-British feelings in India. The Indian National Army was formed with Japanese support to recruit Indians in Singapore to fight against the British in India.

Thus, due to the Japanese efforts to dispel the myths of ‘White Man’s’ superiority and to cultivate a sense of Asian consciousness, some people began to question the authority of the British.


After Japanese Occupation

After the Japanese occupation, the people in Singapore started to grow discontent with the British. Political groups started to emerged and people wanted wanted to get involved in local politic. People demand for local political involvement to protect the rights of the other races living in Singapore. People started to view British differently after the Japanese occupation, as people expected something different from the British. But nothing really changes. They expected things to go back back the way things were before the Japanese occupation, but prices were so high, people could only survive. Thus, demand for local political involvement after Japanese occupation.

There was a demand for a better treatment of local civil servants who worked for the British colonial government although from 1948, there were more locals recruited into the civil service, as many British officers who had been interned during the Japanese occupation had been send back to Britain for a recuperation, British officers still enjoyed better pay and hold senior position within the civil service. One of the most angering issue was the desicion to pay special family allowances to British officers. This made the local civil servants oppose the government’s unequal treatment of the local and demanded that the government raise their pay.

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Through the Japanese Occupation, the people’s views of British As Rulers in Singapore changed in many ways.

Group Members: Wen Xin, Jin Hui, Roshan, Jasper and Harman

Class: 2/6E


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