Honouring the gangsters
There is this big exhibition going on at the National Library about a William Farquhar who was the first Resident of a pre colonised island which is now Singapore. He took over control of the island as a stand in for Stamford Raffles who claimed to have founded this island for the British Empire. Uh no, for the East India Company. Yesterday a Teresa Lim wrote passionately about rediscovering and remembering this great Resident and even naming a few places in his honour. Now what is a resident and what was East India Company? We have more than a million permanent residents here today. There were several hundred residents here before the arrival of Raffles and the appointment of the first Resident. Funny usage of the word. I think first Resident meant that he was the top dog in the island then. And what was the East India Company? Was it a state company, an extended arm of the crown, or was it a privatised company of the state just to make profits for the state? How could a private company went around and claiming pieces of land as theirs? It seemed that the British separated the state from the running of profit making organisations then. The choice would allow the state to be free from the ugly dealings of the company. The company could schemed, connived, stole, robbed under whatever pretext, even grabbing lands and countries from the natives and their rulers, often at gun point. The state stood at a distance and was not tarnished by the unscrupulous doings, above the dirty deals. The state only came in like the Opium War in China to help the merchants on some fabricated excuses like protecting the interests of its gangsters, drug lords or subjects. The East Asia Company was nothing different from organised crime dressed up as legitimate businesses. They wielded tremendous powers and every warlord was literary a mafia boss. Raffles or Farquhar was no different. They were gangsters of the old days, protected and given legitimacy by the crown of England. Some of the knights of the British Empires were actually pirates, not much different from the Somalian pirates today. Whatever they did, it was for their own interests and the interests of the British crown and the British Empire. What happened after the years of occupation when we were given independence to run the island was a necessary convenience of the day. What and how we came about was not of design by these gangsters. We made it what it is today. Reading the history of yesterday and understanding how things were in the correct perspective would help to increase our knowledge of past events. Maybe there were no victims and no sufferings under the control of the gangsters, maybe it was ignorance, we seem to have a romantic view of our colonial history and their exploits, and remember them fondly. I think they make a good collection as the myths of Singapore.