Singapore today is a harmonious society
At first the worries piled up. How should little Singapore survive? On August 9, 1965, the city-state had gained independence, but not as state founder Lee Kuan Yew had hoped. For a long time he had bet on a future in the Federation of Malaysia, but nothing came of it. The fragile union lasted only two years, and in 1965 the former British colonial territories in Southeast Asia parted ways. "Singapore is outside," was the headline at the time Straits Times. An excruciating moment, as Premier Lee noted. He had to cry. "We were heading into a bleak future," he later wrote in his memoir. His homeland Singapore lacked a hinterland rich in raw materials, which at that time seemed indispensable for the survival of young states.
But then Singapore made it without its own natural resources. 50 years after its independence, the Asian metropolis is celebrating a rise that still amazes many. Everywhere the glittering towers soar into the sky. Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world on a per capita basis. A city that has worked its way to the top. Diligence, discipline, strict order and a keen sense for useful ideas helped. And the golden jubilee now wants to be celebrated.
The city loves the superlative. Under the SG 50 logo, the metropolis turned into a show stage for the weekend. The core is a national parade on Sunday, which overshadows all of the previous ones. 6000 Singaporeans rehearsed for more than 2700 hours. The youngest actors are six, the oldest over 80 years old. From the pioneers in the development phase to the first graders - everyone is represented. Chapter by chapter they tell the story of Singapore in a scenic way. A golden junk on wheels and merchants in historical clothing make the beginning, later a lot of military equipment pushes into the foreground, it booms and thunders, which seems like the strategic self-insurance of a small nation that has to assert itself between very large neighbors or come to terms with them .
Hours before the big parade, the crowds crowd around the bay on the Singapore River, a sea of red and white, thousands of visitors wear the national colors on their bodies. The show mixes multimedia, historical films, colorful dance and martial parades in a very unique way. And again and again soft pop songs sound for the hearts: "One people, one state, one Singapore", so the masses sing, as if it was a matter of welding the nation together again. Many in the stands wave their flags tirelessly.
Four minutes later the "Black Knights" shoot across the sky, the daring maneuvers of the local aerobatic team are legendary. When the pilots are in their F-16 Racing back and forth across the skyline, many hold their breath below. Their message cannot be overheard or overlooked: Thundering precision, a nation on the rise. At 6 p.m. and 49 minutes they draw a 50 in the sky and are right on schedule. Anything else would have surprised too.
The show is intended to demonstrate unity and diversity, which fits the message of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on that day. He is the son of the founder Lee Kuan Yew and on this day he praises Singapore as a harmonious multi-ethnic state in which the various groups - predominantly Chinese, Indians and Malays - live together in peace and prosperity. "We will enjoy the success of the last five decades and commit ourselves to continue working as a united people," said Lee on the anniversary day. The older Singaporeans have not yet forgotten that there were bloody racial unrest in the final phase of the colonial era. Anyone who speaks disparagingly about another ethnic group in Singapore today must expect severe consequences. The state maintains its reputation as the guardian of unity and order.
In the country without its own raw materials, glittering high-rise buildings tower into the sky
The party is permeated with national pride everywhere, here a city-state celebrates its very own path, the "Singapore Story". This story is also one of the strong state, it is a driving force in the celebrations, but it is far more than prescribed enthusiasm that can now be felt in the city. The Singaporeans enjoy the glittering show, which comes to an end with emotional songs and magnificent fireworks in the night sky.
People like to show their pride in what they have worked hard to create. From the moment of agony to the golden anniversary, it was a rocky, grueling road for many. Singapore embodies a model of recovery that has capitalist principles without following western ideals of freedom. Civil rights such as the freedom of the press and freedom of demonstration are restricted, and the state only tolerates criticism to a limited extent. This became apparent again recently when the judiciary tried a 16-year-old blogger and sentenced him to a four-week prison term for speaking derogatory about Christianity, among other things. Violating religious feelings is severely punished in Singapore. The blogger also mocked the state founder Lee Kuan Yew and thus provoked widespread anger among the population. Nobody took to the streets for the 16-year-old, but such demonstrations are banned anyway. Nonetheless, the case fueled speculations as to whether the younger generation in Singapore might be building up more rebellious urges than can be openly recognized.
Lee Kuan Yew, the father of the nation, died in March and can no longer follow the 50th anniversary celebrations. But everyone knows that he was the architect of this model. The anniversary is not just the moment when the nation looks back. The anniversary also triggered a broad, state-monitored navel gaze, in which at least a little more criticism and opinion is possible today than before, provided it is not aimed at religious or ethnic groups.
Much revolves around the question: How does Singapore have to change in order to secure the achievements of the past decades for the future? The city-state does not live without problems. In the ambitious world of Singapore, too few children are born, society is getting older and has to find ways to cope with them. The strong influx of foreigners has led to defensive reflexes in the population, and the state has since cut back influx from outside. But Singapore is also dependent on international networking in order to assert and develop as a business metropolis.
The ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has dominated politics since the early days, and is heading for another victory in the upcoming elections, which must be held before January 2017. The opposition has grown stronger, but in 2011 the PAP still won 81 out of 87 seats. You use majority voting, which is based on the British system. And if the elections are scheduled later this year, the PAP could still benefit from the national euphoria that was rekindled at the glowing celebration on Sunday.
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