Immigrants in Singapore
Name: Clara Soo Wen Lin (4) Class: 2E History Holiday SEQ Assignment Question 1(a) Immigrants came to early Singapore due to push factors such as famines and droughts as well as natural disasters and starvation, and the desire to seek protection and safety. India was overpopulated and the immigrants faced many droughts and natural disasters in their homeland. After droughts wiped out their crops and resulted in famine, many would be forced to find jobs in the city in order to earn a living to feed their families.
However, jobs were scarce which caused many of them to seek employment outside of India.
With the prospect of finding jobs outside, this would at least give them a chance to survive. Similarly in China, with famines and droughts being a common occurrence, accompanied by the shortage of fertile land for crop cultivation, a huge portion of the population who worked as labourers or farmers resulted in starving. Furthermore, there was much disorder and unrest in China as the people were trying to overthrow the corrupted Qing government, resulting in many Chinese seeking protection and safety outside China.
On the coastal areas in the Malay Archipelago, pirate attacks were frequents; in war-torn areas in Sumatra, Java and Malaya, life was extremely unsafe, which was why many Malays were “pushed” to leave their homeland. Therefore, the first reason why immigrants came to early Singapore was because of push factors such as famines and droughts as well as natural disasters and starvation, and the desire to seek protection and safety.
Pull factors which brought many immigrants to Singapore was because Singapore can provide more job and business opportunities as well as better living conditions, the free immigration policies and not to forget that Singapore was a free trading port. As news of the founding of Singapore spread to neighbouring countries and even the countries as far away as India and China, many traders and shippers were attracted to Singapore where they could enjoy freedom of trade, which meant that they did not have to pay any customs duties or taxes on goods they brought into, or out of, Singapore.
Singapore also served as a efficient trading centre where the British traders could sell their goods to people throughout Southeast Asia. Large numbers of people from the Malay Archipelago, Southeast Asia, India, China and other parts of the world flocked to Singapore to trade or to look for work because of the free immigration policies which meant that the immigrants were allowed to come and go as they pleased. As there was no warfare in Singapore then, it provided the Malays with a peaceful and safe place to settle down into.
In this manner, Singapore in the 19th century was like a magnet which attracted many immigrants due to the many pull factors such as free immigration policies, freedom of trade, more job and business opportunities as well as better living conditions. Question 1(b) I agree to a large extent that the success of Singapore as a prosperous trading centre depended solely on the contributions of the migrant workers who came to Singapore in the 19th century. To shape Singapore into what it is today – a successful and prosperous trading centre – was mainly due to the presence of trade activities and revenue earned.
However, it did not depend on the immigrants solely as Farquhar and Raffles were key figures in solving the problems brought about by the migrant workers along with their contributions to Singapore. The Malays contributed to trade by bringing in straits produce like coffee, birds’ nests, spices and rice from the East Indies to Singapore. Straits produce are the products that are grown in the East Indies. These Straits produce helped to widen the variety of goods being traded between Singapore and other countries. Therefore, trade was enhanced.
In the aspect of education, some Malays who were educated worked as journalists or teachers. One famous example is Munshi Abdullah who could speak many languages and also wrote books about the early Singapore. Malays were also expert boat-builders. Besides making boats for traders, they also served as sailors and officers on the ships. Others worked as policemen, fishermen and watchmen. The Chinese also made many contributions from middlemen to merchants and planters. Some Chinese businessmen acted as middlemen between the British and the non-English speaking traders.
They bought straits produce from the Asians and sold them to the British. Most of the middlemen were Peranakans. Among them were Tan Kim Seng and Tan Tock Seng. Some Chinese were shopkeepers who sold daily needs like cloth, medicine and provisions. Hoo Ah Kay was a shopkeeper who supplied ships with bread and vegetables. He also owned a bakery and an accessories shop. He owned a large gambier plantation and he was the first businessman who produced cash crops in large amount. Other than the above mentioned, Chinese also served as skilled labourers like carpenters, barbers and goldsmiths.
Those who were unskilled worked as hawkers, servants, coolies and rickshaw-pullers. In terms of business, North Indians became milkmen who sold milk to other Indians or Europeans. They reared cows, goat and buffaloes to get their milk. Others were shopkeepers who provided daily needs like food, cloth and laundry services. Besides these, The Indian Muslims served as moneychangers and also moneylenders. Lastly, we also have the Sikhs who were good policemen and watchmen because of their strength and body size.
The thieves were scared of their Beards and turbans. Europeans had the knowledge of trade and commerce. They setup companies, which had connections with Europe with their capital. They sold the goods that were made in Europe and shipped the goods that they bought from Asia back to Europe. Among them were Alexander Guthrie and Edward Boustead. The European merchants gave their opinions and pointed out the weaknesses of the government here. Some of them volunteered to be unpaid judges. They helped to maintain law and order in this way.
Even though the immigrants played a significant role in contributing to Singapore to aid her development, they also created many problems for the settlement. Singapore became a lawless society, where secret societies were rampant because many of the Chinese who voluntarily joined were lonely in a new settlement and sought for friendship, protection as well as help and assistance that they believed the secret societies could provide them with. These people committed many crimes, from gang robberies to obstruction to justice and even to the extent of murder.
They were a powerful group of people as the inefficient police force was ill-equipped in the 1800s and they could not understand the language of the Chinese secret societies. This resulted in insecurities of the residents in Singapore and may result in traders doubting the security of Singapore and not coming here to trade. This would implicated our port prosperity and bring down our revenue earned. Other key figures such as Raffles and Farquhar also have to be credited for their share of contribution to the development of Singapore.
Raffles drew up a Town Plan during his visit to Singapore in 1822 as he found that the settlement had grown in a most disorderly manner. The town was divided into different areas for government, business and residential. Different races also settled in different areas of town, which could help reduce conflict between the different races who practised different cultures. Farquhar, on the other hand, firstly helped to get the traders from the places nearby to come to Singapore and trade as not many people knew about the settlement in Singapore. He invited the immigrants from Malacca to come and trade and stationed an office at St.
John’s Island to inform the trading ships passing by about the settlement in Singapore. Apart from setting a stable foundation for the trading port, he also took care of problems such as the lack of building materials, food, tools and other necessities, the pests that roamed all over the settlement and also tried to solve the problem of common occurrences of crimes and robberies by setting up a small police force. Therefore, in conclusion, I agree to a large extent that the success of Singapore as a prosperous trading centre depended solely on the contributions of the migrant workers .
The migrant workers contributed in different areas, mainly building the settlement, promoting trade, working for the government and also serving the community. Their contributions went a long way in helping the people and improving their lives in the long run. Without the hark word of these migrant workers, the fact that Singapore became a successful port would not have been made possible. On the other hand, I would have to disagree that success of Singapore was only due to the immigrants’ contributions. Other key figures such as Raffles and Farquhar played a significant role in guiding Singapore through, hand-in-hand with the immigrants.