This article is about the People’s Action Party of Singapore. For other groups with the same name, see People’s Action Party (disambiguation). People’s Action Party
LeaderLee Hsien Loong
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Politics of Singapore
The People’s Action Party (abbrev: PAP; simplified Chinese: 人民行动党; traditional Chinese: 人民行動黨; pinyin: Rénmín Xíngdòngdǎng; Malay: Parti Tindakan Rakyat; Tamil: மக்கள் செயல் கட்சி) is the leading political party in Singapore. It has been the city-state’s ruling political party since 1959.
From the 1963 general elections, the PAP has dominated Singapore’s parliamentary democracy and has been central to the city-state’s rapid political, social, and economic development. However, it has been criticised for laws that suppress free speech and other civil liberties.
In the 2006 Singapore general election, the PAP won 82 of the 84 elected seats in the Parliament of Singapore while receiving 66.6% of total votes cast.
Hide Political development
A PAP Merdeka rally at Farrer Park on 17 August 1955.
The party was formed in 1954 by English-educated middle-class professional men who had returned from their university education in the United Kingdom.
In 1954, Lim Chin Siong, along with his Chinese High senior, Fong Swee Suan, was introduced to Lee Kuan Yew. Despite their ideological differences, the three men knew that they shared one common goal: to bring about full independence for Singapore. Together with Lee and others, Lim and Fong became founder members of the PAP on 21 November 1954.
In April 1955, Lim Chin Siong was elected as Assemblyman for the Bukit Timah constituency. Then 22 years old, he was and remained the youngest Assemblyman ever to be elected to office. The following year, Lim and Lee represented the PAP at the London Constitutional Talks, which ended in failure: the British declined to grant Singapore internal self-government. On 7 June 1956, David Marshall, disappointed with the constitutional talks, stepped down as Chief Minister, and was replaced by Lim Yew Hock.
Lee Kuan Yew eventually accused Lim Chin Siong and his supporters of being Communists, even though according to the book Comet in Our Sky, quoting two British scholars, no evidence was ever found that Lim was a Communist as had been revealed by declassified British government documents. Lee Kuan Yew imprisoned Lim Chin Siong without trial for many years, preventing him from competing against Lee as leader of the banned break-away opposition party the Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front).
The PAP first contested the 1955 elections, in which 25 of 32 seats in the legislature were up for election. The party won three seats, one by its leader Lee Kuan Yew, and one by co-founder of the PAP, Lim Chin Siong, the election going to the Workers Party’s David Saul Marshall.
David Marshall was vocally anti-British and anti-colonialist, and the British found it difficult to come to an agreement or a compromise. Eventually after failing to reach any agreement about a definite plan for self-government he resigned in 1956, following a pledge that he would achieve self-government or resign. Lim Yew Hock, another Labour Front member, took his place. He pursued an aggressive anti-communist campaign and managed to convince the British to make a definite plan for self-government. The Constitution of Singapore was revised accordingly in 1958, replacing the Rendel Constitution with one that granted Singapore self-government and the ability for its own population to fully elect its Legislative Assembly.
However, Lim’s tactics against the communists alienated a large part of the Singaporean Chinese electorate, the demographic targeted most during the anti-communist campaign. There were also allegations of civil rights violations as many activists were detained without trial with the justification of internal security and tear gas were used against demonstrating students from several Chinese schools, both anti-colonialist and anti-communist alike.
Following this initial defeat, the PAP decided to re-assert ties with the labour faction of Singapore by promising to release the jailed members of the PAP and at the same time getting them to sign a document that they supported Lee Kuan yew and the PAP, in the hope that it could attract the votes of working-class Chinese Singaporeans. (According to the book ‘Comet in our Sky’, Lee Kuan Yew was being deceptive at this time: while pretending to be on the side of the jailed labour members of the PAP, according to the authors he was secretly in collusion with the British to stop Lim Chin Siong and the labour supporters from attaining power, whom Lee had courted because of their huge popularity, without which Lee would most likely not have been able to attain power. ‘Comet in our Sky’ states that Lim Yew Hock deliberately provoked the students into rioting and then had the labour leaders arrested, which the authors say Lee Kuan Yew knew all along. “Lee Kuan Yew was secretly a party with Lim Yew Hock,” adds Dr Greg Poulgrain of Griffiths University, as reported in ‘Comet In Our Sky’, “in urging the Colonial Secretary to impose the subversives ban in making it illegal for former political detainees to stand for election.”
The result was successful for the PAP under Lee Kuan Yew’s control who won the 1959 election, and has held power ever since. The 1959 election was also the first election to produce a fully-elected parliament and a cabinet wielding powers of full internal self-government. The party has won a majority of seats in every general election since then.
Between 1963 and 1965, Singapore was a state in the federation of Malaysia. Although it was the ruling party in the state of Singapore, the PAP functioned as an opposition party at the federal level in the larger Malaysian political landscape. At that time (and ever since), the federal government in Kuala Lumpur was controlled by a coalition led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). However, the prospect that the PAP might rule Malaysia agitated UMNO and the Malay nationalist belief in Ketuanan Melayu. The PAP’s decision to contest federal parliamentary seats outside Singapore, and the UMNO decision to contest seats within Singapore, breached an unspoken agreement to respect each other’s spheres of influence, and aggravated PAP-UMNO relations. The clash of personalities between PAP leader Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman resulted in a crisis and led to the latter expelling Singapore from the Federation of Malaysia in August 1965. Upon independence, the PAP ceased operations outside Singapore, abandoning the nascent opposition movement it had started in Malaysia. Nevertheless, the Chinese-dominated opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) in Malaysia is historically linked to the PAP, while in Singapore, the Malay-dominated opposition Singapore Malay National Organization (PKMS) is historically linked to UMNO.
The PAP has held an overwhelming majority of seats in the Parliament of Singapore since 1966, when the opposition Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front), a left-wing group that split from PAP in 1961, resigned from Parliament after winning 13 seats following the 1963 state elections, which took place months after a number of their leaders had been arrested in Operation Coldstore based on false charges of being communists according to ‘Comet in our Sky’ authors. This left the PAP as the only major political party. In the general elections of 1968, 1972, 1976, and 1980, the PAP won all of the seats in an expanding parliament. Opposition parties have not held more than four parliamentary seats since 1984. All serious opposition leaders since 1959 have been systematically sued, bankrupted and or imprisoned by Lee Kuan Yew and his Judiciary. Theo