Singapore: Country or City?
November 2, 2009, 1:37 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Singapore

‘This is where most people make a mistake…I have tried to explain that we are different. We are a city. We are not a country,’

(K Shanmugam, Singapore’s Law Minister. 30 October 2009)

Singapore is not a country.

I am not kidding, our Law Minister really said that and in front of 200 lawyers during the New York State Bar Association International Section’s meeting held in Singapore. You can read the report here.

Personally, I find that a little difficult to swallow. If Singapore is not a country but a city, then which country is our city part of? For all I know, under the international definition, a country is a defined region governed by an established body called the government, has its own currency, judiciary and a somewhat permanent population (i.e., citizens). Puzzled but always willing to learn, I carried out a little bit of research on the definition of country and found similarities from source to source. I have picked 3 of the most common ones to share with you here.

__________________

1. From wikipedia:

In geography, a country is a geographical region. The term is often applied to a political division or the territory of a state, or to a smaller, or former, political division of a gepgraphical region. Usually, but not always, a country coincides with a sovereign territory and is associated with a state, nation and government.

2. From Merriam Webster online dictionary:

1.an indefinite usually extended expanse of land: region
2 a: the land of a person’s birth, residence, or citizenship b: a political state or nation or its territory
3 a: the people of a state or district: populace b: jury c: electorate
4: rural as distinguished from urban areas

3. As stated by the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (Dec 26 1933), the state as a person of international law should possess a permanent population, a defined territory, government and the capacity to enter into relations with the other states. Article 3 of the Convention also declares that statehood is independent of recognition by other states so a country can exist even if other countries don’t recognise it (for example, Taiwan).

__________________

According to all the above, we are a country. Singapore has a defined territory, is a political state that takes part in international political activities and collaborations, is governed by an established government and has a fixed citizenry (etc…) so under what circumstances or standards is Singapore not considered a country?

Well, I don’t get it. I will really appreciate it if our dear K Shanmugam will kindly enlighten us here since he has been paid so much to play a part in the governing of Singapore city.

Read also:

We, the citizens of no country


19 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Wow, that’s really strange what the Law Minister says.

I’m a geographer and if Singapore is not a country what then? I mean you could also call it city state, but it’s much more than a “city”.

Singapore is clearly different from it neighboring countries. Johor Bahru is definetely not the same as the Woodlands, and the same goes – I assume – for Batam and Bintan.

Singapore might share some things with Malaysia and Indonesia, but there are nevertheless some big differences.

Can’t wait visiting again next month. And as I also visit Borneo and Bintan, I might have even more arguments for Singapore as a country after returning home.

If you say Singapore is not a country in an exam, you failed btw …

Comment by loeffle

Hi loeffle, thanks for your reply.

Indeed it is strange to hear this coming from the Law Minister. I won’t disagree much if one calls Singapore a city state.

Singapore is very much like a city as some say, due to the largely urban environment that we have here. However we are also recognised internationally as a country, governed like a country and as kids, we were taught that this is a country. Singapore is a country, a state, that has a largely city like environment. To reduce Singapore to a mere status of a city… well that is just ridiculous in my opinion. It is like calling Taiwan a city, which most will simply also disagree.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

[…] Asian In America: The dizzying lows of Singapore’s political spin – Rachel Zeng’s blog: Singapore: Country or City? [Thanks Seelan] – The Journey of a Decade: Singapore is a CITY.. NOT a COUNTRY.. it is the truth […]

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Splitting hairs. That’s what lawyers are paid to do, especially when one is paid millions.

Comment by sgcynic

I can understand if he says Taiwan might not be a country (at least not yet).

But did he mean we may merge with Malaysia, be part of the New Order as a colony of China?

Seriously, I’m flabbergasted.

Comment by Stanley Yang

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Read the transcript. When he spoke about Singapore being a ‘city’ rather than ‘country’ he was explaining why elections in Singapore were so lopsided despite us holding free and fair elections. He compared Singapore to cities in the USA, and how many cities in the US had a single party dominating elections for decades.

While he did say that Singapore “isn’t a country”, he certainly didn’t mean it that way!

Comment by anon

Sure, I will read the transcript again when I have more time, to see if I will see what you did. However at the moment, I still maintain my opinions even though I have gone through what was said and reported.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Hello…read this again yourself:
‘This is where most people make a mistake…I have tried to explain that we are different. We are a city. We are not a country,’ he told 200 lawyers, many from America, at the New York State Bar Association International Section’s meeting here.

Why the hell is the above NOT fooking clear to you??? Why must you make excuses for him? Why??

Comment by Xinwu

Hello… can you please enlighten me here… when did I make any excuses for him?

I was questioning his statement instead.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Where Do We Belong?

Fearless freedom,
within the beautiful blue sky,
as the beautiful birds soar
and freely fly.
Could there be crooked crocodiles
or ruthless birds of prey
beneath and on the surface
of the calm waters and space?

Don’t forget,
this is uniquely Singapore!
Men-in-White and Wolves-in-White
are similarly everywhere,
every time.
Are our calm and peace,
progress and prosperity real?

Everyone loves calm, peace,
justice, freedom and happiness.
But with MIWs in power grip
greedier and tighter,
more callous, more heinous,
more ruthless by the day,
Will commoners’ contentment
be real, a dream or nightmare?

If after so many years past,
and our national pledge is nothing
but just an aspiration,
a bombshell hurl’d by the Father
like suicide terrorists,
upon the mesmerized masses,
unaware of the lurking danger,
wherefore is our inspiration?

If after 50 years of nation-building,
the Little Red Dot is anything
but still not a nation,
another bombshell cast
again by none other than the Father
upon subservient souls,
oblivious of their lives and limbs,
what for we sing the national anthem
and do national service?

If after existing 50 years,
for all intents and purposes,
as an independent country
and the whole wide world knows,
Singapore is but only a mere city,
not a country, albeit
a city of possibilities,
a garden city or coming sin city,
a third bombshell cast
also with all intents and purposes,
by another respected man of law,
a long-time incumbent,
a later legacy of the British Empire,
where then is our country?

What are we living for?
What are we fighting for?
What are we defending?
What will we by dying for?

What then is our nationality?
Where then is our country?
Where then is our home?
Where do we belong?

Comment by Alana

Probably the Master Mind WOULD HAVE ASK HIM to tell the audience in such a way.

Comment by varunavelu

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Does it matter?
Country or city, it has a government, armed forces and autonomy.
And
of course, the hapless citizenry.

patriot

Comment by patriot

What they’re trying to do there is that they want to become the next 4th City State in the World after Washington D.C., The City of London and the Vatican. See here:- http://www.dollarpages.org/trinityofglobalpower.php and here:- http://www.thehalsreport.com/2010/07/d-c-london-and-vatican-city-do-they-rule-the-world/

Comment by Spectrekle (@spectrekle)

Since Shamemugam says that sg is not a country,ask him to declare that sg is a state within Malaysia then we no
need NS.

Comment by punisher

[…] Zeng vol que Shanmugam expliqui més detingudament aquest punt, ja que li costa entendre el fil […]

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