Singapore has a long history of elections, almost as old as the colony itself. The Singapore Sporting Club—today known as the Singapore Turf Club, founded in 1842, just over 20 years after Raffles walked up the beach—elected its leadership. So did the Singapore Cricket Club, founded 1852, and the Tanglin Club, founded 1865, just before the end of Indian rule.
In the Chinese language sphere, the history is just as long. Secret societies had mechanisms to select their leaders, although the exact details are, naturally, secret. The guilds and clan associations elected their leaders, leading to the incredibly politicised atmosphere of Singapore Chinese politics in the late 1800s. The Ee Hoe Hean Club, the club of rich Chinese businessmen, founded 1895, elected its leadership; and of course, all this was enshrined formally by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce in 1906, which continues to elect its leadership on the same principles of proportional representation today.
Thus, by 1948, when the British introduced a new constitution with limited elections for the Legislative Council to Singapore as a precursor to decolonisation, elections were nothing new to Singaporeans. They had been doing it for, literally, over a century. Consequently, parliamentary elections in Singapore were generally peaceful, smooth affairs. There was no real need to explain what, how, or why, because Singaporeans already understood the concept. Instead, the big challenge for Singapore has been to ensure that elections are fair, and that everyone has the right to vote, i.e. universal suffrage.
By 1948, when the British introduced a new constitution with limited elections for the Legislative Council to Singapore as a precursor to decolonisation, elections were nothing new to Singaporeans.
This article traces a brief history of elections to Singapore’s Parliament and its predecessors. In particular, it describes the two major turning points in Singapore’s history of parliamentary elections, and the two general forces that have interacted throughout the history of Singapore: a demand by the broader electorate for a responsive, accountable, government; and the desire of the government of the day to restrict the choice available to the electorate in order to achieve its desired outcomes while still retaining a veneer of popular legitimacy.
The first of the two turning points was in the 1950s, specifically 1954–57, when the increasing demands of the people of Singapore for self-determination meant that universal suffrage could no longer be denied by the colonial government. In response, the colonial government kept the vote generally fair but sought to limit voters’ choices of candidates through anti-democratic legislation and regulation, like detention without trial and the infamous “subversives’ clause” of the 1957 Constitutional Agreement, which prevented anyone arrested (but not necessarily convicted) for subversion from running in the next election. This policy was then continued and amplified by the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, using lawsuits, harassment, arrests, and other measures, until the 1980s, when the will of the people for wider representation and greater accountability in Parliament became inexorable.
Up to that point, voter choice was restricted by limiting their choice of candidates. However, from around 1984–1991, a second shift took place, in which legal and regulatory changes made the elections less fair, and qualitative factors were introduced to discourage voting against the PAP. The elections were fundamentally redesigned to maximise electoral outcomes for the PAP. That is the situation which remains today.
1948-1957: Free and fair but with a limited franchise
From 1948 to 1954, there was no universal suffrage, and not everyone who wanted to run for office was permitted to run. This was due to the Malayan Emergency. The Emergency Regulations, the precursor to the Internal Security Act, enabled the British government to arrest any politician they distrusted. This generally meant left-wing, progressive politicians. So in this period, elections were fair… as long as you were an English-speaking, right-wing, pro-British politician.
Malaya was partitioned in 1946, with Singapore split off from the rest of Malaya. For various reasons, including to mollify the angry Singaporeans who were unhappy about being left out, but also in acknowledgement of the fact that Singapore was much richer, well educated, and easier to control, the British granted Singapore a constitution which was more progressive than the Federation’s. On 18 July 1947, the Legislative Council Election Ordinance was passed in Singapore to provide for a token number of seats—6 out of 22—to be filled by election, with officials and appointed members holding the other 16 seats. Singapore’s first general election was held in 1948.
In this period, elections were fair… as long as you were an English-speaking, right-wing, pro-British politician.
The Legislative Council comprised four officials: The Colonial Secretary, Financial Secretary, Attorney-General, and the Municipal Commission President. It also had 12 nominated members: Five civil servants and four other Legislative Councillors nominated by the Governor, and three nominated business representatives, one each by the Singapore Chamber of Commerce, Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Indian Chamber of Commerce. The 12 nominated Councillors were used by the colonial government to ensure that the interests of Singapore’s business and commercial community were (overwhelmingly) represented.
At the time, there were 940,000 residents of Singapore. 22,334 could vote (~2%). So 98% had no representatives, while ~2% had six representatives. But if you were British, you had nine additional Councillors. If you were part of the mercantile elite, you had an additional three Councillors. If you were British and part of the mercantile elite, then 14 out of the 22 represented you, plus the person you voted for. Nominated members were a way to stack the deck in favour of the government, business, and the elites. This technique would be revived by the PAP in 1990.
The fundamental problem at this point was that voting was a privilege limited to “British subjects”. The process of becoming a British subject was long and arduous for foreign-born residents of Singapore, no matter how long they had lived in Singapore. The process was arbitrary and subjective, requiring an applicant to produce four sponsors “of good standing” who were subjects and above 21, to attest to their “good character”. The sponsors could be rejected for any reason. Applicants also had to pass an English oral examination, for which they could be failed at any time with no recourse.
Furthermore, naturalisation required an oath of loyalty to Britain, not Singapore. Why, asked Singaporeans, should they pledge loyalty to a foreign country that was so far away? Britons could come to Singapore and gain residency rights within two years, while maintaining a home in the UK and loyalty to the Queen. Yet people who had arrived in Singapore soon after birth, with no memory of any other country, who had lived in Singapore for 30-40 years, faithfully paying taxes, with complete loyalty to Malaya, with nowhere else to go, still had no rights.
Even if you were a subject, voter registration was not automatic, and the process was, of course, in English. If you didn’t know how to register, or couldn’t understand the registration form, you were out of luck. Nor was voting compulsory. As a result, despite faithfully paying taxes and obeying the law, the majority of people in Singapore had no citizenship rights, could not vote, and were unable to run for office.
Despite faithfully paying taxes and obeying the law, the majority of people in Singapore had no citizenship rights, could not vote, and were unable to run for office.
Thus, while from 1948 to 1954 Singapore had free and fair elections, the legislative body they produced was not representative, nor was there universal suffrage. Essentially, the elections were meaningless as the elected members could be out-voted by colonial officials and their nominated members. Correspondingly, even among those who could vote, registration and turnout remained very low. Why bother?
The British wanted Singaporeans to practice governing to prepare for self-government and eventually independence. They wanted Singaporeans to vote to legitimise the system that the British were putting in place for Singapore’s eventual independence. How did the British get Singaporeans to start voting? The solution to the apathy, they decided, was to introduce a new constitution that gave the legislative assembly actual powers, with a majority of elected members. The commission, chaired by British diplomat Sir George Rendel, decided that Singapore should be given partial self-government. Just enough responsibility to stimulate an interest in government, but not enough to actually be decisive. Key portfolios—particularly law, internal and external security, and finance—remained in British hands.
The other important change was that the Rendel Constitution made registration automatic. The English-language voter registration process had been a barrier to many, but now voters would be automatically registered. This expanded the electorate from 76,000 to 300,000.
At the same time, by 1952, the Malayan Communist Party in Singapore was crushed and no longer a significant force. The British felt more confident in Singapore’s security. They had relaxed the use of Emergency Regulations. The Emergency was for all intents and purposes over in Singapore. The number of detentions and deportations sharply decreased between 1952 and 1954.
When people realised that they could actually vote for the people they wanted, that these people were actually going to be given real responsibility, and that the new Assembly would have a majority of elected members, there was massive interest in the elections.
Taken together, these factors worked. When people realised that they could actually vote for the people they wanted, that these people were actually going to be given real responsibility, and that the new Assembly would have a majority of elected members, there was massive interest in the elections. While key portfolios were held by the British, Singaporeans would get to decide in other critical areas. In particular, two critical areas of education and labour drew great interest as it was seen as a chance to end discrimination against non-English languages and exploitation of workers, respectively.
Singaporeans got into elections in a big, big way. Politicians campaigned to large and enthusiastic crowds. Discussion and debate filled the pages of all the newspapers. Interest was so intense that the British authorities felt shocked and started wondering where all this passion came from. They had thought Singaporeans politically apathetic. It is not surprising, then, they were also shocked when Singaporeans voted overwhelmingly for left-wing, pro-labour parties. The choice was basically between right-wing pro-British parties, like the Progressive Party or the Democratic Party; left-wing anti-colonial parties, like the Labour Front (LF) and the People’s Action Party (PAP); or ethnic parties like UMNO, MCA, or Kesatuan Melayu. Singaporeans overwhelmingly rejected the right-wing, pro-British parties and voted for left-wing anti-colonial parties. The big winners were the LF and PAP. The 1955 election is, arguably, the closest Singapore has ever come to a truly free and fair election.
Most importantly, it worked. This election produced our two greatest leaders: our first Chief Minister, the legendary David Marshall, the lion of Singapore; and the first Leader of the Opposition, later first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
Marshall ran on a platform which promised to deliver self-government to Singapore. But he was much too anti-colonial for the British, who were reluctant to let him run Singapore. At the same time, he was inspirational and principled, but not temperamentally suited to the compromises and horse-trading required from the role. He would resign in 1956 after failing to win self-government in talks with the British. Lim Yew Hock became Chief Minister.
The big lesson from 1955-56 is that Singaporeans wanted politicians who represented their interests. Given free and fair elections, they would vote in left-wing, pro-labour, anti-colonial leaders to end systemic discrimination against the working classes and eject the British from their privileged position. The British didn’t want that. At the same time, neither Lim Yew Hock nor Lee Kuan Yew fit the description of what people desired.
1957-1984: Limit voters’ choices by eliminating opposition candidates and parties
At the next round of negotiations in 1957, Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Yew Hock colluded with British Secretary of State for the Colonies Alan Lennox-Boyd to introduce a clause into the agreement for self-government that prohibited anyone who had been detained without trial for subversion from standing in the next election. They all had a common enemy: the anti-colonial left-wing. They knew that in a free and fair election, men like Devan Nair, Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, S Woodhull, and James Puthucheary would easily win and form the core of Singapore’s next government. All of them had been detained in the crackdowns of 1956-57. It is important to note that none of them were ever convicted of subversion. They were locked away because the British, Lee and Lim needed them out of the way. At the time, you could still stand for election while detained. Kwame Nkrumah won the 1951 election in Ghana from his jail cell, becoming the leader of Ghana. Lim Chin Siong would have easily won an election in Singapore from jail. Hence Lee and Lim Yew Hock’s need for a clause to prevent those detained from running. The British agreed to take the blame.
At the same time, the constitutional agreement with London also delivered a Singapore Citizenship which provided an equitable path to citizenship for all residents of Singapore, and any citizen above 21 could vote.
Here is the crossing point. The 1957 Constitutional Agreement produced universal suffrage; it also took away fair elections. Having seen, in 1955, how the people of Singapore wanted to vote, the next election was rigged to ensure they could not vote for the people the British, Lim Yew Hock, and Lee Kuan Yew did not want in power. The clause against subversives was the first in many legal measures since introduced to prevent fair elections and skew them in favour of establishment interests. The 1959 elections were conducted without the PAP left-wing. The 1962 National Referendum also limited options to three choices, all of which were in favour of merger, and only one of them, the PAP’s Option A, was a reasonable option.
Minor reforms were also introduced in the wake of the 1957 by-elections, in which all the parties involved made use of secret societies to provide logistical support, to bring out the vote, and ferry voters to polling stations, but also to intimidate each other and more importantly, intimidate voters. Fights broke out between rival secret societies. Following this, reforms were passed to explicitly curtail voter intimidation, advertising near polling stations, and ferrying voters to polling stations.
On September 16, 1963, Singapore became independent from the British Empire and merged with the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, and Sarawak to form Malaysia. However, elections continued to be run along the same colonial model of using legal measures to limit the participation of opposition politicians. The 1963 elections were conducted in the wake of Operation Coldstore, which arrested all the important members of the opposition. It led to a very narrow win for the PAP, which garnered just 46.9% of the vote but won 37 out of 51 seats due to the First-Past-The-Post system.
Around this time, the law was amended to require that candidates had to nominate themselves in person. From 1963 to 1988, the PAP routinely arrested its political opponents and either detained them without trial or subjected them to a lengthy trial before elections to ensure that they could not nominate themselves or were too distracted to run properly. Between 1963 and 1979, at least one round of detentions were conducted every year. None of the detainees were ever brought to trial on the charges they were detained under. Nearly 1,000 politicians and activists were arrested and detained without trial, with around 1,500 more arrested and held but not formally put into detention.
Since the 1960s, opposition parties have also been sabotaged or hobbled around election-time, through tactics such as obstructing the booking of public places for opposition rallies and the granting of police permits for the rallies to be held; freezing the bank accounts of affiliated organisations or even dissolving affiliated organisations; pressuring printers not to print materials for opposition parties or even shutting them down; possibly starting and certainly not countering rumours adverse to opposition parties; sustained campaigns of intimidation and harassment against the individual candidates; increasing the candidate registration fee, decreasing the nomination period, and other bureaucratic hurdles; holding snap elections and limiting the campaign period to the legal minimum of nine days; and the lack of an independent Elections Department.
In the 1970s, a new tool was introduced: the defamation lawsuit. In 1973, Barisan Sosialis electoral candidate Harban Singh was jailed for one month for “criminal defamation of the prime minister”. In 1976, Joshua B Jeyaretnam, then-secretary general of the Worker’s Party (WP), was sued for defamation by then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. Jeyaretnam would be sued and found guilty several times. In 1997, Tang Liang Hong (WP) was sued for defamation and fled the country. Chee Soon Juan, the secretary-general of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), has the distinction of being the only man sued for defamation by all three of Singapore’s Prime Ministers.
From the 1970s, the timing of elections was also used to disadvantage the opposition. Under the law, the government controls the timing of elections. It must call an election after five years, but can call an election at any time before then, and it controls how long the election period is. The Parliamentary Elections Act says elections need to be between 10 and 56 days long. In the 1950s and in 1968, the campaign period was as long as six weeks. However, since 1972, every election has been at or near the absolute minimum of 10 days. In 2010, new “cooling off day” rules were introduced to ban campaigning and election advertising on the 10th day, so elections became just nine days long.
If the point of elections are to pass judgement on a government’s record, and choose between different parties and their manifestos and their proposed plans for the next five years, then voters need time to consider all the parties, their values, and their positions. They need time to think, listen to speeches, attend talks, discussions, read, discuss. Parties cannot formally campaign before the elections start, so every party except the governing party is denied valuable space and time in the newspapers, TV, and radio. But in such a rush, there is no time for voters to learn about the opposition parties. So after nine days, having had very little time to learn about the other parties, many inevitably are inclined to stick with the devil they know and vote for the PAP.
Furthermore, parties aren’t supposed to begin preparing until the election is actually called, which means there is a massive last minute scramble to put all their materials together, find printers, recruit volunteers, election agents, counting agents, organise rallies, get equipment—this is a massive logistical exercise that costs a lot of money, and they basically only have around 4-5 working days to do it.
Parties cannot formally campaign before the elections start, so every party except the governing party is denied valuable space and time in the newspapers, TV, and radio.
Consequently, from 1968 to 1984, it was common for many seats to be uncontested. For example, in 1968, only seven seats out of 58 were contested; in 1980, only 38 out of 75 were contested; in 1984, 47 out of 77. Following the creation of the GRCs in 1988 (see below), the opposition found it even more difficult to field candidates. The PAP were returned to office even before elections from 1991 to 2001, while in 2006, only 47 out of 82 seats were contested. Thus, out of 12 elections in independent Singapore, the PAP has faced a competitive election only five times. Four were won even before the election was run, while in another three, fewer than two-thirds of seats were contested.
While the PAP has, in recent years, been more restrained in the use of these overtly aggressive tactics, over time they created an environment of fear where people are afraid of running for political office. There continues to be a widespread perception that you will be punished by the PAP government if you oppose it, a perception which the PAP has not denied.
This was accompanied by a severe tightening of the media environment. The 1974 Newspapers and Printing Presses Act forced all print and broadcast media in Singapore to apply to the government for licences that can be revoked at any time by the relevant Minister, and consolidated ownership of traditional media into two corporations: Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp, both of whom are widely known to be subjected to government control.
As a result, the mainstream media in Singapore dominates media coverage of elections. Members of the media have admitted that their work is heavily censored, that they publish “propaganda”, and that their coverage is heavily biased. Media coverage of elections is heavily slanted towards the government.
As PAP control tightened, there was less public scrutiny and debate over policies. From the 1970s, the PAP imposed a series of policies that, while at first glance seemed sensible, were implemented without the external review and oversight that a vibrant democracy and vigorous dissent would have provided. Many of the policies failed and had to be retracted. For instance, the “Second Industrial Revolution” from 1979 to 1985 mandated wage increases and provided incentives for high-technology industrial capital. But it failed. By 1985, there was hardly any technological upgrading, a 40% decline in investment, and a fall in demand for manufactured products. From 1984 to 1985, real GDP growth fell 10%, from 8.2% in 1984 to -1.8% in 1985.
The Goh Keng Swee Report on the Ministry of Education 1978 was designed to maximise the productivity of Singapore’s population by focusing resources on its elite, but this undermined meritocracy and social mobility in Singapore’s education system. The ending of Singapore’s successful multilingual education system, and the closure of the crowdfunded Nanyang University, was greeted with anger and dismay by many Singaporeans.
In 1977, the PAP slashed the state grant to the HDB by more than half, from $68.5 million in 1977-78 to $32.9 million in 1979-1980. The cost of a HDB flat rapidly rose, with a 38% increase in 1981 alone. CPF withdrawals sharply rose to meet this cost, with 28% of CPF contributions for 1983 being withdrawn for this purpose.
Yet despite these failures, like the British in 1955, the PAP were shocked when Singaporeans voted for opposition parties from 1981. The 1981 and 1984 elections produced the first two opposition MPs since 1968: JB Jeyaretnam in Anson; and Chiam See Tong in Potong Pasir.
1984-present: Deeply unfair elections designed to maximise outcomes for the PAP
To overcome this crisis of legitimacy—in the sense that two seats lost out of 79 is a crisis—from the mid-1980s the PAP introduced policies that undermined the fairness of elections by designing them to maximise the PAP’s vote.
First, the provision of publicly-funded welfare, including the maintenance and upgrading of HDB blocks, was deliberately tied to electoral support for the government, through the introduction of Town Councils from 1986. The PAP openly threatened to punish constituencies which elect opposition parties by witholding public services until PAP constituencies had first been supplied. In 1985, after the PAP lost two seats in the 1984 election, Minister for National Development Teh Cheang Wan stated that the PAP would prioritise PAP constituencies in providing public services; future PM Goh Chok Tong stated that this would make voters “think a little more carefully before they cast their votes.” He reiterated this when in power, suggesting that constituencies that voted for opposition parties would be placed at the back of the “queue” when it came to upgrading works.
Second, Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), in which a slate of MPs is elected rather than individuals, were introduced. They were initially justified as enabling the creation of Town Councils, but in practice made things more difficult for small opposition parties already struggling to recruit and support candidates. When the GRCs came under fierce criticism for its obvious punitive implications for the opposition, the government switched tack and argued the GRCs were actually to ensure minority race representation in Parliament. This argument is undermined, however, by the fact that Parliament was more diverse before PAP one-party rule was established in 1968 and fell throughout the PAP’s period of complete dominance. Using the name of the MP as a rough indicator of race, over 30% of Parliament was from a minority race until 1968. A lack of representation was a product of PAP one-party rule, and if the PAP wanted a more diverse parliament, all it actually had to do was to run more minority candidates.
Furthermore, in recent years, PAP minority candidates have had no problem winning in single member constituencies, like Michael Palmer in Punggol East (2011) or Murali Pillai in Bukit Batok (2016). The main consequence of the GRCs has thus been to raise barriers for opposition parties already struggling to find viable candidates in an environment shaped by fear of the detentions, lawsuits, and bankruptcy.
Third, the colonial practice of nominated MPs (NMPs) was reintroduced. As with colonial Singapore, Nominated MPs were supposed to contribute diverse voices into the legislative process. As with the colonial era, the nominated members give multiple votes to both the colonial officials (one vote via appointed officials, and more via their nominated members) and to the business elite (one vote from their elected representative, and others from the nominated Chambers of Commerce representatives). Likewise, the NMPs give multiple votes to certain groups of Singaporeans who are represented both by their elected MP and by a nominated MP.
Fourth, from 1988, changes to the electoral boundaries were no longer passed as a bill in Parliament but instead approved by the Prime Minister’s Office. The Electoral Boundaries Delineation Committee was renamed the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC), which deliberated in secret and followed terms of reference determined by the Prime Minister. While the government always had the power to unilaterally redraw constituency boundaries, it previously had to pass the changes through Parliament. This allowed for some public scrutiny. Now changes were merely announced by the Prime Minister. The EBRC submitted its first report to the PMO on 25 May 1988, which erased seven wards from the map. Anson, the working class constituency which had elected David Marshall in 1961 and JB Jeyaretnam in 1981, was erased, along with Bo Wen, Delta, Khe Bong, River Valley, Rochore and Telok Ayer. While the independence of the EBRC has been disputed, its independence is irrelevant as, under the Parliamentary Elections Act, responsibility for determining constituency boundaries lies with the Prime Minister.
From 1988, changes to the electoral boundaries were no longer passed as a bill in Parliament but instead approved by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Fifth, the Internal Security Act was used again. In particular, criticism of government policies by the Law Society and the Catholic Church was met with arrests under the Internal Security Act against lawyers and Catholic social workers, known as Operation Spectrum, in 1986.
Finally, legislation was introduced to curtail the independence and ability of the Law Society and religious organisations to participate in politics, including the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill in 1986 and the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act in 1991.
The period from 1984 to 1991 was extremely transformative. It created the current electoral system, which has been shaped by a purposeful attempt to raise legal barriers against opposition, dilute the opposition voice in Parliament, discourage people from voting opposition, and maximise electoral outcomes for the incumbent PAP.
Tweaks to the system continue to be made. For example, the rise of the internet and online media was dealt with by new regulations to cover news websites. Outside of election periods, the Infocomm Media Development Authority has issued notices to online publishers demanding that posts be taken down within a specified amount of time. The alternative media in Singapore—which exists solely online—is generally underfunded and under-staffed, and unable to compete with the manpower and resources of mainstream media publications. These are elaborations of the fundamental contours laid down by the vast changes in the 1986-1991 period, which continued to be followed.
Singapore’s elections have existed in three broad phases. In early elections, the franchise was limited to people regarded as favourable by the British colonial government. From 1957 onwards, voter choice was limited by preventing or discouraging candidates and parties that the government (including the British, Labour Front, and PAP) were hostile to from running. From the mid-1980s onwards, the system of elections itself has been rigged, through the mechanisms of gerrymandering, GRCs, and Town Councils, among others, to maximise the outcomes for the PAP. In all three phases, voter choice and/or behaviour has been curtailed through various mechanisms. Thus, Singapore has never had an election to parliament (and its predecessors) which has been free and fair and with a universal franchise.
Tey, T. (2008) ‘Singapore’s electoral system: government by the people?’, Legal Studies 28(4): 610–28.
Ong, E. (2015) ‘Complementary institutions in authoritarian regimes: the everyday politics of constituency service in Singapore’, Journal of East Asian Studies 15(3): 361–90.
Rodan, G. (1996) ‘Elections without representation: the Singapore experience under the PAP’, in R. Taylor (ed) The Politics of Elections in Southeast Asia, New York: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, pp. 61–89.
Rodan, G. (2009) ‘New modes of political participation and Singapore’s nominated members of parliament’, Government and Opposition 44(4): 438–62.
On authoritarianism and political control in Singapore
Lydgate, C. (2003) Lee’s Law: How Singapore Crushes Dissent, Melbourne: Scribe Publications.
Rajah, J. (2012) Authoritarian Rule of Law: Legislation, Discourse and Legitimacy in Singapore, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Tremewan, C. (1994) The Political Economy of Social Control in Singapore, London: Macmillan Press.
George, C. (2007) ‘Consolidating authoritarian rule: calibrated coercion in Singapore’, The Pacific Review 20(2): 127–45.
Barr, M. (2014) The Ruling Elite of Singapore: Networks of Power and Influence, New York: I.B.Tauris & Co.
Thum Ping Tjin
Thum Ping Tjin (“PJ”) is Managing Director of New Naratif and founding director of Project Southeast Asia, an interdisciplinary research centre on Southeast Asia at the University of Oxford. A Rhodes Scholar, Commonwealth Scholar, Olympic athlete, and the only Singaporean to swim the English Channel, his work centres on Southeast Asian governance and politics. His most recent work is Living with Myths in Singapore (Ethos: 2017, co-edited with Loh Kah Seng and Jack Chia). He is creator of “The History of Singapore” podcast, available on iTunes. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.