Why Our Great Leader was Not So Great and Not Much of a Leader


For many Singaporeans, Sir Stamford Raffles was Great Leader and White Saviour all rolled into one. The one man, one country narrative allowed a simplistic telling of a complex tale concerning Singapore’s birth to take root. But Raffles was a deeply flawed man.

Whether he was palming off most the heavy lifting to Farqhuar – and then publicly taking all the credit whilst privately criticising his man on the ground – or providing women for his sex-obsessed friend Alexander Hare, the governor of Banjarmasin, Raffles had almost 50 shades of grey to his character. He wasn’t particularly impressed with the locals either, clumsily dividing them into racial ghettos and practically starving the military.

But he was kind to animals. In fact, he had quite a few stuffed and brought back to his beloved London Zoo.

For any revisionist historian, Raffles’ role in Singapore’s founding is complicated. He was, after all, a white imperialist subjugating an island of indigenous people in service of an empire’s economic interests. But for a revisionist humourist like Neil Humphreys, Raffles is a godsend.



Why Our Great Leader was Not So Great and Not Much of a Leader

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Neil Humphreys