Singapore’s Davinder Singh, of Indian origin, has emerged as perhaps the most powerful person in Southeast Asia – certainly the most powerful man in Singapore and Brunei.
Singh’s rank in Singapore is that of Senior Counsel, the equivalent of Queen’s Counsel in the United Kingdom. In December 2008, Singh joined the Monetary Authority of Singapore to advise on the implications of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy.
More importantly, Singh has recently been named Chief Advisor to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the absolute ruler of Brunei, who has bestowed upon Singh the noble title of Dato Setia.
As such, Senior Counsel Dato Setia Davinder Singh brings to Brunei his vast experience with Singapore’s Internal Security Act, by which Singaporeans can be imprisoned indefinitely with no charges being brought against them.
Brunei also has an Internal Security Act, but lacks Singh’s expertise in such matters.
In Singapore, Singh is the sole personal lawyer of and advisor to Singapore’s founder, Minister Mentor Lee Kwan Yew, Lee’s son, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong, Singapore’s former Prime Minister.
Singh’s power, spanning Singapore and Brunei is unparalleled in Southeast Asia.
Is it all part of Singapore’s plan to diminish the influence of the Chinese people of Singapore?
Lee Kuan Yew has long distrusted his own Chinese people of Singapore. He has always sought the protection of the more trusted Gurkhas – units of the current British Army, composed of Nepalese soldiers.
The Ghurkas are the sole guards of the Istana, residence of Singapore’s President, SR Nathan, a Singaporean, who is of Tamil Indian origin.
Recently, in Singapore, the power of the Gurkhas can be seen well beyond the Istana.
Armed Gurkhas now patrol the streets of Singapore and have replaced local policemen to guard key installations. Gurkhas are now seen in more public locations including Singapore’s Changi Airport, the Singapore American School, and even at Singapore’s posh and exclusive American Club.
In Brunei, the growing power of the Gurkhas is much the same as that of Singapore. Brunei’s 2,000 strong Gurkha unit is made up of British Army veterans and constitutes the most potent part of Brunei’s defenses. Their loyalty is to the Sultan of Brunei.
In addition to the Gurkhas, Brunei also hosts the Singapore Armed Forces, which are kept out of sight of in Temburong, Brunei’s sparsely populated jungle province.
As a final step to reduce the influence of Singapore’s Chinese population and join Brunei, Singapore has undertaken a major program to encourage foreigners to immigrate to Singapore. Foreigners now make up 36 percent of Singapore’s population, up from 14 percent in 1990. Of the remaining 64 percent, an increasing number are born overseas. In the year 2000, the population of Singapore was 3.2 million – today it has swelled to 4.5 million, as foreigners arrive to dilute the local population.
Finally, the currencies of Singapore and Brunei are merging. Banknotes are being printed with Singapore on one side and Brunei on the other.
This appears to be a prelude to a merger of Singapore and Brunei, which is seen to be an advantage for both countries.
Singapore needs Brunei’s vast oil reserves, and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah needs protection for his throne. Both countries want to see their Chinese populations diminished.
Senior Counsel Dato Setia Davinder Singh is the man to pull it all together.