Malays in Singapore

Malays in Singapore
Malays in Singapore
Total population
650,000 (year 2010 census)

Malay, English, some Arabic speakers.


Predominantly Sunni Islam of the Shafi'i school. A small minority practicing Christianity.

Related ethnic groups

Malay Malaysian, Indonesian, Overseas Malays.

Malays in Singapore (Malay: Orang Melayu Singapura) are defined by the Singaporean government using the broader and antiquated "Malay race" concept, rather than modern-day Malay ethnic group. Although Malays have inhabited the area that is now Singapore since the 17th century, most of the Malays in Singapore today are immigrants from Indonesia and Malaysia since 1945 and their descendents.[1] During British rule of Singapore from the 19th century until World War II, Malays enjoyed favorable treatment and disproportionate employment to colonial governmental posts; this was concurrent with a sharp increase in the Malay population by immigration to Singapore from Java, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula. Since independence, Malays have experienced a decline in socioeconomic status, mainly because of lack of English language competency, but benefit from special constitutional protection and affirmative action policies.[2]


Population of the Malay in Singapore

The figures below show the ethnic composition of the resident population in Singapore over the last 30 years.

Ethnic composition (%) of resident population
Ethnic 1970 1980 1990 2000 2006 2010
Chinese 77.0 78.3 77.7 76.8 75.2 74.1
Malays 14.8 14.4 14.1 13.9 13.6 13.4
Indians 7.0 6.3 7.1 7.9 8.8 9.2
Others 1.2 1.0 1.1 1.4 2.4 3.3

Source: Singapore Department of Statistics. [1]

History of the Malay Kings of Singapore

The seventeenth-century Malay chronicle, the Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals, tells of the founding of a great trading city on the island of Temasek in 1299 AD by a prince from Palembang. Palembang was then the capital of the diminishing Srivijayan Empire. The prince, Sri Tri Buana, (also known as Sang Nila Utama) was said to be a descendant of Alexander the Great and an Indian princess called Shahru Al-Bariyah. Legend states that he renamed the city Singapura ("lion city") after sighting a strange beast that he took to be a lion, although there is no real historical evidence of this.

In the mid-14th century, Singapura suffered raids by the expanding Javanese Majapahit Empire to the south and the emerging Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya to the north, both claiming the island as a vassal state at several points in time. Around 1388, the ruler of Palembang, Parameswara, came to Singapore to flee from Majapahit control. He murdered the king and seized power, but it was a futile act. The Srivijayan Empire, already in decline, finally met its end when Majapahit attacked its capital Palembang in 1391. In 1396, Majapahit or Ayutthaya forces drove out Parameswara, who fled northward and founded kingdom of Malacca in 1400.

When the Portuguese captured Malacca in 1511, the last Malaccan sultan, Mahmud Shah, fled to Johore, where he established the new Johore Sultanate. Singapura became part of this sultanate. In 1613, however, the Portuguese reported burning down a trading outpost at the mouth of the Temasek (Singapore) River, and Singapura passed into history.

The territory controlled by the Johore Riau Lingga Pahang Sultanate in the late eighteenth century still included Singapore as part of its territory. The sultanate had become increasingly weakened by a division into a Malay faction, which controlled the peninsula and Singapore, and a Bugis faction which controlled the Riau Archipelago and Sumatra. When Sultan Mahmud Riayat Shah III died in 1812, the Bugis had proclaimed the younger of his two sons, Abdul Rahman, as sultan instead of the elder son, Tengku Long. While the sultan was the nominal ruler of his domain, senior officials actually governed the sultanate. In control of Singapore and the neighboring islands was Temenggong Abdul Rahman, Tengku Long's father-in-law. In 1818, he and some of his followers left Riau for Singapore shortly after the Dutch signed a treaty with the Sultan Abdul Rahman, allowing the Dutch to station a garrison at Riau.

In 1819, Tengku Long signed a treaty with the British led by Sir Stamford Raffles. In exchange for British protection and recognising him as Sultan of Johore, Tengku Long agreed to allow the British to establish a trading post in Singapore. Proclaimed as Sultan Hussein Shah, he became the Sultan of Johore.

In 1835, Sultan Hussein Shah died and was succeeded by his eldest son, Tengku Ali. Sultan Hussein had signed away his rights over the island in exchange for the land at Kampong Gelam plus an annual stipend for his family. After the Sultan's death, disputes broke out among his descendants. In the late 1890s, they went to court, where it was decided that no one in the family had the rights as the successor to the sultanate and the land at Kampong Gelam should be reverted to the state [Tengku Mahmud vs. Tengku Ali, Straits Settlements Laws Report 1897 (Vol. 5)]. This ended the reign of the Malay kings in Singapore.

Malay Kings of Singapore (1299 -1396 AD)

  • Sri Tri Buana (Sang Nila Utama) (1299–1347)
  • Raja Kecil Besar (Paduka Seri Pikrama Wira) (1348–1362 (?) )
  • Raja Muda (Rakna Pikrama) (1363–1374 (?) )
  • Paduka Seri Maharaja (Damia Raja) (1375–1386 (?) )
  • Raja Iskandar Shah (Parameswara) (1388 or 1390 (?) –1397)

Malay Kings of Singapore (1699 -1835 AD)

  • Bendahara Sultan Abdul Jalil Riayat Shah IV (Sultan of Riau-Lingga-Pahang) (1699–1718)
  • Abdul Jalil Rahmat Shah (Raja Kecil) (Sultan of Riau-Lingga-Pahang) (1718–1722)
  • Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Al-Alam Shah (Sultan of Johore-Riau-Lingga-Pahang) (1722–1760)
  • Sultan Mahmud Riayat Shah III (Sultan of Johore-Pahang) (1761–1812)
  • Sultan Abdul Rahman (Sultan of Lingga) (1812–1832) (Placed on the throne instead of his older brother Hussein, supported by Bugis.)
  • Sultan Hussein Shah (Sultan of Johor) (1819–1835) (Recognised by the British as the rightful Sultan of Johore.)

Migration of Malays to Singapore after 1819

Singapore was not uninhabited when Sir Stamford Raffles came in January 1819.The waters of Telok Blangah, the Kallang River and other rivers had been home to the Orang Laut or Sea Nomads for a very long time. Here were also Malay settlements along the Kallang River Basin and the Singapore River. Turnbull reported that there was an estimated 1,000 people living in Singapore. There were about 500 Orang Kallang, 200 Orang Seletar, 150 Orang Gelam, 100 Orang Lauts, 20-30 Malays who were the followers of Temenggong Abdul Rahman and about 20-30 Chinese.

In the first census taken in 1824, it was revealed that the Malays (including the Bugis) then made up 60.9 per cent of the total population of 10,683.

Ethnic number of resident population in 1824
Ethnic Group Population
Europeans 74
Armenians 16
Arabs 15
Malays 4,580
Bugis 1,925
Chinese 3,317
Indians 756
Total population 10,683

The Orang Laut (Sea Nomads)

According to Sopher (1977), the Orang Kallang, Orang Seletar, Orang Selat and Orang Gelam were the Orang Laut that lived in Singapore. The Orang Kallang (also called the Orang Biduanda Kallang) lived in the swampy areas in the Kallang River. They lived on boats and sustained their lives by fishing and collecting other materials from the forests. After 1819, they were relocated by Temenggong Abdul Rahman to the northern Singapore Straits at Sungai Pulau. Tragically in 1848, the Orang Kallang were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic.

The Orang Seletar lived in the river swamps and the small islands surrounding mainland Singapore. They would often gather on the coastal areas, especially on the estuary of the Seletar River. They lived a nomadic lifestyle until the 1850s, when they started living on land and followed the lifestyles of others living in Singapore.

The Orang Selat lived in the harbour waters of Keppel Singapore. They were believed to have traversed the waters of Keppel Harbour since the early 16th century, making them one of the earliest settlers of the island. They sold fish and fruits to the trading vessels that passed the area.

The Orang Gelam came from a tribe in Batam Island. They were brought by the Temenggong of Johor together with a group of his followers to establish a settlement in the first decade of the 19th century. Many of the Orang Gelam who lived along the Singapore River served as boatmen for merchant ships while their womenfolk were fruit sellers on boats.

The Orang Laut differed from the Malays in that they lived a nomadic lifestyle and lived at sea in their boats whereas the Malays lived in settlements in the villages on the land.

The Malays Proper (Johor-Riau)

When Raffles came to Singapore, there were already hundreds of indigenous Malays living there.[3][4] They were made up of the nobility that were headed by the Temenggong, the palace officials and his followers as well as the Orang Laut. Subsequently, the numbers increased with the arrivals of other Malays from Malaya and the Malay Archipelago.

In a matter of several months, hundreds of Malays from Malacca came to Singapore, encouraged by the British who wanted to develop Singapore as a centre for trade and administration (Siebel, 1961:27). When Singapore became more developed and there were better economic opportunities, many Malays from Riau, Sumatra, Penang, Malacca and Johore came to Singapore (Roff, 1967:33; Census 1931:72). Many of these Malays lived in the towns and worked there (Siebel, 1961:35). The census for 1931 showed that the total number of Malay men working here were as many as 11,290. Out of this number, 18% worked as fisherman and as many as 12% lived by farming the land.

In the 1930s and 1950s, many Malay residents from Malaya were working in the British uniformed services. In 1957 alone, there were more than 10,000 Malays working in the uniform services because the British preferred them to the Javanese or Malays from Indonesia (Betts, 1975:41; Djamour, 1959:5). However, during the period 1957-1970, most of them returned to Malaysia when their terms of services ended.

The Javanese

The second largest Malay group were the Javanese. They came from Java in the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). In the 1931 Population Census, the number of Javanese in Singapore was 16,063. The 1981 Population Census, however, showed that they made up 6% of the Malay population. However, many Javanese had actually registered themselves as 'Malay'. It is likely that the actual percentage of the Javanese within the Malay population was much higher. The Javanese came to Singapore in stages. In the mid-19th century, they came and worked as ironsmiths, leather makers as well as spice merchants and religious books dealers. There were also a group of Javanese printers and publishers in the Arab Street area. There were also community of pilgrim brokers that played an important role in encouraging the migration of the Javanese to Singapore.

The political situation in the Dutch East Indies created by the Dutch government caused many Javanese go through Singapore to travel to Mecca to perform the hajj. From the mid-19th century until 1910, between 2,000 to 7,000 Javanese travelled to Mecca through Singapore until the regulations were eased (Roff 1967:39). Usually, these pilgrims would work in Singapore for several months or years before or after performing the hajj to earn money or pay their debts to their pilgrim brokers. Many of them stayed on in Singapore and became part of the Muslim community in the city (Roff, 1967:43).

A number of Javanese also came to Singapore with the help of the pilgrim brokers. They came voluntarily and a majority of them were young men who stayed in the lodgings of the pilgrim brokers until they found work. They worked as food sellers, gardeners and provided labour for the pilgrim brokers to build lodging homes for them. The pilgrim brokers also took in bonded labourers who worked for Malay or Javanese employers to clear forests to set up settlements in Johore, Malaya (Roff, 1967:37). The activities with these bonded labourers continued until the 1920s. From 1886 till 1890, as many as 21,000 Javanese became bonded labourers with the Singapore Chinese Protectorate, an organisation formed by the British in 1877 to monitor the Chinese population. They performed manual labour in the rubber plantations. After their bond ended, they continued to open up the land and stayed on in Johore.

After the Second World War, the total number of Javanese coming to Singapore continued to increase. The first wave consisted of conscript labour that were brought by the Japanese and their numbers were estimated to be about 10,000 (Turnbull, 1976:216). The second wave were those who moved to Singapore through Malaya. The 1970 Population Census showed that a total of 21,324 Malays who were born in Malaya (later Malaysia) had moved to Singapore in the years 1946-1955; and as many as 29,679 moved to Singapore from 1956-1970 (Census 1970:262-3). Interviews conducted showed that a majority of them were young men of Javanese descent from Johore who wanted to find a better life in Singapore. Most of them were not educated and not highly skilled and worked as manual labourers in the post war years.

The Baweanese (Boyanese)

The Baweanese or Boyanese came from the Bawean Island in the Dutch East Indies. Bawean Island is presently administered under Gresik Regency of East Java. They built the Kampung Boyan (Boyanese Village) by the banks of the Rochor River, between Jalan Besar and Syed Alwi Road since the time of Munshi Abdullah. Most of them came to Singapore in the late 19th century until the end of Second World War. The majority of them worked as horse cart drivers and later as motorcar drivers. They could not be considered poor as their lands in Bawean were fertile; they had come in search of cash earnings. They wanted to purchase jewellery made of gold and goods that they could bring back to their villages. Some also wanted to build a better life for themselves in Singapore.

Most of them were young men who came and supported themselves, living in communal houses. There were several such houses built in Singapore. They were found in places like Adam Communal House in Ann Siang Hill, Teluk Dalam Communal House in Dixon Road and Dedawang Communal House in Sophie Road. There was also a village within the town area that was inhabited by the Baweanese called Kampung Kapur (literally ‘Lime Village’) in the western part of Kampung Boyan (Boyan Village). A mosque called the Masjid Bawean Kampung Kapur (Bawean Mosque of Lime Village) located at Weld Road was built in 1932. There was also a communal house that became the gathering point for writers and their friends from the literary group called Jejak Kembara (literally ‘Wanderers' Steps’) in the late 1970s.

Due to the fact that they shared the same religion and were closely related racially, both the Baweanese and the Javanese were able to mix freely and even intermarried with the Malays. In time, this caused the differences between them to be less obvious and more Baweanese and Javanese began identifying themselves as Malays.

The Bugis

The Bugis came from the Celebes Islands in Indonesia. They were well known for a long time as maritime traders. In the mid-seventeenth century, the Bugis were spreading out from Celebes to set up trading centres throughout the region. Often they had to sail to distant lands and fight indigenous tribes. They rarely lost and acquired a reputation as fierce warriors.

The Dutch control of the Dutch East Indies and their blockades cut off the Bugis from their traditional spice trade routes from Celebes to Java. This forced them to migrate to other areas to continue trading. Their migration to what is today Malaysia, Singapore and Riau began around the 18th century or even earlier. At the beginning of the 19th century, the number of Bugis traders in the region increased. Their influence in Riau was strong. Among the Bugis traders were also members of the nobility like Engku Karaeng Talibak who married the daughter of Raja Ali Haji. According to Raja Ali Haji in his work, Tuhfat al-Nafis, the presence of Karaeng Talibak brought more Bugis traders to Riau.

The establishment of a free port in Singapore allowed the Bugis to expand their network in the archipelago. Sailing from Sumatra to north Australia, the Bugis ships brought cargoes of cotton cloth, gold dust, birds-of-paradise feathers, pepper, trepang (sea slugs), sandalwood, tortoiseshell, coffee, and rice to Singapore. Most of these goods were very much in demand by the Chinese merchants in Singapore. The Bugis also traded in slaves.

James Cameron gave a description in 1865 of the various ships that would visit Singapore's harbour. According to him, each year during October and November, the Bugis ships would come from Bali and the Celebes.

By the 1830s, the Bugis had established themselves in Singapore and formed the majority of the pioneer communities in the Kampung Gelam area. By 1881, the Census of Population reported 2,053 Bugis in Singapore. The Bugis gradually formed kampongs and settlements in places like Kampung Bugis (around the Kallang River), Kampung Soopoo, Jalan Pelatok and Jalan Pergam.

The Minangkabaus

The Minangkabau people came from Western Sumatra. The Minangkabaus are known for their matrilineal social system and their tradition for travelling. The Minangkabaus would leave their homes and travel in search of work, knowledge and experience. They would usually return home once they had fulfilled their objective. This tradition of travelling was a rite of passage for the young Minangkabau men and was considered a way for them to be in touch with the outside world.

The Minangkabaus have been migrating to Malaysia and Singapore since long ago. This only stopped when Malaya achieved independence from the British in 1957, when the immigration laws were tightened. The majority of Minangkabaus who came to Singapore came from Pariaman and Agam in Western Sumatra. The majority of them were engaged in business, especially in selling nasi padang (a rice dish made of meat, vegetables and tempeh). The Minangkabaus also sold religious items, toys and clothes. They had shops in Arab Street and Geylang. They also worked as taxi drivers and gardeners and joined uniformed services. Many Minangkabaus also worked as sailors on ships owned by trading companies. The Minangkabaus even formed an association at one time but this was subsequently banned during the 1962-66 Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation.

After Singapore became an independent state in 1965, the majority of Minangkabaus either migrated to Malaysia or returned to Sumatra. Those who stayed in Singapore assimilated into the Malay community. Not many Minangkabaus brought their wives or women with them to Singapore. As such, many married the local Malay women and did not maintain strong ties with the other Minangkabau communities. By 1973, it was estimated that there were 200 Minangkabaus family in Singapore and almost all of them were Singapore citizens.

The Banjar

The Banjar people originated from the southern and eastern coast of Kalimantan in Borneo. Most came from Banjarmasin in the area surrounding the Barito basin. These areas were used for the cultivation of paddy. The Banjarese who migrated to the Malay Peninsula were farmers who were experienced in paddy cultivation. They also migrated to spread Islam to the region, to escape poverty and the oppressive Dutch rule of their homeland. Some also wanted to escape the presence of wild animals that threatened their farms in Kalimantan.

The Banjarese generally did not like to be employees. They preferred to be self-employed, working as either farmers or businessmen. The Banjar were also well known as jewel cutters and dealers in the region. Many came to Singapore to deal in the jewellery trade and had their shops in Arab Street. They even formed a Kalimantan Association in Singapore.

The Banjarese made up a very small percentage of the Malay population in Singapore. In 1931, they numbered 445 out of a total Malay population of 65,104 (0.7%). In 1947, they formed only 0.3% of the population. This dropped to 0.2% in 1957 and 0.1% in 1970. By 1980 and 1990, the total numbers could not be determined, probably because the Banjarese have effectively assimilated into the Malay community.

The Batak

The Batak people are the smallest Malay group in Singapore. Up till 1978, there were less than 350 Bataks in Singapore. Unlike other Malay groups that are predominantly Muslim, there are many Christians in the Batak community (Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Jehovah's Witnesses).

The Batak had been coming to Singapore before the 20th century. Not much is known about the Bataks that came to Singapore in the 19th century and before World War 2. Most were young men in their twenties who were from the Toba, Mandailing and Angkola.

The Bataks came to Singapore for economic, educational and social reasons. Most of those who came to Singapore before the War had received their primary education in the Batak and Malay language. Some came to Singapore to continue their education in the private and Christian schools. For example, the Seventh-day Adventist organisation had students' amenities in Singapore in 1915 and they encouraged the Bataks from Spirok, Angkola and Permatang Siantar in Sumatra to send their children to continue their studies in Singapore. An English education was prized as it was seen as a passport to getting a white-collar job in the plantations in Eastern Sumatra that were owned by the Dutch and the Americans. After receiving their education in Singapore, the Bataks would return to their homeland. Some would marry and bring their wives to Singapore. The Batak Christians were the first Bataks to bring their wives to Singapore.

Most of the Bataks who came before World War 2 worked as gardeners, peons and manual labourers. During the Japanese Occupation, the Bataks were conscripted as foot soldiers or forced labourers by the Japanese. Some were sent to Singapore for military training. After the War, many of the Bataks returned home. At the same time, many others came to Singapore from places like Medan, Palembang and the Riau Islands. Some managed to find work as clerks, storekeepers and some started businesses with non-Bataks partners. Some also joined the British army as soldiers, technicians and electricians. Others started identifying themselves as Malays so that they could join the military or get jobs given to local Malays.

In 1947, the Bataks in Singapore formed a welfare organisation called Saroha ("one heart" in the Batak language). The aim of the organisation was to help the Bataks in Singapore. The organisation lasted until 1954 and was disbanded due to leadership problems and a lack of support from its members. Attempts to revive it later in 1958 proved futile.

There were Bataks who took Malay wives and converted to Islam. The majority of them and their descendants were assimilated into the Malay community and preferred to be known as Malays. A well-known Batak Muslim in Singapore is the radio personality, Aminah Siregar.

Ethnic composition of Malay population 1931-1990

The following figures show the composition of the various Malay ethnic population in Singapore for the past 60 years. The great increase shown in the other Malay groups, especially the Javanese, in 1990 is likely due to the increase in the employment of Indonesian domestic workers in Singapore.

Ethnic Composition of Malay population in Singapore 1931-1990
Malay Ethnic Group 1931 1947 1957 1970 1980 1990
Total 65,104 113,803 197,059 311,379 351,508 384,338
Malay 57.5% 61.8% 68.8% 86.1% 89.0% 68.3%
Javanese 24.5% 21.7% 18.3% 7.7% 6.0% 17.2%
Baweanese (Boyanese) 14.4% 13.5% 11.3% 5.5% 4.1% 11.3%
Bugis 1.2% 0.6% 0.6% 0.2% 0.1% 0.4%
Banjar 0.7% 0.3% 0.2% 0.1% N.A. N.A.
Other Malay Groups / Indonesians 1.7% 2.1% 0.9% 0.4% 0.8% 2.9%

(Reference: Arumainathan 1973, Vol 1:254; Pang, 1984, Appendix m; Sunday Times, 28 June 1992)


The majority of Malays in Singapore are Sunni Muslims belonging to the Shāfi‘ī (شافعي) school of thought.

A small Christian community also exists among the Malays, including Malays with mixed European blood. However, the government has strongly discouraged the publication of the Christian Bible in Malay, and strongly discourages missionaries from attempts to convert the local Malay populace. This was done so as not to cause racial and religious tensions in the predominantly Muslim community.[citation needed]

There is also a small Buddhist community, mostly consisting of Malays with mixed Chinese ancestry.[citation needed]


The majority of Malays in Singapore generally share a similar culture with those in Peninsula Malaysia.

Linguistically, most Malays in Singapore speak the Johore-Riau variant of Malay that is similar to that spoken in the southern part of west Malaysian peninsular and the Riau islands of Indonesia (Batam and Bintan) but further than those spoken in the northern part of west Malaysia, east Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. Some of the older generation who migrated here or whose parents were immigrants can speak Javanese. However, most of the Malays here do not speak the language of their ancestors from Indonesia.

English is also widely spoken. Arabic is more common among the Muslim religious teachers, and is the preferred language learnt by the more religious Malay Muslims.

Status of Malays in Singapore

Although many Malays in Singapore are generally of mixed descent, they are still recognised as the indigenous people of Singapore by the Singapore Constitution, Part XIII, General Provisions, Minorities and special position of Malays, section 152:

The Government shall exercise its functions in such manner as to recognise the special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore, and accordingly it shall be the responsibility of the Government to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language.

Notable Malay Singaporeans

This article contains a list of notable Malay Singaporeans, people with Malay ancestry born or naturalized in Singapore.

Note : For Malays in Singapore, the last name is patronymic, not a family name. The person should be referred to by his or her first or second name which is the given name. The Malay word bin (b.) or binte (bte.), if used, means "son of" or "daughter of" respectively.


  • Abdul Rahim Ishak (b. 1925 - d. 2001) - Minister of State (Education) (1965–1968) and Senior Minister of State (Foreign Affairs) (1972–1981). Brother of the first President of Singapore, Yusof Ishak.
  • Abdul Samad Ismail (b. 1924 - d. 2008) - Leading Malay political activist in the 1950s and 60s. A founding member of the People's Action Party and Malaysia journalism laureate.
  • Abdullah Tarmugi (b. 1944 - ) - Speaker of the Singapore Parliament, former Minister for Community Development.
  • Ahmad Ibrahim (b. 1927 - d. 1962) – He was a Member of Parliament for the Sembawang constituency in the 1950s and 1960s where he held the seat as an independent and later as a member of the People's Action Party (PAP). Later became a Labour Minister in 1961. Today a road, a school and a mosque are named after him in Singapore.
  • Dr Ahmad Mattar - former Minister for the Environment - credited with cleaning up the Singapore River and other waterways. In 1972, he entered politics and successfully contested for a seat in Parliament, representing the constituency of Brickworks, and was to remain in Parliament until 1996. During his long and distinguished political career, he has held many senior government positions, first as Parliamentary Secretary for Education and then as Minister for Social Affairs, and finally as Minister for the Environment. In 1996, he retired from politics. He is currently the Chairman of IMC Technologies, a private educational institution, where he continues to make contributions to education in Singapore.
  • Harun Abdul Ghani (b. 1939 - d. 2005) – He was a Member of Parliament for the Hongkah Group Representative Council (1991–2001).
  • Othman Wok (b. 1942 - ) - former Minister for Social Affairs - credited with securing inter-racial unity and Malay support during the PAP's conflict with the Malaysian UMNO party.
  • Sha'ari Tadin (b. 1932 - d. 2009) - He was the Senior Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Culture, Member of Parliament and first Malay graduate to be a Member of Parliament (People's Action Party) in 1968. After stepping down as senior Parliamentary Secretary in 1977, he became a backbencher and principal of the Telok Kurau Secondary School before retiring as an MP for the Bedok constituency in 1980.
  • Prof Yaacob Ibrahim (b. 1955- ) - Minister for Environment and Water Resources - credited with developing alternative water sources for Singapore and reducing dependence on Malaysian water.
  • Yusof Ishak (b. 1910 - d. 1970) - First President of Singapore, 1959–1970


  • Abu Bakar bin Hashim bin Abdullah (b. 1936 -d. 2005) – civil servant, community leader and Islamic educator. A graduate of the Aljunied Islamic School and Kolej Islam Klang (Malaysia). He received his Master in Theology at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. Upon returning to Singapore, he worked as the Registrar of Muslim Marriages where he first initiated the Marriage Guidance Course (Kursus Bimbingan Rumahtangga) in the year 1968. He later became the President of the Syariah Court until his retirement in 1994. He was active in local Malay radio programs and also contributed articles in the local Malay newspaper, the Berita Harian. He was given a column in the Sunday edition of the Malay newspaper, Berita Minggu, to answer questions from readers on religious matters. He also founded the APKIM (Akademi Peningkatan Keluarga Islam) Resources. An active member of the board of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) (1995–2001) and its fatwa committee. He led the Islamic Scholars and Teachers Association (PERGAS) and was an Islamic financial advisor and chairman of the Aljunied Islamic School Manangement Board. With APKIM Resources, he acted as consultant and advisor to religious issues such as faraid (Islamic inheritance) and he also contributed to the Muslim society by delivering marriage counselling courses along with other programs to strengthen Muslim families. He was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1974 for resolving the hostage issue of the Laju Ferry Affair acting as a translator. In recognition of his contribution, MUIS awarded him the Anugerah Jasa Cemerlang in 1994.
  • Ahmad Zuhri Mutamin (b. 1905 - d. 1985) – Islamic educator. Co-founder of the Islamic Teachers Association, an organisation that has been at the forefront of Islamic education in Singapore. Served with the Fatwa Committee and Appeal Board of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.
  • Sallim Jasman - civil servant and community leader. Kadi at the Registry of Muslim Marriages and later Senior President of the Syariah Court.
  • Sanusi Mahmood – The first Mufti of Singapore.

Literature and culture

  • Alfian Sa'at (b. 1977 - ) - acclaimed poet and playwright. He has written his works in both English and Malay.
  • Djamal Tukimin (b. 1946 - ) - writer, poet and theatre activist. Winner of the Tun Seri Lanang Award, the highest Malay literary award in Singapore, in 2007. Also the recipient of the Anugerah Warisan Kencana (Golden Legacy Award) given by the Taman Warisan Melayu (Malay Legacy Group) in 2007. He is the writer of the book Arus Teater Melayu (The Direction of The Malay Theatre), which highlights the history of the Malay Theatre in Singapore since the 1970s and also discusses it future.
  • Isa Kamari (b. 1960 - ) – writer, who is known for addressing controversial yet profound issues in his novels. His 1998 novel, Satu Bumi (One Earth), about a Chinese girl adopted into a Malay family, questioned where Malay loyalties lay when Singapore separated from Malaysia in the 1960s. Tawassul (Intercession) (2002) imagined what would happen if someone cloned Prophet Muhammad. Kiswah (Drape of Kaabah) (2002) broke the taboo of discussing the tension between sexuality and spirituality in the generally conservative Malay/Muslim community, while Atas Nama Cinta (In The Name of Love) (2006) centred on the 1950s riots in Singapore triggered by the Muslim-Christian family feud over Dutch girl, Maria Hertogh. Memeluk Gerhana (Embrace The Eclipse) (2007) related the coming of age story of a youth who was caught by the Internal Security Department for his alleged clandestine activities connected with the Iranian revolution in 1979. His latest novel Rawa (2008) revealed the story of the Orang Seletar, the indigenous people of Singapore who lost their homeland. His novels have been translated into English and Chinese. He has written seven novels, two collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, two television scripts and two plays. He received the S.E.A Write Award in Bangkok in 2006 and was awarded the Cultural Medallion by the Singapore Government in 2007. In 2009 he was conferred the highest Malay literary award, the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang by the Malay Language Council of Singapore.
  • Mahmud Ahmad (b. 1906 - d. 1976) – linguist, culturist, social reformer. He helped revitalise the development of the Malay language and culture in Singapore via many social organisations. Was posthumously awarded the Tun Seri Lanang Literary Award upon his death in 1976.
  • Dr. Masuri Salikun (b. 1927 - d. 2005) – poet, writer and playwright who used the nom de plume Masuri S N. He was among the top laureates in the Malay world. His works are read in many universities. Founded the leading Malay literary group, Angkatan Sasterawan 50 (Singapore Writer's Movement '50). His works included poems, short stories, essays and plays. Was a fellow at the Institute of South East Asian Studies and Iowa University as well as a resident writer of the Malaysian Language Institute and the National University of Singapore. Beginning with the poem Ros Kupuja (Rose I Admire) (1941), he had dedicated 60 years of his life to poertry. His notable works include Awan Putih (White Cloud) (1958) and Dalam Merenung Dalam (In Deep Thought) (2006). Recipient of many awards including the Public Service Star in 1963. Was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from the Sultan Idris University, Malaysia.
  • Mohamed Latiff Mohamed (b. 1950 - ) – writer and social activist. He is regarded as one of the most influential Malay writers of his time. A firm believer of developing the younger generation, he has mentored numerous youths including Hoirull Amri Tahiran, Fariz Husna Sajani, Arni Johan and Muhammad Jailani. He is widely regarded as a radical poet whose works highlights the life and struggle of the post-independence Malay community in Singapore. Among his outstanding works are the poem Bangsaku di Hari Lahirku (My People on The day I was Born), the short stories Mondok and the novel Batas Langit (The Sky is the Limit). He has also written many essays and criticisms. He received the prestigious the Arts Literary Award (1988) from the Montblanc NUS Centre, SEA Write Award (2002), and Tun Seri Lanang Award (2003) for his outstanding contributions in the world of literature. His works, Bagiku Sepilah Sudah (It's Quiet For Me), an anthology of poetry, and Nostalgia Yang Hilang (Lost Nostalgia), a collection of short stories, as well as Bila Rama-Rama Patah Sayapnya (When the Butterfly Breaks Its Wing), a collections of poetry, all received the Singapore Literature Prize in 2004, 2006 and 2008 respectively.
  • Mohamed Pitchay Gani BMAA (b. 1967 - ) – writer, lecturer, researcher, editor, critique and social activist. Lifetime member of 'Golden Key National Honor Society' in America. He is one of the key leaders in shaping contemporary trends in cultural and language initiatives. Under his keen supervision and leadership, he has managed to revive Angkatan Sasterawan '50 (Asas '50), one of the oldest literary organisations in the region, to excellence. In 2009, he was elected to be the president of Asas '50. Among his most notable contributions to the society was through his landmark research of the evolution of the Malay language over 2000 years. He also received the young laureate award in 2006. His field of expertise includes Malay literature and language. In 2009, his research paper on the language situation in Singapore was awarded the "Best Research Paper Award" at the Conference for Academic Discipline in Toronto, Canada.
  • Mohd Eunos Abdullah (b. 1876 - d. 1934) – writer and social activist. He was a member of the Johore royal family. Ran the first Utusan Melayu (1912–1914) which was a translation of the English paper, the Singapore Free Press. His progressive ideas in his writings lead some scholars to hail him as the ‘father of Malay journalism’. The first Malay to serve in Legislative Assembly and was awarded the Justice of Peace. A champion of Malay rights, he was the founder of the Malay Union Singapore in 1926, the first quasi-political body in the Malay world. Today, a road called Jalan Eunos is named after him.
  • Dr. Muhammad Ariff Ahmad (b. 1924 - ) – writer and culturist. Responsible for the formation of several Malay literary and cultural organisations like the Malay Educational Council and Central Council of Malay Cultural Organisations. Regarded as the beacon of Malay literature and culture in Singapore and even the region, he has been honoured with many awards including the Tun Seri Lanang Literary Award (1993), Cultural Medallion (1993) and Public Service Star (2000).
  • Muhammad Jailani Abu Talib (b. 1985 - ) – writer, poet, art, social and cultural critique and activist. He created history in 2009 by being the first foreign student to be elected as president of Persatuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Malaya (PBMUM), a post previously held by notable leaders, ministers and academics from Malaysia. His poems and critiques are regularly published in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. His expertise, views and thoughts are regularly sought by various institutions. He has also given a talk on contemporary Malay culture and art to various educational institutes in the region. In 2008, he introduced a new literary genre of which he termed as Graftera. Among the honours that he has received include being selected as the Youth Activist Icon (2009) by the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University Malay Language Society and being awarded the National Arts Council Bursary Scholarship Award (2009).
  • Nongchik Ghani (b. 1928 - d. 2006) – writer and culturist. His name was synonymous with the development of Malay arts in Singapore. Supervisor of the former National Theatre. Was active with the Anglo-Malay Evening School, Malay Youth Literary Association (4PM), and founded the Malay cultural body, Sriwana, in 1955 and served as its secretary for 40 years. He wrote several stage plays and choreographed several musicals such as Todak (Garfish Attack on Singapore). After Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, he was instrumental in reviving the Malay arts especially with the Drama Festival that showcased many drama talents. Was awarded the Sriwana Meritorious Service Medal (2000) and the Public Service Star (1965).

Arts and entertainment

  • Abdul Wahid Bin Ahmad (b. 1935 - ) - singer, comedian and actor better known as Wahid Satay who appeared in many Malay films of the 1950s to 1960s. He became known by the moniker "Satay" after audiences identified him with his role as a satay seller in the Malay horror movie Pontianak in 1957. He was awarded the Perdana Golden Award at the 9th Perdana Festival in 2007 organised by Suria television network.
  • Adi Yadoni - filmmaker and musician who started off his career as a painter. His first documentary, Reflections of the Misunderstood Mat Rockers, a documentary on Malay rockers in Singapore, was the first ever local documentary to be chosen as the main entry for the Singapore Film Festival 2002. He is the brainchild behind the Kaki 5 Galerie & Cafe, an eatery which has become a meeting place for local Malay artists and musicians. Adi Yadoni is also a respected figure in the local indie music scene with his yearly event the Kaki 5 Folk Akustika which aims to provide a platform for local musicians to flourish and continue celebrating their artistic passion.
  • Ahmad Jaafar (b. 1919 - d. 2009) – composer and musician. He had composed many songs for Malay films. Also headed the orchestra of the then Radio & Television of Singapore and Singapore Broadcasting Corporation until his retirement in 1992. Among his songs, Ibu (Mother), Bunga Tanjung (Tanjung Flower) and Selamat Hari Raya (Happy Eid), are still evergreen. He was bestowed with many accolades including the Public Service Medal and Cultural Medallion (1982) and Gold Premier Award (Mediacorp in 2002) for his contribution to the arts in Singapore.
  • Bani Buang (b. 1930 - d. 1996) – director and producer. Hailed as "the father of Singapore Malay drama", he had produced and directed numerous plays as well as nurtured many talents since the 1940s. Produced and directed the 1970s Malay TV series Sandiwara. Headed the Malay Drama Unit of the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1979.
  • By Definition - pop group, winner of the reality TV series competition Live The Dream (group category) (2007).
  • Fendi Sahid - singer, winner of the reality TV series competition Live The Dream (solo category) (2007).
  • Hanis Saini (b. 1964 - ) - former fashion model, also known as Hanis Saini Hussey was discovered in 1982 by model scout Dick Lee of Carrie Models. Shortly thereafter, she was crowned ‘Catwalk Model of the Year Singapore’ and her prize was a modeling contract with a Parisian agency. Upon her arrival, the 5’11" Hanis clinched a two-year contract with Yves Saint Laurent. She was chosen to close YSL 1983 fall-winter show, dressed in a wedding gown. Went on to model for other fashion houses such as Balmain, Givenchy, Ungaro, Lanvin, Dior and Scherrer. She appeared in Jean-Louis Scherrer's ‘Scherrer 2’ parfum ad, with supermodel Linda Evangelista. Having spent over a decade strutting the Paris catwalks, Hanis returned to Singapore and opened her modeling agency Hanis International. In 1997, she became the first Singapore's model to appear on the cover of Time Magazine Asia. She now lives in Singapore with her American husband and three children. Now retired from modeling, she works as a grooming consultant. She also sells Micki Elaine handbag hangers and supports the XS Project Europe, a non-profit organisation, recycling trash into eco-friendly handbags .
  • Hazlina Abdul Halim (b. 1985 -) - television presenter, journalist and radio announcer. Read her first television news bulletin at 20 years old.
  • Imran Ajmain (b. 1981 - ) - award winning singer, songwriter and producer. His hit single Seribu Tahun (A Thousand Years), became the theme song for the Malaysian soap opera series, Kerana Cintaku Saerah (Because of My Love For Saerah). He was, at one time, also a celebrity columnist for Berita Minggu, Singapore's weekend Malay-language paper, who chronicled the development of the Malay entertainment industry in Singapore. Songwriter/composer at large for many Malay-language singers with Taufik Batisah, Hady Mirza, Anuar Zain, and Faradina Mohd. Nadzir being among them.
  • Iskandar Ismail (b. 1956 - ) - composer, arranger, conductor, musical director, recording producer and jazz performer. He has done the musical arrangements for musicals such as Chang And Eng. Has also arranged for the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra and arranged and conducted for the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Istana Budaya Orchestra of Malaysia and China National Opera & Ballet Orchestra. As a record producer, he has worked with Cantopop kings Jacky Cheung and Aaron Kwok as well as veteran Hong Kong singer Sandy Lam. He is also the music arranger for Singapore's National Day Parades and Chingay Parades. Winner of the Cultural Medallion award in 2008.
  • Iskandar Jalil (b. 1940 - ) - a highly-regarded local ceramist who uses fine clay to develop bowls and pots into art works, integrating Japanese and Islamic styles. His work is featured in the collections of many international public and private collections, such as those by the National Museum of Sweden, Sultan of Brunei, former American President George H Bush, and the former Governor of Hong Kong.
  • Ithnaini binte Mohd Taib (b. 1952 - ) - singer, host and actress better known as Anita Sarawak who appeared in several Malay films in the 1960s. She was wildly popular as a singer on television and stage shows in the 1960s and 1970s. She was the first Singaporean singer to make it big on the Las Vegas scene, performing nightly at Caesar's Palace in the 1980s. She now still occasionally hosts some TV shows.(For more information, search "Anita Sarawak" at the Malay Language Wikipedia.)
  • Khalid Ibrahim (b. 1935 - ) - actor who uses the name Cal Bellini. Notable for his appearances in a number of Hollywood films and television series in the 1960s and 1970s. Appeared in films like Little Big Man, Fuzz, The Mountain Men, and A Darkness at Blaisedon. His TV credits include shows like Hawaii Five-O, The Streets of San Francisco, The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside, Cannon, and Little House on the Prairie. He is also the brother of the late former Attorney-General, Ahmad Ibrahim.
  • Marpiah binti Abdul Rahim (b. 1921 - ) - singer, comedianne and actress better known as Momo Makarim aka Momo Latiff who appeared in many Malay films of the 1930s to 1970s. She had also appeared in a number of films with P. Ramlee. She was awarded the Johan Pingat Sarawak medal in Sarawak, Malaysia on her 86th birthday on 8 September 2007.
  • Mazlan Ahmad aka Phyreman (b. 1976 - ) - A self-taught graffiti/street artist and the founder of the renowned graffiti crew Operation Art Core in 1994. The first Singaporean to bring street art and graffiti to the international scene in the United States in 2003. He is also affiliated with the world renowned graffiti crew Kings Destroy led by the legendary graffiti/street artist COPE2 in the Bronx, New York. Mazlan has also successfully installed one of the first graffiti/street arts gallery in Singapore called Artkore Industry.
  • Mohd Najip Bin Ali - musician and TV personality better known as Najip Ali. He became a household name for being the wacky host of the TV programme Asia Bagus in the 1990s.
  • Mohd Noor Mohd Yusofe (b. 1936 - ) – songwriter better known by the pen name Yusnor Ef. He has written over 350 Malay songs. A number of these songs were featured in the Malay movies in the 1960s including those sung by P. Ramlee. He has written songs for Malay singers from both Singapore and Malaysia and many of his songs are evergreen. A scriptwiter, TV producer and an author, he is also the founder member of the Society of Singers, Musicians and Professional of the Malay music industry in Singapore (PERKAMUS). He is also the recipient of the Public Service Star for his contribution in the arts and letters.
  • Muhammad Mirzahady Bin Amir (b. 1980 - ) - singer, winner of the reality TV series competition Singapore Idol (Second Season in 2006). Also the winner of the first Asian Idol held in 2007. Performs under the name Hady Mirza.
  • Muhammad Taufik Bin Batisah (b. 1981 - ) - award-winning singer, songwriter and producer. Winner of the reality TV series competition Singapore Idol (First Season in 2004). Considered one of the most outstanding among the younger generation of artistes, he shone through local music history when his debut album Blessings became the best-selling local English album in the past decade with record sales of more than 36,000 copies. Audiences at more than a hundred performances within Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei have also witnessed his progression from an aspiring star to an iconic artiste in a league of his own. He has garnered many music and popularity awards including the regional MTV Asia Awards as well as the Best Local Song award for Usah Lepaskan (Don't Let Go) at the Anugerah Planet Muzik 2007 and Berserah (Surrender) at the Anugerah Planet Muzik 2008. Taufik's venture into Malaysia with his debut Malay album also received rave reviews from the critics and media in Malaysia, dubbing him "a gem in the Singapore music industry" from his capability as a performer, as well as his talent for songwriting and producing. A humble and endearing personality, Taufik has not only won a tremendous fan support throughout his career but also endorsements from popular consumer brands such as 7-Eleven and StarHub. His wholesome approach has also gained recognition from government agencies and he has also been the top choice to front for various national initiatives. He was awarded a national honour with the Singapore Youth Achievement Award in 2008. He performs under the name Taufik Batisah.
  • Murni Mastan aka Mo Selle (b. 1976 - ) - visual artist, screenwriter, director. She is also a VJ (video performance artist) who helmed the booth of the world renown club, Ministry Of Sound, from 2005 to 2008. She has worked alongside top named DJs from all over the world including Tiesto, ATB, Benny Benassi, Deep Dish, Axwell, Steve Angello, Sandy Rivera and Frankie Knuckles. She is also involved in live theater visual production (Singapore Indian Artiste Association/TheatreWorks (Singapore)/The Necessary Stage), television (Mediacorp Channel 5/Suria) and film direction. Her works have been screened at the Singapore International Film Festival (2006), Melbourne Queer Film Festival (2006), The Substation's "First Take" (2007) and Singapore Malay Film Association's "Purnama" (2008). To date, her VJ animation has been downloaded 350,000 times and remixed by international VJ (video performance artist)s.
  • Nina Halim (b. 1979 - ) - actress, producer and entrepreneur. Co-founder/Creative Director of RightBrain Pte Ltd. Launched Singapore's bilingual entertainment portal awan-awan with her upcoming director/photographer brother, Helmindra J.A. Halim. Popularly remembered for her gangster role as Mummy in the Malay television series Anak Metropolitan in 2002 and 2004. She was nominated twice in the Pesta Perdana award show. She is the daughter of award winning actor J.A. Halim and veteran actress Aminah Ahmad.
  • Noorhaqmal Mohamed Noor (b. 1984 - ) - well known as Aqmal N., winner of Suria Mediacorp 2004, runner-up for Mediacorp Power 98FM "Army Icon" (2005) and Mediacorp Ria 98.7FM "Ria Remix" (2006), singer of winning song "Suara Itu" for Esplanade SingaRaya (2007), top five for Mediacorp Warna 94.2FM and Ria 89.7FM "Projek Rentak" (2008) and winner of Mediacorp Warna 94.2FM and Ria 89.7FM "Projek Rentak" (2009), with song entitled Warkah Cinta Dunia. A singer/songwriter who has won most Mediacorp's major competitions since winning Anugerah in 2004; especially in the Malay media stream. First musician, singer/songwriter to have a research paper titled Muzik, Bahasa dan Media Baru (Music, Language and New Media) published in Bahasa Sumber Intelektual Peribumi (2009), a compilation of research papers on Malay language by experts of various fields. Literary activist and has published works, namely Awan Tak Larat in Jurnal Akademik Jilid VII (2007), Drama Waktu Sesudah Itu mengungkap pengalaman pendokumentasian in Jurnal Akademik Jilid VIII (2008), Pembelot in "Aku Ingin Menulis: Panduan Mudah Menulis Cerpen" and "Teman Siber" (2009), Pengaruh bahasa dalam seni kata dikir Singapura in Jurnal Akademik Jilid IX (2009), Representasi Puisi dalam pelbagai media dari sudut genetik in Jurnal Akademik Jilid IX (2009), Hitam in "Kasih Bunga Merah"(2009) and Muzik dan Pembelajaran: Satu penelitian in Jurnal Akademik Jilid IX (2009). He is a full-time educator but best known as a musician, singer/songwriter, researcher and activist of literary arts. His song, "Warkah Cinta Dunia" (2009) has been distributed worldwide in internet websites such as Amazon, Rhapsody, iTunes, Napster, eMusic, SonipTap, Shockhound, Imesh and NokiaMusic.
  • Nordin Ahmad (b. 1932- d. 1971) - actor who started his film career as a protege of P. Ramlee and also appeared in a few film with him. Due to his good looks and intense acting, he became a bankable star appearing in 49 films in his 15-year career. He is especially remembered for his roles as a tragic hero who dies at the end in films like Air Mata Duyong (A Mermaid's Tears), Dang Anum, Raden Mas and Hang Jebat. In 1971, he died of liver failure at a relatively young age of 39. (For more information, search "Nordin Ahmad" at the Malay Language Wikipedia.)
  • Norleena Salim (1973 - ) - popular TV actress, comedianne and singer, mainly known for her role as Rosnah in Mediacorp's sitcom Under One Roof. She is currently working as a jazz singer in Australia .
  • Othman Hamzah (b. 1962 - ) - singer, songwriter, producer and motivational speaker. Winner of the TV singing competition series Talentime in 1979. Was a best selling local singer in the 1980s.
  • Rafaat Hamzah - poet, actor, director and songwriter. Winner of the Pesta Perdana Best Lead Actor (Pelakon Lelaki Terbaik dalam Watak Utama) in 2007. A compilation of his poems was published in 2007 in the book Yang Bilang (As Told).
  • Ramlah bt Mohamad Sulaiman (b. 1921 - d. 1999) - actress better known as Siput Sarawak. Acted in about 50 films, mostly in the 1950s and 1960s. She is best known for her roles in playing the "bad girl" and evil characters. She was honoured with the Veteran Artist Award at the 9th Malaysian Film Festival in 1991. Her last film was Layar Lara (Lara's Journey) (1997) at the age of 76, two years before her demise. She was also Anita Sarawak's mother. (For more information, search "Ramlah bt Mohamad Sulaiman" at the Malay Language Wikipedia.)
  • Ramli Sarip (b. 1952 - ) - singer and best selling Malay recording artist in Singapore. He was first popular with his group Sweet Charity in the late 1970. Since 1989, he has cut eight solo albums with an average sale of 100,000 copies per album. The highest sale achieved was 250,000 copies. He is now a popular singer and producer in Malaysia.
  • Sarkasi Said (b. 1938 - ) - artist, who also goes by the name Sarkasi Said Tzee. He is known in Singapore as the Batik Baron because of his work with batik paintings. His works have been exhibited in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, New Zealand, USA, Japan and France. They have also found their way into many distinguished public and private collections including the National Museum of Singapore, Her Royal Highness Sultana of Johore, Her Royal Highness Pengiran Hajjah Mariam of Brunei Darussalam, the offices of the Singapore High Commissions in Brunei and Kuala Lumpur as well as the President of the Republic of Singapore. In 1974, he won the APAD Medal from APAD, a local art group. Other awards include the Best Foreign Entry Sarasota Art Society (USA) (1981), 8th UOB Painting of the Year Award (1989) and the IBM Art Award (1990). He had, at one time, held a record in the Guinness Book of Records for having painted the world's longest Batik painting of 103.9 metres in 2003.
  • Sezairi Sezali (b. 1987 - ) - singer, winner of the reality TV series competition Singapore Idol (Third Season in 2009).
  • Shamsuddin bin Dali (b. 1928 - ) - actor and comedian who goes under the name S. Shamsuddin. He has acted in a number of Malay movies in the 1950s to 1970s. He also appeared in a number of films with P. Ramlee.
  • Sharif Medan (b. 1905 - d. 1997) – actor. Hailed as "Father of Bangsawan" because of his background in bangsawan (Malay Opera). He was also a pioneer in the first Malay talkie film Laila Majnun (1933). Appeared in a number of Malay films in the 1950s and 1960s. He served as an advisor and writer to many radio and television programmes especially bangasawan. Was a regular cast in the 1970s Malay TV series Sandiwara that was shown on the then Radio & Television of Singapore Channel 5.
  • Som Binte Mohamed Said (b. 1951 - ) - dancer, instructor and choreographer of Malay dance. Som's perception of the poor quality of Malay dance in the 1970s pushed her to continuously pursue the task of improving standards, both in herself when she was dancing, and now in others for whom she choreographs. She saw the road to improving standards was in instilling the right training in the young, and in 1974, she formed the Sriwana Children's Dance section. Som's students have gone on to become committed professional dancers and instructors, thus continuing a tradition started by her. For her efforts and dedication, she was presented with the National Youth Service award in 1979. A pioneering member of the Sriwana Cultural Group in 1965, her other contributions include the formation of the Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts, Singapore's first fully professional Malay dance company, in 1997. She has been awarded both the Cultural Medallion (1987) and the Public Service Medal (1992).
  • Suhaimi Subandie - musician and founder of hardcore band Stompin' Ground.
  • Wandly Yazid (b. 1925 - d. 2005) - composer and arranger of Malay film music (1940's to 1960's).
  • Yusof Bin Latiff - (b. 1922 - d. 1998) actor who appeared in a number of Malay films in the 1950s to 1960s. He also appeared in a number of films with P. Ramlee. He was later a regular cast in the weekly Malay TV series Sandiwara in the 1970s on the then Radio & Television of Singapore Channel 5
  • Wahyu Rahman - A popular and talented actress who is also a director, producer and writer. Despite playing characters people love to hate on the screen countless of times, she was voted by the viewers as the Most Popular Personality 2009 at the Pesta Perdana 10. Wahyu is also an entrepreneur who has several creative businesses.
  • Zubir Said (b. 1907 - d. 1987) - musician and composer of the Singapore National Anthem 'Majulah Singapura'.
  • Zulkifli Mohamed Amin (b. 1983 - ) - musician, composer and arranger. Resident arranger and conductor of Orkestra Melayu Singapura (Youth).


  • Abdul Halim bin Haron (b. 1972 - ) - bodybuilder, winner of the silver medal at the Asian Championship in 2001 and gold medal winner in the Busan 2002 Asian Games (bantamweight category).
  • Aqilah Binte Sudhir (b. 1991 - ) - shooter, winner of a gold medal in the Commonwealth Youth Games 2008 (Girls' 10m air rifle event ), winner of a bronze medal in the SEA Games 2009 in Vietnam (individual category of the Women 50m Rifle 3-Position) and winner of a bronze and gold medal in the Commonwealth Games 2010 in India (individual and pairs category of the Women 50m rifle 3-position respectively).
  • Azman bin Abdullah - bodybuilder, five-time Mr Singapore title holder, three-time Mr Asia and an Asian Pro-Am Classic Champion. Three times winner of the SEA Games gold medal. First Singaporean to win a gold medal in the middleweight division of the IOC-sanctioned World Games Bodybuilding Championship in 1993.
  • Bulat Bin Ismail - boxer, first Singaporean to win an Asian medal in boxing when he won a silver at the 1954 Asian Games in the Philippines in the welterweight division.
  • Fandi Ahmad (b. 1962 - ) - (retired) soccer player, ex-Singapore National Team member and Singapore's first sporting millionaire. Regarded by many as one of the finest soccer players produced by Singapore.
  • Fatholomein Ali Binsawi - (retired) bodybuilder who won the Asian Amateur Championships eight times from 1980 to 1990. Also three times winner of the gold medal in the 1979 (lightweight category), 1987 (welterweight category) and 1989 (welterweight category) SEA Games.
  • Ibrahim bin Sihat (b. 1957 - ) - bodybuilder, three times winner of the SEA Games gold medal. Silver medal winner in the Busan 2002 Asian Games (bantamweight category). Oldest bodybuilder from Singapore to win a gold medal in the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines (flyweight division) when he was 48 years old.
  • Indra Sahdan Daud (b. 1979 - ) - soccer player, recently made captain of the Singapore National Team . Regarded as Fandi's successor in terms of his prowess and ability on the field.
  • Ismail Marjan (b. 1920 - d. 1990) - badminton player, men's doubles player. Winner at the International Badminton Championships in Glasgow in 1952. Winner of the Thomas Cup and All England Championship 1949-1955.
  • Jumaat Ibrahim (b. 1938 - ) - (retired) boxer, National Champion 1962-1970 (flyweight division). Winner of the bronze medal at the 1965 SEAP Games and silver medals at the 1967 and 1969 SEAP Games (flyweight category).
  • Kamsari Salam (b. 1941 - ) - (retired) cyclist, winner of the silver medal at the 1965 SEAP Games and bronze medal at the 1967 SEAP Games.
  • Lon bin Mohamed Noor (b. 1921 - d. unknown) - weightlifter, National Champion 1947-1956. Winner of the bronze medal at the 1951 Asian Games. First Malay athlete from Singapore to participate in the Olympic Games. Finished 8th place out of 19 in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki (bantamweight category).
  • Mardan Mamat (b. 1964 - ) - golfer, first Singaporean to win a European Tour event by winning the 2006 OSIM Singapore Masters Tournament.
  • Mohd Ismail Muhammad - bodybuilder, two times winner of the SEA Games gold medal. Silver medal winner in the Busan 2002 Asian Games (middleweight category).
  • Muhammad Imran Abdul Rahim (b. 1983 - ) - (retired) silat player, world junior champion (2000), world champion (2004 and 2007) and winner of the gold medal in the 2005 SEA Games (tanding Class H 80–85 kg category).
  • Mohamed Zain Amat (b. 1976 - ) - shooter, winner of a gold medal in the 2005 SEA Games (double trap - shotgun) and winner of three gold medals in the 2007 SEA Games (individual and team trap event, team double trap).
  • Mohamed Zulfakar bin Mohamed Ramli (b. 1981 - ) - silat player, winner of the gold medal in the 1999 and 2001 SEA Games (tanding Class D and C category respectively), world champion 2002 (tanding Class C category).
  • Nor Azhar Hamid (b. 1949 - ) - (retired) athletic high jumper, three times winner of the SEAP Games gold medal (1969, 1973 and 1975). In all, he represented Singapore in a total of nine consecutive SEAP/SEA Games from 1967 to 1981 and earned 3 gold, a silver and two bronze medals.
  • Rohmat Juraimi (b. 1947 - ) - (retired) bodybuilder who won the Asian Amateur Championships four times and was named Overall Winner for the 1973 championships. He was the first Singaporean to be a Mr Universe finalist. He took part in the Mr Universe contest twice and was placed sixth in both 1977 and 1982. Had a role as a rebel leader in the 1993 Hollywood movie Fifty/Fifty which also starred Peter Weller (star of the movie RoboCop).
  • Suharni Binte Mohammad (b. 1971 - ) - bodybuilder, winner of the bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Women's & Mixed Pairs tournament in Inchon City, South Korea (lightweight category). Gold medal winner in the 1999 Asian Women's & Mixed Pairs tournament in Almaty, Kazakhstan (lightweight category) and in the 2000 Asian Women's Championship in Singapore (lightweight category).
  • Syafiq Abdul Samad (b. 1994 - ) - Muay Thai boxer, first Singaporean to win a medal in the Asian Muay Thai Championship when he won a gold (light-middleweight division 71 kg) in the event on 30 June 2010 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The title win has earned him a spot in the Muay Thai World Championship to be held in Bangkok, Thailand in November 2010.
  • Zainal Abidin Abdul Malek (b. 1952 - ) - (retired) squash player who ruled the squash courts of Singapore and was Singapore's undisputed squash champion from 1977 to 1986. His accomplishments included winning the East Asia title six times, the national title 5 times and the Japan Open title for two consecutive years, 1985 and 1986. Additionally, he was also the Malaysian Guinness Circuit champion while at the Asian Team Championship (1986), he led the Republic to second-placing at the tournament. Among his greatest achievements was winning the Penang Open title in 1989 by beating the then world champion, Ross Norman of New Zealand, 3-1 in the finals.


  • Ahmad Mohamed Ibrahim (b. 1916 - d. 1999) – law professor. Ahmad Ibrahim received the Queen's Scholarship in 1935 which enabled him to study at St. John's College, Cambridge. He graduated in 1939 with 1st Class Economics Tripos I and 1st Class Law Tripos II. In 1949, he ran as an independent in the Municipal Commission Election and won. He was the Republic of Singapore's first Attorney General and later the Republic's ambassador to Egypt. He was appointed as Professor of Legal Studies at the Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya (1969–1972), Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Malaya (1972–1983), Professor Emeritus, University of Malaya (1984) and the Shaikh and the Dean of the Kulliyyah of Laws, International Islamic University of Malaysia (1983–1999). The Kulliyyah of Laws was later renamed Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws (AIKOL). His writings on civil law and Islamic jurisprudence are regarded as international references. After his passing, AIKOL established the Ahmad Ibrahim Memorial Lecture. IKIM later instituted an academic project on his works. Ahmad Ibrahim was also the brother of Hollywood actor, Cal Bellini (actual name Khalid Ibrahim).
  • Hadijah Rahmat - Associate Professor, Head of Malay Language Division, and Assistant Head of the Asian Languages and Culture Academic Group at the [Nanyang Technological University]. She has written 9 books, edited 11 books and published numerous academic papers in international journals. Her works are on classical and modern Malay Literature, Singapore Malay literature, Malay settlements and socio-cultural developments in Singapore.
  • Lily Zubaidah Rahim - a Senior Lecturer in Government and International Relations, Department of Econonmic History at the University of Sydney, Australia. She lectures on Southeast Asian Politics and Islam in the Modern World. Author the book The Singapore Dilemma: The Political and Educational Marginality of the Malay Community which examines the factors that have contributed to the persisting socio-economic marginality of the Singapore Malay community. Building on the themes in The Singapore Dilemma, Dr Lily’s second sole-authored book Singapore in the Malay World: Building and Breaching Regional Bridges (London: Routledge, 2009) focuses on Singapore’s mercurial relations with neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia. She is currently engaged in a global project on gender justice and shariah reforms in Islam. She is also the daughter of Abdul Rahim Ishak, a former Senior Minister of State (Foreign Affairs), and the niece of Singapore's first president, Yusof Ishak.


  • The contents for the heading "Migration of Malays to Singapore after 1819" were largely based on the book Kilat Senja: Sejarah Sosial dan Budaya Kampung-Kampung di Singapura by Hadijah Rahmat.

See also


  1. ^ Minorities at Risk (MAR) Project assessment for Malays in Singapore
  2. ^
  3. ^,463af2212,469f2f192,49749cb046,0.html
  4. ^ Vasil, R K (2000). Governing Singapore: democracy and national development. Allen & Unwin. p. 96. ISBN 1865082112, 9781865082110. 

External links

Further reading

  • Dr Syed Farid Alatas, Keadaan Sosiologi Masyarakat Melayu, Occasional Paper Series Paper No.5-97, Association of Muslim Professionals Singapore, 1997
  • Dr Syed Hussein Alatas, Prof Khoo Kay Kim & Kwa Chong Guan, Malays/Muslims and the History of Singapore, Occasional Paper Series Paper No.1-98, Centre for Research on Islamic & Malay Affairs, Association of Muslim Professionals Singapore, 1997
  • Brown, C.C, Sejarah Melayu or Malay Annals: a translation of Raffles MS 18, Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 25, No. 2 & 3, 1952
  • Chia Jeannette Hwee Hwee, A History of Javanese and Baweanese of Singapore, Department of History, Thesis for the BA of Arts and Social Sciences, 1993
  • Djamour, Judith Malay Kinship and Marriage in Singapore, London: Athlone Press, 1965
  • Gibson-Hill, C. A., The Orang Laut Of The Singapore River and the Sampan Panjang, Singapore: Malayan Branch, Royal Asiatic Society, 1952.
  • Hadijah Rahmat, Kilat Senja: Sejarah Sosial dan Budaya Kampung-Kampung di Singapura, H S Yang Publishing Pte Ltd, Singapore, 2005.
  • Haffidz A. Hamid, Mohd Azhar Khalid, Mohd Alami Musa & Yusof Sulaiman, Factors Affecting Malays/Muslim Pupils' Performance in Education, Occasional Paper Series Paper No.1-95, Centre for Research on Islamic & Malay Affairs, Association of Muslim Professionals Singapore, 1995
  • Dr Khoo Kay Kim, Elinah Abdullah, Wan Meng Hao (ed.), Malays/Muslims in Singapore: Selected Readings in History 1819-1965, Centre for Research on Islamic & Malay Affairs, Association of Muslim Professionals Singapore, 2006
  • Li Tania, Malays in Singapore: Culture, Community and Ideology, Oxford University Press, Singapore, 1989
  • Lily Zubaidah Rahim, The Singapore Dilemma: The Political and Educational Marginality of the Malay Community, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998
  • Mohamed Pitchay Gani Bin Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon: Direktori Penulis Melayu Singapura Pasca 1965, Angkatan Sasterawan '50, Singapore, 2005.
  • Pang Keng Fong, The Malay Royals of Singapore, Department of Sociology, Thesis for the BA of Social Science, 1984
  • Parliamentary Debates of Singapore, Sultan Hussain Ordinance/Kampong Glam Conservation, Volume 57(7), Tuesday 12 March 1991
  • Perkins, Jane, Kampong Glam: Spirit of a Community, Singapore, Times Publishing, 1984
  • Tengku Mahmud vs. Tengku Ali, Straits Settlements Laws Report 1897 (Vol. 5)
  • Tham Seong Chee, Malay Family Structure: Change and Opportunity with reference to Singapore, Seminar Paper No. 13, Academic Session 1993/94, Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore
  • Zarinah Binte Ali, The Istana at Kampong Gelam: From Royal Ground to National Heritage, Department of Southeast Asian Studies Programme, Thesis for the BA of Arts, 2001/2002

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