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1981: A year of firsts


THE landmark Anson by-election in October 1981 produced a shock result, marking the first time that an opposition party won a Parliament seat since Singapore's independence.

JB Jeyaretnam of the Workers Party received 7,012 votes or 51.9 per cent of the 13,502 valid votes cast, beating People's Action Party (PAP) candidate Pang Kim Hin, who received 6,359 votes.

The by-election was called after CV Devan Nair had to resign as a Member of Parliament for Anson, in order to take on the role of President.

The shock result caught the PAP off guard.

The Second Deputy Prime Minister (Foreign Affairs) at the time, S Rajaratnam, said the opposition won the votes from a "new generation" of voters which had not lived through the times where opposition politics were plagued by hardship.

Other factors for the defeat flagged in subsequent media reports was Mr Pang's inability to connect with voters as well as his inexperience compared to veteran politician Mr Jeyaretnam.

Another significant event that year was the creation of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GSIC), which was incorporated on May 22 with a capital of S$2 million. Granted the ability to pursue opportunities both in Singapore and overseas, it was also allowed to make investments both inside and outside the normal financial markets. In addition, the GSIC was allowed to consider property investments, which was a "significant departure" from the Monetary Authority of Singapore's investment policies.

Meanwhile, 1981 was also a historic year for Singapore's aviation industry as Changi Airport opened its doors, replacing Paya Lebar Airport. On the morning of July 1, the first scheduled flight to touch down at Changi, SQ 101, flew in from Kuala Lumpur with 140 passengers onboard a Boeing 727. Passengers were welcomed by a lion dance as well as stakeholders from the aviation and tourism industries, while mementos were handed out by Singapore Airlines stewardesses.

The Business Times has been there to report and analyse the most significant news since 1976. Every week, this feature will showcase excerpts from the biggest stories for each year that the paper has been in operation. The full text of all the stories can be found online at