The Cocos (Keeling) Islands are located in the Indian Ocean 2950 kilometres north-west of Perth and 3700 kilometres west of Darwin. There are 27 coral islands in the group with a total land area of approximately 14 square kilometres.
Apart from North Keeling Island, which is 30 kilometres from the main group, the Islands form a horseshoe-shaped atoll surrounding a lagoon. North Keeling Island was declared a National Park in 1995 and is administered by Parks Australia.
Inhabitants of the Malaysian peninsula and the island of Singapore first migrated to the area between 2500 and 1500 B.C. (see Malaysia). British and Dutch interest in the region grew with the spice trade, and the trading post of Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles. It was made a separate Crown colony of Britain in 1946, when the former colony of the Straits Settlements was dissolved. The other two settlements on the peninsula—Penang and Malacca—became part of the Union of Malaya, and the small island of Labuan was transferred to North Borneo. The Cocos (or Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island were transferred to Australia in 1955 and in 1958, respectively.
Singapore attained full internal self-government in 1959, and Lee Kwan Yew, an economic visionary with an authoritarian streak, took the helm as prime minister. On Sept. 16, 1963, Singapore joined Malaya, Sabah (North Borneo), and Sarawak in the Federation of Malaysia. It withdrew from the federation on Aug. 9, 1965, and a month later proclaimed itself a republic.
Under Lee, Singapore developed into one of the cleanest, safest, and most economically prosperous cities in Asia. However, Singapore's strict rules of civil obedience also drew criticism from those who said the nation's prosperity was achieved at the expense of individual freedoms.
S. R. Nathan was declared president without an election when he was certified as the only candidate eligible to run in 1999 elections. In Aug. 2004, Lee Hsien Loong became the country's third prime minister since Singapore gained independence from Britain in 1965. Lee faced his first electoral challenge in May 2006. His People's Action Party (PAP) won 82 out of 84 seats in parliamentary elections.
In Singapore's May 2011 general election, the ruling People's Action Party was reelected with a majority of 81 to 6, which was the equivalent of 60% of the vote. This percentage was viewed as promising by the opposition, as it was significantly less than in the two previous elections. After the elections, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong uncharacteristically acknowledged mistakes and pledged a more efficient government in the future.
The Republic of Singapore consists of the main island of Singapore, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and 58 nearby islands.
There is a small and growing tourist industry focused on water-based or nature activities.
Small local gardens and fishing contribute to the food supply, but most food and most other necessities must be imported from Australia or elsewhere.
The Cocos Islands Cooperative Society Ltd. employs construction workers, stevedores, and lighterage worker operations. Tourism employs others. The unemployment rate was 11.3% in 2006.
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Tourist Attractions
- Home Island
- Cocos (Keeling) Islands Airport
- Pulu Keeling National Park
- West Island