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Singapore Was Once A Part of Malaysia, But What Had Happened?

Singapore
Picture: MAHMUD AWANG

Almost everyone knows that Singapore was once a part of Malaysia. But not many people know the real reasons why did Singapore decide to become an independent and sovereign nation on its own.

So, what had actually happened between these two countries?

History of Singapore

Singapore

Picture: Google

Did you know that Singapore had actually become a part of Malaysia on 16th September 1963? For your information, it was the very first year of the proclamation of Malaysia. Singapore merged with the Federation of Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak to form the federation of Malaysia.

The merger with Malaysia had been Singapore’s planned path for its economic progress. Singapore needed the Malayan hinterland to provide a larger common market for its industries in order to develop growth and increase employment.

Political reasons

Singapore

Picture: PAP

In order to maintain its political legitimacy, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) needed the merger. The party vigorously pushed for Singapore’s independence through the merger with Malaysia in 1959. On 1st September 1962, the party held a referendum, and more than 70% of the Singapore population supported the merger. The merger also brought further political advantages for PAP. Proposed Malaysia would have a right-wing, anti-communist government that would eliminate the political threats from left-wing communists.

What happened to the merger?

From the beginning, the merger between Singapore and Malaysia was problematic. Leaders in Singapore and Malaysia were aware that the differences in the two nations’ political philosophies and economic situations “cannot be wiped overnight” even before the proclamation of the Federation of Malaysia.

Throughout the existence of the union, Singaporean leaders dissatisfied with the slow progress of the formation of common market. Also, they dissatisfied with the challenges they had to face in order to obtain the pioneer status from Kuala Lumpur for their industries. In contrast, Kuala Lumpur dissatisfied with Singapore’s persistent response to the demands of the federal government. The demands were on increased contribution to tackle the Indonesian Confrontation, and for an agreed loan to help Sabah and Sarawak flourish.

Moreover, the highly unbalanced Malays-Chinese populations in both nations left them both open to racial stereotypes that political leaders played up. The People’s Action Party (PAP) and the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), soon began accusing one another of communalism. The accusations had caused tensions to rise. It also caused racial violence to break out in Singapore on 21st July and 2nd September 1964.

Singapore

Picture: history.libraries.wsu.edu

Even though UMNO and PAP had agreed to a two-year-truce in September 1964, tensions soon erupted once more. UMNO and the “ultras” did not trust Singapore due to Lee Kuan Yew’s multi-racial slogan “Malaysian Malaysia” as they assume his vision of a non-communal Malaysia as a threat to their party’s reason for undisputed Malay dominance.

Despite several attempts by the leaders to bridge these gaps, the issues were too ingrained and persisted. The turbulent political environment in Malaysia showed no signs of easing during the second half of 1965. Malaysian Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman was pressured to act to prevent communal violence in 1964 from happening again. In June 1965, Tunku decided that separating Singapore from Malaysia is the only option during his London trip to attend the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference.

Separation

Singapore officially withdrew from the federation on 9th August 1965 and became an independent country.

Sources: History SG, History SG, SG101

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