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“Singapore, key island in the Western defence of South-east Asia, split yesterday from the Malaysian Federation to become an independent state. Arthur Cook, the Daily mail Far Eastern Correspondent, tells below the story of the break-up”
Daily Mail (News Chronicle) Tuesday, 10 Aug 1965

SINGAPORE: The Inside story
From Arthur Cook, Singapore Monday
SINGAPORE has been kicked out of the Malaysian Federation because she fought for multi-racialism. She challenged the Malays in their effort to dominate the Chinese, the Indians, Pakistanis, Sinhalese, Eurasians and the others. Nobody has won, but tonight there are more smiles than tears in Singapore.
The tears were left to Premier Lee Kuan Yew, who broke down and cried as he tried to say: “All my life I have believed in this union of races.”
One day…
Then he assured Singapore’s 200, 000 Malays: “Don’t worry, we will set an example of a multi-racial nation in Singapore.”
“No one in the next five or ten years could persuade Singapore to go back to Malaysia, but one day someone will.”
The end of months of dispute between Singapore and the Central Government of in Kuala Lumpur headed by Tunku Abdul Rahman had come.
Threats that he would be arrested if he did not toe the line of Kuala Lumpur has suddenly ended for Mr. Lee.
He had been told by Tunku Abdul Rahman on Saturday: “There is no other way out. I cannot hold the situation much longer.”
The Tunku had been back from Europe for only two days, but he had realized that in his two months of absence the fanatical elements of his United Malays Party had grabbed the reins.
The separation agreement for Mr. lee to sing was already out. Significantly, it had been printed on notepaper bearing the title of “Deputy Prime Minister” the word Deputy was obliterated.
All that was left for the Tunku to fill in was the date in which he made Mr. Lee sign, on the page prepared for the signatures of the Ministers for both sides.
Mr. lee tried to persuade the Tunku into thinking again. Some other way could be found to relieve the tension, he said, perhaps a looser federation.
He was told there would be violence and bloodshed if he did not agree to leave.
The impasse was not sudden. It had been foreseen for months, but the Tunku’s government blamed Singapore threatened journalists who reported that trouble existed.
Perhaps the Tunku did not want the break, but the decision had come. He told Parliament: “I consider it a misfortune for me to make this announcement.”
From the formation of Malaysia in 16 September, 1963, it was apparent that things were not going smoothly. Soon a clash came between Mr. Lee’s Socialism and the feudalism of Tunku’s UMNO party.
With 12 seats in the Federal Parliament entry last year into federal elections put fear into UMNO.
At first UMNO tried to stop Mr. Lee’s electioneering, but he threatened to go to court on the issue two weeks before voting day and won another seat.
Quickly the issues built up. Accusations and replies flew daily between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The arrest of Mr. Lee demanded by UMNO fanatics could have happened at any time until Saturday.
For months UMNO had worked hard to get rid of Mr. Lee and break up his People’s Action Party. Singapore Ministers were approached and efforts were made to persuade them to go against the Singapore Premier, but they failed.
Then it was realized that if Mr. Lee and other Singapore ministers were arrested the possibility of Singapore’s 1, 500, 000 Chinese rising together with the Chinese of Malacca and Penang plus the Dyaks and Ibans of Sabah and Sarawak, would have to be faced.
This was a situation the Tunku faced on his return and if he can be praised for anything at all it is only for averting chaos which could have come.
In desperation, Singapore’s Finance Minister, Dr. Goh Keng Swee was sent for on Friday and the decision to expel Singapore was put to him.
Even then, it was hoped that Goh, would persuade Mr. Lee and other Singapore Ministers to fade from the scene rather than see what could have been revolution if they insisted on staying in the federation.
Again UMNO failed. The whole Singapore cabinet staying together, but all their reasoning on Saturday meant nothing.
Sabah (formerly North Borneo) and Sarawak, the other two states which joined the Federation with Singapore, were not consulted by the Central Government.
Since federation, Singapore has gradually seen almost every bit of independence disappear.
Her police force went under Kuala Lumpur. Malay was announced as the official language, but Mr. Lee agreed even to this in the belief that in two or three generations the vast Chinese population could speak Malay and forget their own Chinese tongues.
The Malay press was turned on the Singapore Government and even English-language newspapers joined the Central Government side in fear for their own survival.
It would have been only a matter of time before the UMNO Party grabbed Singapore’s radio and television under the cloak of the Central Government to silence Singapore’s voice completely.

Then in a fit of spite the Central Government Finance Minister, Tan Siew Sin announced that he would close the Bank of China in Singapore.
The Federation’s Central Bank was ordered to take over, but Mr. lee has announced that the Bank of China will be allowed to continue business in Singapore.
The arguments are over, but both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur realize how much they need each other for defence against Indonesia.
New agreements have been signed. Malaysian troops will be allowed to station in Singapore, and Singapore troops will be used in the defence of the area just as before.
For the British it is now a tripartite defence plan. Britain will retain the Singapore bases.
Both Singapore and the Central Government have agreed never to ebter into any agreement with any other country if it could jeopardize the defence of what was until today Malaysia.
Tonight Indonesia offered to recognize Singapore, but Mr. Lee has already stated his policy on this.
“We would like to be friends with Indonesia,” he said, “but we must survive and be sure we cannot be overrun or be attacked with rockets. We cannot jeopardize the security of the Federation.”
A blow to the West
A heartbreaking and painful event occurred in Southeast Asia. It is Singapore’s expulsion from Malaysia, and those are the words of the Federal Premier, Tunku Abdul Rahman. He may have understated the consequences of his heavy blow to the West. Only two years ago the Federation of Malaysia consisting of Singapore, Malaya and two states in Borneo, was formed as the bastion of the free world. Now a dangerous breach has been made in the multi-racial structure, and its creator, Britain, appears not to have been informed of what was going on until the split became final. But Whitehall should not have been surprised by this serious development. Modern, affluent, commercialized Singapore, the linchpin of the Federation fitted uneasily into partnership with the less progressive hinterland. There had been ugly race riots between Chinese and Malays.
The Straw
Incompatibility between the Tunku and Lee Kuan Yew, the Premier of Singapore was well known. Perhaps the last straw was the Federal Order to close the Bank of China, which Singapore has refused to do.
The outcome of these troubles therefore seemed inevitable. If the British Government did not sense it, President Sukarno of Indonesia (who is pledged to “crush” Malaysia) certainly did.
Last March, the organ of his Foreign Ministry, speaking to the growing difference in Malaysia, said: “”We would do well to sit back-keeping our powder dry and watch the heightening confrontation within the neo-colonial project.
This was what Sukarno has been waiting for. His war or “confrontation” with Malaysia, has had no success militarily or by subversion. He has been repudiated by the UN and by the Afro-Asian countries.
The Wish
Now he has won the un-fought battle and gained an undeserved victory, the result of which cannot be foreseen. But it is a grave setback for Britain, with 50, 000 troops in the area, many fighting in Borneo.
Nor will America be un-affected. The U.S. regards the integrity of Malaysia as essential to the maintenance of the West’s frontier in Southeast Asia-but Malaysia as it was no longer exists.
It is true that Singapore has agreed to allow the use of existing bases. But to pursue an independent policy while permitting operations to be conducted against Indonesia is, to say the lest, very anomalous situation.
Hong long can it go on? Dr. Subandrio, the Indonesian Foreign Minister, says that “without Singapore, there is no reason for Malaysia to exist.”
This is a case of the wish being father to the thought, but it is too near the truth to be laughed off.