Travel Guide

The Rocky Merger

After Singapore was granted self-government, the internal government decided that Singapore was too small on its own and would benefit from a merger with Malaysia. This finally materialised in 1963, four years after Singapore was a self-governing state.

The merger got off to a rocky start. During the 1963 state elections, a local branch of UMNO decided to participate in the election despite their prior agreement with the PAP not to take part in the state's politics. This worsened relations, although UMNO did not win any seats, and the PAP responded in kind during the 1964 federal election and they won one seat in the Malaysian Parliament. In the federal policies of affirmative action, special privileges were granted to the Malays. This alienated and discriminated against the Chinese.

The Malays were also granted special financial and economic benefits, which irked the PAP and Lee Kuan Yew and his other political leaders began to strongly request for the equal treatment of all the Malaysians.

On the other hand, the Singapore Malays were infuriated by the federal government’s accusations that the PAP was mistreating the Malays. The situation was compounded when the Indonesian President Sukarno declared a state of confrontation against Malaysia.

Military and other actions were instigated against the new nation, where the MacDonald House was bombed and 3 people were killed. The Indonesians also urge the Malays to rise up against the Chinese, sparking numerous racial riots and eventually curfews were imposed to restore order.

The 1964 Race Riots was perhaps the most infamous, where twenty three people were killed and hundreds were injured. The transport system was disrupted during this riot, and the price of food skyrocketed, delivering much more hardship for the people.

UMNO also feared that the economic dominance of Singapore would take the political power away from Kuala Lumpur. They also restricted trade relations with the rest of Malaysia. Singapore fought back by providing Sabah and Sarawak the loans necessary for the economic development in those states.

Suspicion that the communists were funded by the Bank of China branch in Singapore caused the Central Government to close the bank. Eventually the situation created such political strife that it became clear that there could be only one solution for the problem - Singapore had to be expelled.

In a televised press conference on 9 August 1965, an emotional Lee Kuan Yew announced that Singapore was now on its own. The state became known as the Republic of Singapore, with Yusof bin Ishak as the first President.


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