The Battle for Merger

Mr Lee's radio talks on merger fight back in print

IT WAS a tumultuous time, with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and its allies out to derail self-governing Singapore's plans for merger with Malaya.

Taking to the airwaves in 1961 for 12 radio broadcasts to expose the CPM's real agenda to seize power, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew managed to turn the tide.

A compilation of the talks, first published in 1962, has been reprinted. The Battle For Merger was launched yesterday, on the same date as Mr Lee's last broadcast 53 years ago.

related: 12 Radio Talks By Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew On 'The Battle For Merger'

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Battle for Merger radio talks a 'crucial move': PM Lee
If Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the non-Communist side lost, Singapore's history would have been totally different, said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

The radio talks that Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew gave were a crucial move in winning the hearts and minds of the people. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said this in a FaceBook post on Sat (Oct 11), after visiting the Battle for Merger exhibition at the National Library.

The exhibition showcases the compilation of the 12 radio talks first published in 1962, that has now been reprinted.

Mr Lee said the radio talks led to Singapore joining Malaysia, then separation and today's independent Singapore. It told the inside story of the fight between the non-Communists and Communists, and explaining to Singaporeans what was at stake. He said had Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the non-Communist side lost, Singapore's history would have been totally different.

related: Reprint of The Battle For Merger launched

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What’s the significance of the Battle for Merger broadcasts?
More than 1,000 people attended the inaugural meeting of the PAP at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS

Singapore joined Malaysia on Aug 31, 1963, but the merger was short-lived. On Aug 9, 1965, it became independent.

“Having fought so hard for merger, what we did not expect was that in Malaysia, the non-Malays would be treated differently from the Malays,” writes Mr Lee in the foreword for the new edition.

“So from a battle for merger, it became a fight for equality between all races in Malaysia.”

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Book reveals Lee Kuan Yew’s account of communist insurgency in Singapore
Yahoo Newsroom - Visitors look at an exhibit of documents which are reproduced in the reprint of "The Battle For Merger", in an exhibition summarising the content of the 12 radio talks given by former PM Lee Kuan Yew

A new book launched on Thursday compiles the account of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of the communist insurgency in Singapore leading up to 1961, with some 12 radio broadcasts made available online to the public.

The book, The Battle For Merger, was initially published in 1962, a year after the broadcasts were made, and it was a compilation of the full and unedited transcripts of Lee’s radio speeches. These were read out by him in English, Mandarin and Malay over the period of under a month, starting from 2 October 1961, after the People’s Action Party experienced a dramatic split.

The new reprinted edition launched Thursday contains reproductions of additional material evidence in support of Lee’s accounts, including numerous photographs and documents of letters sent by suspected pro-communist detainees.

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Reprint of book is reminder of 'fierce struggle' for S'pore
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean notes that The Battle For Merger will shed light on a critical period in Singapore's history

On the surface, it may have seemed like a battle for merger.

But underneath lay a deeper, more momentous and dangerous battle between the communists and non-communists in Singapore, said Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Teo Chee Hean.

"At the heart of this battle were two contrasting visions of how society should be ordered and how we should govern ourselves," he said.

related: Reprint of The Battle For Merger will provide 'reality check for revisionist views': DPM Teo

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‘We had to expose the communists’
Mr Lee Kuan Yew (second from right), pictured with Lim Chin Siong (second from left), who was part of the PAP, but later left to form the Barisan Sosialis. Photo: Ministry of Culture Collection, National Archives of Singapore

The story of merger, our ejection from Malaysia in 1965 and our subsequent struggles to survive is well known. Less well known are the crucial years of 1961-1962, when the PAP government was in a precarious position, and the future of Singapore hung in the balance. The story is worth retelling.

Fighting for independence through merger with Malaya had always been part of the PAP platform. It was on this basis that we were elected in 1959. We needed merger in order to remain viable. We needed a common market, access to the Malaysian hinterland, and also basic supplies like water. The idea of a sovereign, independent Singapore that could survive on its own was not yet something that had widespread currency.

Until 1961, the goal of merger seemed remote. It is difficult to convey now how much the political winds at the time seemed to be blowing to the left. Sitting on the fence, large swathes of the Chinese-educated ground had little confidence in the long-term prospects of the moderate socialist PAP, thinking that the communists and radical left would be the ultimate winners. For their part, the communists knew full well that merger with Malaya would deal a fatal blow to their chances of capturing Singapore politically. PAP leaders saw firsthand the anti-merger agitation stirred up by the communists and their trade union proxies, following the pro-communists’ break with the PAP in July 1961.

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What’s the significance of the broadcasts? That and other questions answered
More than 1,000 people attended the inaugural meeting of the PAP at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS

Mr Lee explains in a new message for the latest edition that the effectiveness of the radio talks was a key reason why the 1962 referendum for merger went decisively in the People's Action Party’s (PAP) favour. Mr Lee is one of PAP's founding members. Mr Lee gave a vivid  account of the ongoing political struggle over merger. While the context of the radio talks was merger, the key focus of the radio talks was to expose the  communists - who they were, how they operated and what their real aims were in opposing merger.

In an essay giving the historical context for the talks, historian Albert Lau, an associate professor at NUS (National University of Singapore), writes that the referendum results cleared the way for the PAP to press on with its merger plans.

Singapore joined Malaysia on Aug 31, 1963, but the merger was short-lived. On Aug 9, 1965, it became independent.

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Lee Kuan Yew revisits Battle for Merger at National Library

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew paid a visit on Wednesday to The Battle For Merger exhibition at the National Library, which showcases 12 radio talks he gave in 1961 to convince Singaporeans of the need for merger with Malaya

During his visit, Mr Lee praised the team who had put up the exhibition for their "thorough research" and for "presenting this key period for today's audience", said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Mr Teo posted a picture of Mr Lee's visit on Facebook on Thursday morning, adding that "winning the struggle against the communists paved the way for modern non- communist Singapore".

The exhibition is in conjunction with the reprint of The Battle For Merger book, which compiles Mr Lee's radio talks for a younger generation of Singaporeans. Mr Lee's talks had exposed the communist threat in Singapore in the 1960s and the goal of the communists to capture power in the country.

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Singapore votes in the referendum on merger - Singapore History
Queuing up to cast a vote on the options of merger during Singapore National Referendum Day 1962 Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
"Therefore, let us be clear in our minds that the Government is under no compulsion to have this referendum and there is no necessity to resort to trickery…The final position which we want to achieve is not just merger, but a merger under which the various races in Malaya will live in peace and harmony. …It is the duty of the Government to try and bring merger and Malaysia about peacefully by consent with the maximum of goodwill and of give and take."
Malayan Prime Minster Tunku Abdul Rahman’s historic announcement on 27 May 1961 proposing the possibility of Singapore’s merger with the Federation of Malaya was welcomed by the Singapore government and moderates in the People’s Action Party (PAP). However, it caused consternation among the PAP pro-communist and non-communist factions and precipitated an open confrontation between the moderates and pro-communists in the PAP over merger. The pro-communists dreaded the prospect of Singapore coming under the control of the anti-communist government in Kuala Lumpur who would then crack down on the leftists in Singapore. The open confrontation caused the pro-communist faction to break from the PAP in July 1961 and form the Barisan Sosialis. Thus began the battle for merger between the PAP and Barisan Sosialis – a battle to win the hearts and minds of the people for the future of Singapore.

The terms of merger as agreed between the Singapore and Malayan governments were made official with the release of the White Paper in November 1961. The Barisan opposed the government’s approach to merger, criticising in particular the restrictive citizenship stipulations. Then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew responded with a series of radio broadcasts to convince the people of merger and why the pro-communists were out to sabotage the union. The government also decided to submit the question of merger to a popular referendum, presenting three alternative forms of merger. Known as the National Referendum of 1962, it was a constitutional process to decide on the “mode and manner” of Singapore’s unification with Malaya.

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Referendum on merger with Malaysia

The referendum on merger with the Federation of Malaysia, also known as the Singapore National Referendum, was held on 1 September 1962. The idea for a referendum to be held was championed by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of the People’s Action Party (PAP). The official purpose of the referendum was to allow the people of Singapore to express their preference on the terms of merger with Malaysia. The opposition political parties, notably the Barisan Sosialis (BS), were not satisfied with the framing of the referendum as it did not allow voters the choice of rejecting merger altogether. Despite such dissatisfactions, the referendum was carried out with three contentious options for merger being offered to voters.

During the referendum, the flags of Singapore, Penang, Sarawak and North Borneo were each attached to one of the three options. Alternative A carried the Singapore flag, alternative B the Penang flag, and alternative C had the Sarawak and North Borneo flags. Polling started at 8:00 a.m. on 1 September 1961 and ended at 8:00 p.m. the same day at all 345 polling stations. Voting was made compulsory and 90 percent or 561,559 of the 624,000 registered citizens turned up to vote. At 6:45 a.m. the following day, just before the results were announced, Dr Lee demanded a recount. The recount made no difference to the results and Dr Lee responded by calling it a “sham referendum” with results that “[did] not reflect the will of the people”.

The results of the referendum were only announced in the early hours of 2 September 1962. Of a total of 417,482 marked ballot papers, 397,626 (70.8 percent of voter turnout) had voted for alternative A. Alternative B garnered only 9,422 votes (1.7 percent), and alternative C got 7,911 votes (1.4 percent). Blank votes totalled 144,077 (25.7 percent). The rest of the “uncertain” votes amounted to 2,370 (0.4 percent). Nearly 50 percent of Jurong’s voters, a BS stronghold, were found to have cast blank votes.

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Gallup Poll: If 1962 referendum was Yes-No vote, 90% would have voted against merger.
"I didn’t realise that Singaporeans voted for merger with Malaysia in 1963 simply because all three choices available in the referendum were for merger, just in different ways. And that Singapore was booted out of Malaysia because, among other things, the PAP reneged on its promise not to contest the elections in Malaysia." - Bertha Henson
Many Singaporeans just like Bertha Henson, a veteran journalist would be surprised by the relevation that the people of Singapore were presented with a poll to vote for merger with no choice of saying "No". We all know what have been taught to us in school. In 1962, we voted overwhelmingly in favor of merger. In 1965, we got kicked out and the rest, as they say, is history.

However, did we actually vote overwhelmingly in favor of referendum? In fact, did we even have a choice to vote against referendum?

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1962 Merger Referendum of Singapore

The Singapore national referendum of 1962, or also commonly referred to as the Merger Referendum of Singapore was held in Singapore on 1 September 1962. It called for people to vote on the terms of merger with Malaysia. Some of the options ultimately involved questions of national identity, and such questions would come to be cited years after the merger, as well as after the subsequent separation. There was no option to vote against the merger amongst three options presented to the people:
  • Option A: All Singapore citizens would automatically become citizens of Malaysia, and Singapore would retain a degree of autonomy and state power, such as over labour and education. Singapore would also get to keep its language policies, such as to retain using all four major languages: English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil.
  • Option B: Singapore would become a federal state like that of the other eleven states of Malaysia, with no more autonomy than the others, thus ceding control over issues such as labour and education policies to the central (federal) government in Kuala Lumpur. This also meant that there would be less multilingualism - only English and Malay would be used for official purposes, and possibly education. Only those born in Singapore or descended from the Singapore-born would become citizens of Malaysia. There would also be proportionate representation in the federal Parliament from Singapore.
  • Option C: Singapore would enter on terms no less favourable than the Borneo territories, Sabah and Sarawak, both whom were also discussing merger with Malaysia. This was to ensure that Malaysia would not discriminate along racial lines, as that would mean discriminating against Sabah and Sarawak, which were predominantly Bumiputra as well.
Option A received the majority of the vote at 73%, more then the two-thirds required for constitutional reform. The pro-communist Barisan Sosialis was strongly against the idea of a referendum, as they thought it would result in their suppression. The Barisan Socialis called for a boycott of the referendum, telling their supporters to submit blank votes in protest against the "rigged" referendum. 26% of the vote were left blank as a result. This move had been anticipated by the ruling PAP government, which therefore inserted a clause stating that all blank or defaced votes would be counted as a vote for option A. The media campaign fielded by both sides was extremely heated, and many of the leaders on both sides broadcast radio shows in several languages. The voter turnout was extensive: around 624,000 were eligible to vote, and around 561,000 voters turned up, a turnout of 90%.

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Singaporean integration referendum, 1962

The first internal challenge to merger with the Federation of Malaya came from and grew out of a political struggle between the People's Action Party (PAP) and their opponents included the Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front), the Liberal-Socialist Party, the Workers’ Party, the United People’s Party and the Partai Rakyat (People’s Party).

In Singapore, the PAP sought formation of Malaysia on the basis of the strong mandate it obtained during the general elections of 1959 when PAP won 43 of the 51 seats. However, this mandate became questionable when dissension within the party led to a split. In July 1961, following a debate on a vote of confidence in the government, 13 PAP Assemblymen were expelled from the PAP for abstaining to form a new political party, the Barisan Sosialis or the Barisan have consequences the PAP's majority in the Legislative Assembly was whittled down as they now only commanded 26 of the 51 seats. The ruling PAP was not legally obliged to call for a referendum, but did so to secure the mandate of the people. However, the Barisan Sosialis, a left-wing socialist party consisting of former PAP members with communist sympathies pedigree to the opposition to the colonialism, and imperialism movements were alleged that the people did not support merger, but Lee Kuan Yew declared that people did.

The referendum did not have an option of objecting to the idea of merger because no one had legitimately raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly before then. However, the methods had been debatable. The referendum was therefore called to resolve the issue as an effort to decide objectively which option the people backed. The legitimacy of the referendum was often challenged by Singaporean left-wingers, due to the lack of an option to vote against the merger.

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Singapore story based on facts

The Singapore story is based on facts and documents, and the consensus of historians who have studied them. Since these facts and documents are all on record, any dispute can be resolved impartially and objectively. It is objective history, seen from a Singaporean point of view.

The facts of the Singapore story will always be subject to reinterpretation in the light of new information or fresh analysis, like all other historical facts. But this should not pose any special problem in teaching National Education.

Schools have always taught history. Historians have always drawn lessons from historical events - that is the whole point of studying history. Historical controversy and creativity must be consistent with the facts. Facts will not and cannot be ignored, however inconvenient.

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Man in White : Silence on key issues..

The Fajar carried out a Gallup Poll on 12-15 July 1962 in Tanjong Pagar constituency to find out how many would support merger. To ensure its impartiality, they engaged members of the public representatives of civic organisation to count the votes. The poll showed that 90% of the people were against the White Paper on the merger. If the merger referendum was conducted as a simple YES/NO vote to the merger, it would have been defeated. The PAP presented the electorate with a Hobson's choice, a kind of trick question with 3 options all leading to merger and no option to reject a merger with Malaysia :

  • Option A: All Singapore citizens would automatically become citizens of Malaysia, and Singapore would retain a degree of autonomy and state power, such as over labour and education. Singapore would also get to keep its language policies, such as to retain using all four major languages, English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.
  • Option B: Singapore would become a federal state like that of the other eleven states, with no more autonomy than the other states would, thus ceding control over issues such as labour and education policies to the federal government in Kuala Lumpur. This also meant that there would be less multilingualism - only English and Malay would be used for official purposes, and possibly education. Only those born in Singapore or descended from the Singapore-born would become citizens of Malaysia. There would also be proportionate representation in Parliament from Singapore.
  • Option C: Singapore would enter on terms no less favorable than the Borneo territories, Sabah and Sarawak, both whom were also discussing merger with Malaysia. This was to ensure that Malaysia would not discriminate along racial lines, as that would mean discriminating against Sabah and Sarawak, which were predominantly Bumiputra as well.

Many consider the referendum to be undemocratic - the PAP had all its bases covered because blank votes were counted as option A[Wikipedia] . Isn't that interesting history of how a false undemocratic choice was presented to the people? Following the referendum, the PAP declared it had strong support for merger.

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This only referendum in Singapore's history was for the merger with the Federation of Malaysia and the conditions for the merger. Singapore's political parties were permitted to campaign for the different alternatives starting from 14 August 1962. PAP stood for Alternative A, where Singapore would retain an autonomy over certain portfolios. Alternative B stipulated that those not born in Singapore would not automatically become citizens of Malaysia. SA, affiliated to Malaysia's ruling Alliance Party, stood for Alternative C, where Singapore would enter in terms no less than the North Borneo territories of Sabah and Sarawak, which were also merging into Malaysia.

Criticizing the PAP government for not including an option to reject merger, Barisan, UPP, LSP, WP, UDP and PR called upon voters to cast blank votes. Barisan did not agree to the inclusion of the North Borneo states in the merger, while the rest labelled it a "sham referendum". With the exception of SA and UPP, opposition parties formed a "Council of Joint Action" to appeal to the United Nations. Midway through, LSP pulled out of the coalition. In the end, Alternative A received a resounding endorsement, signifying a victory for PAP. After the referendum, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew responded to Barisan accusations of non-democracy by tabling a bill to include the blank and uncertain votes in one of the three alternatives chosen by the legislature. PAP and SA legislators abstained from voting but neither did Barisan legislators, who staged a walk-out during the sitting.

  • Polling day: 1 September 1962 [Sat]
  • Electorate: 619,867
  • Voter turnout: 561,559 (90.6%)
  • Votes for merger: 414,959 (73.9%)
  • Blank votes: 144,077 (25.7%)
  • Uncertain votes: 2,523 (0.4%)

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Wax figures of Lee Kuan Yew and his late wife unveiled at Madame Tussauds Singapore

Wax figures of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his late wife Kwa Geok Choo have been unveiled at the Madame Tussauds Singapore wax museum, which had its grand opening on Thursday.

The figures show Mr and Mrs Lee smiling, arm-in-arm and seated against a backdrop of red flowers formed in the shape of two hearts. They are also dressed in the colours of Singapore's national flag - red and white.

The couple's wax figures are among other lookalikes of political leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

The Big Ideas Of Lee Kuan Yew

A new book, The Big Ideas Of Lee Kuan Yew, was launched yesterday. Below are excerpts from three essays in the book by former ambassador Chan Heng Chee, former permanent secretary of foreign affairs Bilahari Kausikan, and Permanent Secretary (Public Service Division) Yong Ying-I.

The book is based on a conference in September last year organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.
  1. Guiding the supertanker into the harbour By Chan Heng Chee
  2. Protecting S'pore's interests, nicely or otherwise By Bilahari Kausikan
  3. The boss' attention to detail By Yong Ying-I
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His Story

A new exhibition chronicling 700 years of Singapore's history opened at the National Museum of Singapore on Tuesday. The historical period spans Ancient Singapore (1300 to 1818); Colonial Singapore (1819 to 1942), Syonan-To (1942 to 1945); Road to Merdeka (1946 to 1965) and Independent Singapore (1965 to 1975).

National Museum director Angelita Teo said the "Singapura: 700 Years" exhibition aims to give visitors an immersive and multi-sensory experience, including the simulated exercise of casting your vote for merger with Malaysia. Unwittingly, it reminds one of the origin of the first con.

Toh Chin Chye did not mince his words about the level playing field:
"And the ballot paper was crafted by Lee Kuan Yew. Whichever you voted, you voted for merger. There were three choices: A, B, or C. But frankly, they were all votes for merger. And we moved in the Referendum Bill that spoilt votes will be counted as votes for merger."
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Let's talk about the past openly, warts and all

When Mr Lee Kuan Yew's radio broadcast, The Battle for Merger, was aired 53 years ago, it must have transfixed the country because it was pitted against another version put forth by those opposed to merger with Malaysia.

When there are two opposing ideas, that's when you get people excited and engaged. A monologue will have the opposite effect.

Now that the Government is republishing the transcripts of the broadcast, should it not try to generate as much interest as possible? Here's one idea: remove the prohibition on Tan Pin Pin's film, To Singapore, With Love. It would make the Battle for Merger come alive.

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"A clear understanding of our nation’s history is key to building a strong, unified nation. A Public Interest Declassification Board will serve to plug the gaps in our collective social memory, thus playing a vital role in nation-building"
Earlier this month, the PAP Government launched a reprint of ‘The Battle for Merger’, a compilation of speeches made by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1961 and originally published in 1962.

In his speech at the book’s launch, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that book would “provide a reality check” to attempts by some historians to recast the role played by communists and their supporters on the issue.

“They portray the fight as merely a peaceful and democratic disagreement over the type of merger. They ignore the more fundamental agenda of the communists to seize power by subversion and armed revolution,” he said

The chapter of Singapore’s history the PAP doesn’t want you to know
NSP: Establish a Public Interest Declassification Board
NSP appeals against permit refusal for party paper

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Singaporeans’ search for information and their historical past

In October 2011, some five months after the general election that year, Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament, Pritam Singh, called on the Government to establish a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

Mr Singh, who was speaking in Parliament then, argued that “a prospective Freedom of Information Act will allow any Singaporean citizen to make enquiries with any public body for statistics and information at a reasonable price.”

He said that a FOIA would “allow ordinary citizens to pull information from public bodies that have not put the information sought in the public realm.”

related: Pritam Singh’s speech (Debate on President’s Address)

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Behind the PAP’s ‘good governance’ are Cabinets full of secrets

The Workers Party’s Low Thia Khiang asked in Parliament a month ago if the Government would de-classify Cabinet Papers. “We are 50 years old next year; 50 years on and all the papers are still sensitive? I am sure there are some that are not.”

The member for Aljunied GRC raised a very relevant point: “Currently, all the Singapore stories are told by National Archives, the establishment. I am sure historians in Singapore are interested to research the history of Singapore in an independent manner, and without those (Cabinet) papers being published, it is quite difficult for them to do so.”

Lawrence Wong, the Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information replied: “Our position on the National Archives and declassification is not specific to particular types of information but broadly … all Government records beyond a 25-year period are deemed as public archives in the National Library Board Act. Access would be provided to any of these public archives (provided) these are unclassified information. Cabinet Papers are classified and they are not made available.”

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Lee’s one sided broadcasts lacked legitimacy

I refer to the 10 Oct 2014 Straits Times report “Gruelling series of broadcasts”.

It’s bewildering Lee Kuan Yew felt that the Chinese educated were unsure of communist defeat in 1961 when the state of emergency had already been lifted a year before in 1960 with the successful defeat of the communists by the British a few years earlier. The British was still in charge of defense then so it was the British who were fighting the communists, not the PAP. As usual, Lee likes to take credit for what others do. British fighting the communists becomes PAP fighting the communists.

Also, the fighting had been confined to the Malay Peninsula and never touched Singapore. Since the communists didn’t touch Singapore, how could the PAP had been fighting the communists?

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Two perhaps questionable moves by Tan Jee Say in his early efforts to gather public support for his next run for office -- one is to rely on the widely circulated but maybe questionable research findings of a relatively new professor (Thum Ping Tjin).  The other is to parrot what this fresh researcher wrote and said without due diligence of his own, like cross-checking with other historians and sources.

Having recently retired and now splitting my free time between Singapore and London, researching into the social history of Singapore, let me cite just 4 reasons why both Tan and Thum might not get a reply the government:

Firstly, unknown to many non-historians and members of the public, Thum has given a simplistic account of the communist threat and Operation Coldstore in his talks and articles.  Thum has ignored several colonial dispatches and Internal Security Council (ISC) minutes that clearly showed the existence of a serious communist threat.  Lord Selkirk, the UK Commissioner in Singapore and his deputy, Philip Moore, were concerned about the communist threat and had advocated firm action as early as 1960.
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Mr President, I urge you to seek the truth about Operation Coldstore and Battle for Merger during your State visit in the UK

As I have produced before you the evidence that you asked for, Singaporeans expected you to follow up on it. More than 8 months have passed, but you have neither replied my letter nor shown any interest or follow-up action to verify the evidence. Perhaps the declassified papers were too far away from Singapore but now that you are in London on a State visit, physical distance is not an issue.

The documents are kept at the British National Archives in Kew, London which is about 8 miles or a short drive of 15-20 minutes, from Buckingham Palace where you are currently staying.  You can of course spend as much time as you want to go through the papers and satisfy yourself of their authenticity and accuracy. If this short journey or research work is too arduous for you to undertake, you can always request Her Majesty’s Government to arrange for their intelligence officers to brief you. I am sure the HMG as gracious host, will be happy to oblige.

Your independent verification of the evidence is particularly important at this juncture in view of 2 recent events :
  1. In disallowing the film “To Singapore, With Love” from public screening or distribution in Singapore, a documentary about political exiles who fled from Singapore, the Government has alleged that it contains “untruths and deceptions”, designed to “whitewash their past actions” as ” Communist Party of Malaya members and Communist United Front sympathisers” and
  2. The Government has launched a reprint of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s radio broadcasts on The Battle For Merger of 1961 ” ‘to provide a reality check’ to attempts by some historians to recast the role played by communists and their supporters on the issue” (Straits Times, 10 Oct 2014).
Article first appeared on: FaceBook

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Dear President,

Early this year, I responded to your challenge issued during the 2011 Presidential Election TOC TV Forum that "one must be able to back up" "the very serious charge" that "the Internal Security Act had been used for political purposes".

In my response [link], I referred to recently declassified British Government documents relating to Operation Coldstore which revealed that Lord Selkirk, the UK Commissioner to Singapore at that time, reported to Duncan Sandys, secretary of state for the colonies, that 'there is no important new evidence of subversive activity on which arrests at this juncture  can be justified. We could not substantiate a charge that they are planning to use violence. In the absence of specific evidence of subversion the arrests would be construed as an attempt by HMG to stifle legitimate opposition.' (Geoff Wade)

Article first appeared on: FaceBook

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Operation Coldstore: with the evidence before you, can you look the other way, Mr President?
On this day 51 years ago, Operation Coldstore was launched and 133 men and women were subsequently arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act ("ISA").

A question about the ISA was asked at the TOC TV forum held on 18 August 2011 for all 4 candidates of the 2011 presidential election. You spoke first, followed by me and then the other two. I had said that "the history of the ISA is such that it (ISA) had been used for political purposes". Even though you already had your chance to speak, you very rudely interjected to say it was "a very serious charge and one must be able to back it up". The relevant video clip about our verbal exchange is here: Tan Jee Say goes head to head with Tony Tan

related: Mr President, I urge you to seek the truth about Operation Coldstore and Battle for Merger during your State visit in the UK

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Battle For Merger Nostalgia
Original copy printed in 1962
Reprint copy 2014

The Battle For Merger is now history. I was wondering how the younger  generation  felt after viewing  the exhibition. On Saturday 11 October  I went to the exhibition to interview some of them. The students viewed it as Singapore’s history. The adults said they heard about it from their parents when they were young. The response from them reminded me of my family’s history. My great grandfather came to Singapore from China without a penny in his pocket. He worked hard to make a fortune for himself and died leaving a legacy in Joo Chiat. My grandmother  told me the story when I was young. Like the people I met at the exhibition, I did not feel the hardship and struggle my great grandfather went through during his early years in Singapore.

Singapore’s history is taught in our secondary school but their history book do not have the story  Battle For Merger. If we want this critical part of our history be known to our students, copies of Battle For Merger should  be made available in the school library and teachers should encourage the students to read the book.

Merger with Malaysia helps Singapore from becoming a communist state. Getting out of Malaysia is a blessing or Singapore would not be what it is today.

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To Singapore, with Love 星国恋: Why public screening of film not allowed

EDITOR at large Han Fook Kwang lobbied for lifting the prohibition on the public screening of Ms Tan Pin Pin's film, To Singapore, With Love ("Let's talk about the past openly, warts and all"; Sunday).

He argued that Mr Lee Kuan Yew's The Battle For Merger would interest the public only if it contends with alternative accounts of the same period.

In fact, persons from all sides of the ferocious fight between the communists and non-communists have already been having their say.

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Review: To Singapore, with Love

Sitting on a porch in Kuala Lumpur, Dr. Ang Swee Chai recalls that in 1977, when her husband Francis Khoo’s arrest was imminent, she had suggested that they get married – “that way I could at least visit him in jail”. Soon after their swift wedding, amidst threat of arrest and indefinite incarceration, they fled Singapore. Decades later, reality loomed. “It dawned on me that I was going to die alone in London… I want to be in 100A Upper Serangoon Road,” she says softly. Swee Chai has returned to Singapore just once — on a single-entry permit, carrying her husband’s ashes.

The men and women in Tan Pin Pin’s To Singapore, with Love are courteous in their painful recounting of the circumstances that forced them to leave their country of birth – four, maybe five decades ago. They instantly remember their dates of departure – long ago now. Their stories are factual, fragile and yet wistful. A lifetime of pent up yearning and loss has surprisingly not left them despondent. The grace and detail of their spirited, candid narratives taped conversationally at home, on streets and in offices, make this film intimate and engaging. True to Ms. Pin’s oeuvre, there are no gratuitous mood shots in this film; superfluous music is not necessary to pull at our heartstrings – the clear, penetrating words suffice.

“I knew that they had to get rid of me,” says the professorial, Oxford educated lawyer Tan Wah Piow, in a matter-of fact tone. He left Singapore after serving a jail term of one-year for blowing the whistle on what what he perceived as gross labour injustice. During that time he saw the forcible and complete dismantling of the university student union he had been an integral part of.

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Singapore’s ‘Battle for Merger’ Revisited
The merger issue

2015 is the fiftieth anniversary of Singapore’s separation after almost two years of being part of the Federation of Malaysia (16 September 1963 – 9 August 1965). The event is marked as the day when the island gained independence. The British colonial rulers formally relinquished its residual power over Singapore’s defence, foreign affairs and internal security to the newly-formed Federation of Malaysia when merger came into effect. Reunification was the aspiration of its people as the island was severed in 1946 by the British after being part of the Straits Settlements for 120 years, save for the Japanese Occupation (1942-45).

However the merger scheme which Lee Kuan Yew’s PAP government concluded with the Federation of Malaya government’s Tunku Abdul Rahman was an outright failure. It is thus curious that for the official celebration of SG 50, the PAP government should choose to highlight the 12 radio broadcasts that Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister made between 13 September and 9 October 1961 which was published as The Battle for Merger (1962). The book was reprinted in 2014, with much official hype but no new insights. The deputy prime minister and concurrently coordinating minister for national security and minister for home affairs who launched the reprint, stressed the importance of the PAP’s push for the 1963 merger thus:
"It was a time when momentous decisions had to be made for Singapore. A wrong decision then would have been calamitous and Singapore might still be trying to shake off the dire effects today."
The 1963 merger was a wrong decision. The disastrous outcome was foreseen by the opposition Barisan Sosialis.  We wanted reunification with Malaya, but NOT on the terms that Lee obtained. Those simply could not work. They did not address the fundamental ethnic issue which was handled differently in Malaya and Singapore. The Alliance, the ruling party which dominated Malaysian politics, was an alliance of ethnic-based political parties. It had control of Singapore’s internal security through the internal Security Act (ISA) which provided for detention without trial. The PAP had accepted that Singapore would have fewer seats than its population size warranted, weakening its representation in the Federal government.

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The Credit For Singapore's Success

During the past fortnight, many accolades were heaped on the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's first prime minister, who died on 23 March. Many of the accolades ignored the contributions of others who contributed to the Singapore success story.

Who were some of these people? Mr Lee's fellow cabinet ministers in the 1960s and 1970s such as Dr Goh Keng Swee, Dr Toh Chin Chye, Mr Sinnathamby Rajaratnam, Mr Hon Sui Sen and Mr Lim Kim San.

Unlike Mr Lee who remained at the centre of political power, these men stopped participating in legislative duties and have dropped out of public view, and possibly public consciousness, for more than a quarter of a century. Mr Lee said:
"I'm not a one-man show. You see my picture everywhere; it make it easier for you to symbolise it with one man. Don't believe it is a one-man show. It cannot be done."
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Singapore: Best Place to Live and Work
Plight Of The Tissue Peddlers
Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
Singapore’s Story: What comes next
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore Good Old Times
The Poor & Homeless in Singapore
Support for the Needy and Elderly
The Battle for Merger
The Singapore Story
Other Side of The Singapore Story
ChasingThe Singapore Dream
To Be Or Not To Be Singaporeans
Longing for the good old days
Singapore: A Sampan or a Cruise ship?
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore is ‘World’s Costliest City To Live In’
Coping with Inflation & Cost Of Living
COL goes Up, Up, Up!
Singapore “Swiss” Standard of Living
Tackling poverty the 'kuih lapis' way
Callings for a Poverty Line
Setting a poverty line may not be helpful
A minimum wage for Singapore?

No homeless,destitute starving people in S'pore:Poverty has been eradicated
Growing Up With Less