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One wept at the birth of our nation while firecrackers thundered

Posted by theonlinecitizen on August 8, 2007

By Yeo Toon Joo, Peter

Singapore’s mercantile High Street-Hill Street district thundered with the blast of exploding fire crackers, more deafening than any Chinese New Year eve fire cracker duels.

The most exuberant was at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce which led in the celebration.

It was August 9, 1965.

What was going on? What was the occasion? No new major business was being ceremonially launched.

There was no way to call someone to find out. Instant digital communication was unknown.

I was a rookie newspaper reporter heading back to office after covering that day’s hearing of an official government commission of inquiry into the affairs of the Singapore Manual and Mercantile Workers’ Union (SMMWU).

SMMWU’s all powerful secretary-general, Mr T V Gomez, father of James Gomez, an opposition Workers’ Party candidate at the last general election, was facing a public inquiry over his “one-man control” of the vast industrial union. There had been allegations of abuse.

Back in the office I learnt the ‘bad’ news: Singapore had been kicked out of the federation of Malaysia by its prime minister, Tungku Abdul Rahman (left). We were on our own.

The news room buzzed with excitement and speculation over the eviction, and Singapore’s future.

“____ the bloody Malaysian Government!” bellowed one journalist over the furious clickety-clack of the manual Underwood typewriters. “The Tungku and *Tuns can go to hell!”

A vision vanished

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister of Singapore, would soon speak that day to the people in a live TV broadcast, rare in those days.

TV, monochrome, was itself only a few years old in Singapore; Minister of Culture S Rajaratnam had gone live just 2-1/2 years earlier, in February 1963, over our black and white TV sets to inaugurate the new epoch in mass communication in Singapore.

Eagerly we awaited Mr Lee’s address.

A grim Mr Lee addressed the people on national television. Midway, he broke down. He wept. His dream of a Singapore in political union with Malaya shattered.

The heart of the people of Singapore went out to him as he grieved publicly.

“For me, it is a moment of anguish,” he told our newly sovereign nation. “All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in merger and unity of the two territories.”

Singapore had lost its (what we had been led to believe) anchor – a Malayan hinterland, an enlarged economic base and hopes of an elusive Malaysian common market. Our historical umbilical cord to the mainland had been callously cut.

Mr Lee’s broadcast blanketed Singapore in gloom. We had been cast adrift by our brothers across the causeway – to sink, so they had hoped, in our solitary small-ness.

Points of contention

The turn of events was not totally unexpected. Many in Singapore had been on edge for some time past in our short-lived marriage of incompatibility with Kuala Lumpur. No two groups were more ideologically and culturally apart. They were “feudalistic”, and we “democratic socialists”.

There had been almost throughout the short union furious fusillades from across either end of the causeway.

Mr Lee lambasted the federal government’s political-economic direction and its policy, enshrined in the constitution, of racial discrimination in favour of Bumiputras, sons of the soil, who were almost exclusively Malay. Kuala Lumpur feared our radical politics and accused the state government of Singapore of mistreating Malays.

The PAP had in 1964 also sallied into federal politics, and won one seat in the general election. Its representative, our late President C V Devan Nair, was elected in Bangsar, Malacca.

A year earlier the Tungku’s UMNO (United Malays National Organisation) had reneged on its undertaking not to contest in state elections in Singapore; its proxies received a thrashing, losing all three predominantly Malay seats to the PAP.

The PAP shortly after separation fostered the birth of the Democratic Action Party (DAP). The DAP’s blue and red, circle and rocket symbol and the PAP’s blue and red circle and lightning were alarmingly alike.

Mr Lee’s battle cry of “Malaysian Malaysia”, everyone equal, rankled the Tungku’s dominant, racially-based UMNO.

Tungku and his UMNO colleagues feared Mr Lee had his sights on the political premiership of Malaysia even.

There had been rumours, which proved correct, that the Tungku, an otherwise amiable and easy going politician, might detain Mr Lee – for trying to subvert the federation and preaching against special rights for Malays.

Birth of a Singaporean Singapore

Mr Lee’s vision of a Malaysian Malaysia, with Singapore as part of it (a dominant part, some across the causeway had feared) was not to be.

As Mr Lee wept over the ashes of his dream our Chinese business community rejoiced over the roar of fire crackers.

Our businessmen had chafed over the racial discrimination against the Chinese. There had been allegations, too, that the federal government was diverting business and new investment opportunities from Singapore to Malaya.

Somehow they sensed separation meant Singapore would no longer be hobbled by Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia.

None of them shed a tear over separation or the uncertainty of going it alone in our reluctant road to independence. They held the pulse of Singapore’s economy, even if they did not hold the reins.

They knew. And they were right!

Now we exult in a Singaporean Singapore.

* Tun Abdul Razak, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, Tun (Dr) Ismail Abdul Rahman, the home minister.

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4 Responses to “One wept at the birth of our nation while firecrackers thundered”

  1. […] are less sanguine but they must have taken more than 2 minutes. A trip down memory lane offers an alternative, somewhat darker story, a criticism of the ritualistic and propaganda […]

  2. On a linguistic note, notice how “Singaporean” is no longer used as an adjective, take for example, “Singapore Idol”, compared to “Malaysian Idol”, or how acceptable to say the “Singapore education system”.

    Therefore, the last line could actually read “Now we exult in a Singapore Singapore.”

    That didn’t sound too weird, did it?

  3. Cs2 said

    I believe LKY wanted to be the prime minister(or at least of significant political position) of Malaysia hence his fervor in pushing for Malaysia Malaysia. In successful, LKY being a chinese would then have significant influence in the political process rather than being idiotically put down based on race. He understood the bias that would if Singapore did not get enough political leverage. Just look what happened to Sabah and Penang where this is a non-malay majority population.
    Unfortunately, LKY has now made himself very powerful in this unchallenged country due to his combat sense. While valid for fighting in Malaysia, its overkill in Singapore. I personally dont like to rock the boat if someone goes ‘all out’ trying to change things which is also ‘for the better’. But now he has to centralised a lot of power to himself which he soon must pass on unchallenged to the future leaders. And my worry now is what the future leader will be. Will he lead Singapore as a self-interested CEO or as an enlightened CEO? The problem with the game is everybody is nice towards a powerful man and history has taught what a cunning man should act and not act like. The only way to tell is have a good challenge to see if the fox retreats or stands to fight.

    Blood is thicker than water. Soon there is no more blood, and he has to choose water. But water can contain poison while remaining clean and clear – unlike blood. We need a pH test. 🙂

  4. human book said

    List of racial discriminations in Malaysia, practiced by government as well as government agencies. This list is an open secret. Best verified by government itself because it got the statistics.

    This list is not in the order of importance, that means the first one on the list is not the most important and the last one on the list does not mean least important.

    This list is a common knowledge to a lot of Malaysians, especially those non-malays (Chinese, Ibans, Kadazans, Orang Asli, Tamils, etc) who were being racially discriminated.

    Figures in this list are estimates only and please take it as a guide only. Government of Malaysia has the most correct figures. Is government of Malaysia too ashamed to publish their racist acts by publishing racial statistics?

    This list cover a period of about 50 years since independence (1957).

    List of racial discriminations (Malaysia):

    (1) Out of all the 5 major banks, only one bank is multi-racial, the rest are controlled by malays

    (2) 99% of Petronas directors are malays

    (3) 3% of Petronas employees are Chinese

    (4) 99% of 2000 Petronas gasoline stations are owned by malays

    (5) 100% all contractors working under Petronas projects must be bumis status

    (6) 0% of non-malay staffs is legally required in malay companies. But there must be 30% malay staffs in Chinese companies

    (7) 5% of all new intake for government army, nurses, polices, is non-malays

    (8) 2% is the present Chinese staff in Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), drop from 40% in 1960

    (9) 2% is the percentage of non-malay government servants in Putrajaya. But malays make up 98%

    (10) 7% is the percentage of Chinese government servants in the whole government (in 2004), drop from 30% in 1960

    (11) 95% of government contracts are given to malays

    (12) 100% all business licensees are controlled by malay government e.g. Approved Permits, Taxi Permits, etc

    (13) 80% of the Chinese rice millers in Kedah had to be sold to malay controlled Bernas in 1980s. Otherwise, life is make difficult for Chinese rice millers

    (14) 100 big companies set up, managed and owned by Chinese Malaysians were taken over by government, and later managed by malays since 1970s e.g. MISC, UMBC, UTC, etc

    (15) At least 10 Chinese owned bus companies (throughout Malaysia, throughout 40 years) had to be sold to MARA or other malay transport companies due to rejection by malay authority to Chinese application for bus routes and rejection for their application for new buses

    (16) 2 Chinese taxi drivers were barred from driving in Johor Larkin bus station. There are about 30 taxi drivers and 3 are Chinese in October 2004. Spoiling taxi club properties was the reason given

    (17) 0 non-malays are allowed to get shop lots in the new Muar bus station (November 2004)

    (18) 8000 billion ringgit is the total amount the government channeled to malay pockets through ASB, ASN, MARA, privatisation of government agencies, Tabung Haji etc, through NEP over 34 years period

    (19) 48 Chinese primary schools closed down since 1968 – 2000

    (20) 144 Indian primary schools closed down since 1968 – 2000

    (21) 2637 malay primary schools built since 1968 – 2000

    (22) 2.5% is government budget for Chinese primary schools. Indian schools got only 1%, malay schools got 96.5%

    (23) While a Chinese parent with RM1000 salary (monthly) cannot get school-text-book-loan, a malay parent with RM2000 salary is eligible

    (24) 10 all public universities vice chancellors are malays

    (25) 5% – the government universities lecturers of non-malay origins had been reduced from about 70% in 1965 to only 5% in 2004

    (26) Only 5% is given to non-malays for government scholarships over 40 years

    (27) 0 Chinese or Indians were sent to Japan and Korea under “Look East Policy”

    (28) 128 STPM Chinese top students could not get into the course that they aspired e.g. Medicine (in 2004)

    (29) 10% place for non-bumi students for MARA science schools beginning from year 2003, but only 7% are filled. Before that it was 100% malays

    (30) 50 cases whereby Chinese and Indian Malaysians, are beaten up in the National Service program in 2003

    (31) 25% is Malaysian Chinese population in 2004, drop from 45% in 1957

    (32) 7% is the present Malaysian Indians population (2004), a drop from 12% in 1957

    (33) 2 million Chinese Malaysians had emigrated to overseas since 40 years ago

    (34) 0.5 million Indian Malaysians had emigrated to overseas

    (35) 3 million Indonesians had migrated into Malaysia and became Malaysian citizens with bumis status

    (36) 600000 are the Chinese and Indian Malaysians with red IC and were rejected repeatedly when applying for citizenship for 40 years. Perhaps 60% of them had already passed away due to old age. This shows racism of how easily Indonesians got their citizenship compare with the Chinese and Indians

    (37) 5% – 15% discount for a malay to buy a house, regardless whether the malay is poor or rich

    (38) 2% is what Chinese new villages get compare with 98% of what malay villages got for rural development budget

    (39) 50 road names (at least) had been changed from Chinese names to other names

    (40) 1 Dewan Gan Boon Leong (in Malacca) was altered to other name (e.g. Dewan Serbaguna or sort) when it was being officially used for a few days. Government try to shun Chinese names. This racism happened in around year 2000 or sort

    (41) 0 churches/temples were built for each housing estate. But every housing estate got at least one mosque/surau built

    (42) 3000 mosques/surau were built in all housing estates throughout Malaysia since 1970. No churches, no temples are required to be built in housing estates

    (43) 1 Catholic church in Shah Alam took 20 years to apply to be constructed. But told by malay authority that it must look like a factory and not look like a church. Still not yet approved in 2004

    (44) 1 publishing of Bible in Iban language banned (in 2002)

    (45) 0 of the government TV stations (RTM1, RTM2, TV3) are directors of non-malay origins

    (46) 30 government produced TV dramas and films always showed that the bad guys had Chinese face, and the good guys had malay face. You can check it out since 1970s. Recent years, this tendency becomes less

    (47) 10 times, at least, malays (especially Umno) had threatened to massacre the Chinese Malaysians using May 13 since 1969

    (48) 20 constituencies won by DAP would not get funds from the government to develop. Or these Chinese majority constituencies would be the last to be developed

    (49) 100 constituencies (parliaments and states) had been racistly re-delineated so Chinese voters were diluted that Chinese candidates, particularly DAP candidates lost in election since 1970s

    (50) Only 3 out of 12 human rights items are ratified by Malaysia government since 1960

    (51) 0 – elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (UN Human Rights) is not ratified by Malaysia government since 1960s

    (52) 20 reported cases whereby malay ambulance attendances treated Chinese patients inhumanely, and malay government hospital staffs purposely delay attending to Chinese patients in 2003. Unreported cases may be 200

    (53) 50 cases each year whereby Chinese, especially Chinese youths being beaten up by malay youths in public places. We may check at police reports provided the police took the report, otherwise there will be no record

    (54) 20 cases every year whereby Chinese drivers who accidentally knocked down malays were seriously assaulted or killed by malays

    (55) 12% is what ASB/ASN got per annum while banks fixed deposit is only about 3.5% per annum

    There are hundreds more racial discriminations in Malaysia to add to this list of “colossal” racism. It is hope that the victims of racism will write in to expose racism.

    Malaysia government should publish statistics showing how much malays had benefited from the “special rights” of malays and at the same time tell the statistics of how much other minority races are being discriminated.

    Hence, the responsibility lies in the Malaysia government itself to publish unadulterated statistics of racial discrimination.

    If the Malaysia government hides the statistics above, then there must be some evil doings, immoral doings, shameful doings and sinful doings, like the Nazi, going on onto the non-malays of Malaysia.

    Civilized nation, unlike evil Nazi, must publish statistics to show its treatment on its minority races. This is what Malaysia must publish.

    We are asking for the publication of the statistics showing how “implementation of special rights of malays” had inflicted colossal racial discrimination onto non-malays.

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