Sunday, October 12, 2014

Battle for Merger - Foreword by Mr Lee Kuan Yew

Well worth a read, this foreword.  Let me try to summarize the main points.

1. In 1961-62,  PAP Government was in a precarious position, and the future of Singapore hung in the balance.

2. Merger with Malaya had always been part of the PAP platform.  We needed a common market, access to Malaysian hinterland and also basic supplies like water. The idea of a sovereign and independent Singapore was an idea that did not have widespread currency.

3.The political winds at that time were blowing strongly to the left, especially with the rise of the Soviet Union and Communist China.  Large swathes of Chinese educated ground had little confidence in the long-term prospects of a moderate, socialist PAP.

4.The Communists had stirred up anti-merger sentiments, with their trade union proxies, and broke off from the PAP in 1961.

5. The PAP needed a compelling message, delivered in a way that would linger and make an impression.  There was no Internet, no social media, and not even TV back then.  So Mr Lee chose radio.  This was how most people got their news then.

6. In opening each talk, Mr Lee chose to break down the arguments in terms that the layman of 1960s could understand. No jargon, no rhetoric. He took care to speak calmly.

7. In exposing the Communists, Mr Lee revealed facts that were not previously known, and their behind-the-scenes machinations. This held the interest of the audience, as with Mr Lee's practice of ending each session with a cliffhanger, giving a hint of what he would disclose in the next episode.

8.The revelations made particularly about the Communists caused a stir.  Some political figures named were incensed, but there were no libel suits, because Mr Lee had the facts on his side.

9.The radio speeches were only the opening salvo in the Battle for Merger, but their effectiveness was a key reason why the referendum went in PAP's favour.

10. People may ask, what would happen to Singapore if the Barisan Sosialis had won. The PAP and its supporters would have been liquidated.  In all likelihood, Singapore would not have made it.

A sombering message from our Founding Father on the history of modern Singapore.  Good to ponder upon.

It is most fascinating to me, a student of history and IR, that all this is being discussed now. During my Uni days, we had studied extensively about modern international history, from WWII onwards as well as the Cold War. Finally, I can start to fit what was happening in Singapore during those tumultuous times in the world.

All the events in the world concerning the Cold War and the all the proxy wars between the Communists and the West were studied and debated upon. I have relatives in China who survived the Cultural Revolution under Mao [1966], and their stories were really scary.

I guess it is safe to say that we were close into becoming a Communist Singapore.

Thanks for reading.

For something a bit more light-hearted, check out why I think JianHao and Naomi, Singapore's youtube sensations, are not together.

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