PANORAMA: A Big-Brush History of Singapore’s Battle for Merger

Personal Perspectives on:
“Flesh and Bone Reunite as One Body”: Singapore’s Chinese-speaking and their Perspectives on Merger
by Dr Thum Ping Tjin ©2012

The year 1962 was the worst of times, and the best had yet to herald. The Japanese were long gone, but the British had returned. China became Communist. The age of foolishness descended upon Singapore the Lion City. It was the epoch for belief and incredulity. We were in a season of Darkness, holding out desperately for the coming season of Light. Trapped in a never-ending Summer of despair, awaiting signs of the hopeful Spring.  A very wet and warm Winter of gloom followed instead. We only had our everything behind us, and nothing before us; some thought we were all going direct to our Heavens, but we were all going directly every each way but upwards.

The Proposed Singapore-Malaya Marriage through Merger was doomed from the get-go. One party was eager, enthusiastic, and the other lukewarm and hesitant. One demanded dominance and total subservience, the other hoping for equality and justice. One racist and the other ethnocentric.  One for a “Malay Malaysia”, the other for a “Malaysian Malaysia”. Never in the History of Civilisation has a Political Marriage so destined for failure from the Courting stage as our victorious Battle for Merger.  What hastened the eventual Union was a Third Party so feared by both Malaya and Singapore.  Communism....     
“The idea of Merger for a new Homeland, however, was never far from the minds of Singapore’s Chinese. Malaya and Singapore were always seen as “complete and indivisible as a family”.  A major stumbling block to Merger is Chinese fears about the dilution and destruction of their heritage.”

“By 1955, all major political parties in Singapore were committed to the reunification of Singapore and the Federation. Among Chinese Singaporeans, support for Merger was virtually unanimous.

Inside Malaya however, “the Tunku and the UMNO leadership were opposed to Merger. The single most important reason was “the fear that the incorporation of a million Chinese would immediately threaten and ultimately abolish Malay political dominance and power” in the Federation. UMNO instead equated Malayan culture and identity with the Malay one, and demanded that the minority races should assimilate to the Malay culture and accept the privileged position of Malays in the Federation. They brought this same argument to the debate on merger.

For the Tunku and his Malay Power Elites, the integration of Singapore’s Chinese would threaten the special position of Malays in the Federation. They knew that the Chinese would never assimilate and so never accept Malay predominance.  

It is NOT and has NEVER been in the Chinese psychic to assimilate other ethnic groups to Chinese Culture, and they therefore did not expect to be assimilated to Malay society and culture. The Chinese had regarded themselves as equal to the other races. They did not think it necessary or relevant to accept the special status of Malays and their dominance in the New Malaysia. Chinese Singaporeans envisioned the growth of a new, distinctive Malayan or Malaysian culture that merged the best aspects of Chinese, Malay and other cultures, and with equality for all.

“The Singapore Chinese had looked to Merger as confident, equal partners, not for economic salvation. They saw themselves as the most significant contributors to the Malayan economy and Malayan multiculturalism, and were full of conviction that they had a rightful place on Malayan soil.

They had fought the British and Japanese for Malaya as their own country. By 1960, nearly 80% Singapore Chinese were born in Singapore. They possessed patriotism, cultural pride and a deep conviction that their contribution to Malayan cultural, economic and political life entitled them to an equal place in Malaya. Citizenship and Nationality were important and crucial issues in any Merger agreement.”

Tunku and his Malayan power elites feared the possible ascendency of mostly Chinese-speaking Opposition leaders who may not be able to resist the increasing Communist influence before the latter eventually won real political power through the ballot box.  At this time, the PAP was already decimated by the expulsion of 13 PAP Assemblymen, with their supporters of nearly two-third of the PAP membership, including 19 of its key 23 Organising Secretaries.

“The basic Merger agreement was quickly negotiated by 24 August 1963 meeting all the conditions by giving Singapore autonomy on the critical areas of commerce, labour, and education. Both territories would retain their separate citizenships while enjoying equal rights as Federation Nationals bearing the same passports. However, Singapore citizens could only vote in Singapore, and Federation citizens could only vote in the Federation.  Basically, a “One Country, Two Systems” type of arrangement.

The Marriage with Malaysia was never consummated. The constant acrimonious foreplay over the conflicting visions of meritocratic, multicultural “Malaysian Malaysia” vs a Malay-dominant, racist, ethnic supremacist “Malay Malaysia” marred 2-years of love-hate, bittersweet honeymoon. With no ethnic group then exceeding 50% in the population, a Malaysian Malaysia would have made the most sensible choice, but not to the powerful Malay political elites and their interest groups..... 

Kopi Level - Green
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Veritas said...

Mickey has shown improvement lately. However, this statement I have to disagree.

It is NOT and has NEVER been in the Chinese psychic to assimilate other ethnic groups to Chinese Culture, and they therefore did not expect to be assimilated to Malay society and culture.

The Chinese are not homogeneous people and over the years, Chinese assimilate Mongols, Tungus, Turks, Yue people...etc. Due to the divergence of peopling in China, all sinitic lects are 100% mutually unintelligible.

However, it contains some truth that Chinese are not seeking to assimilate someone, not to the zeal of Islamofascist.

It is not that Chinese do not want to assimilate to Malay culture. One reason it is hard to assimilate into Malaysian Malay is they have pick up uncivilize behavior.

The early peranakan assimilate completely into Malay.

However today Malaysian Malay orgasm in hate when one of their girls converted. They walk into the streets and kpkb telling the whole world how such conversion insults Islam and why apostasy must die.

The peranakans can marry Malay but today it is technically impossible to marry Malay without converting into their religion of hate.

Malaysian malay is also SE Asia worst exporter of terrorism. Malaysian Malay ecstasy in hate when they see Shia.

The Chinese pinoys are able to integrate into muslim pinoy (i will blog it more). But malaysian malay are full of hate. They also make sure chinese muslims must lost their love and compassion and must adopt to malaysian malay style of hatred islam.

The problem lies in malaysian malay and not chinese.

This is a big topic and it requires many more treatment.

lust for love said...

Whether this was right or wrong, it's over, more than 50 years ago.

After Singapore got kicked out of the federation in 1965, we did a fantastic job to survive on our own and became one of Asia's 4 mini-dragons.

However the growth model that had helped us in the past isn't working anymore. Many countries just as China is trying to copy our model and some of them did quite a great job that we're losing our competitive edge.

We should be looking forward to come up with a growth model or strategy to help us maintain our independence, instead of talking about this past history.

This over past 10 years, Singapore economy has no substance, full of bubbles. After SARS breakout in 2003 which brought property prices back to normal, the government created a new property bubble by way of IRs, then it came out with an immigrant bubble to feed into the new property bubble. This sort of economic strategy is very unstable for the normal lives of Singaporeans.

Just feel we shouldn't be delving so much on the past, unless we're in the 80s or 90s when there is nothing much to look forward to.

This kind of selective bringing back the past makes me suspect this is a way to glorify PAP rule, because over this past 10 years, it has nothing to show to the people. It wants to remind us of the good deeds they did over 50 years ago. Seems like they're starting to prepare for the next election.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Hi lust for love, agree with you. Living on past glories is a sign of decadence and bankruptcy of new ideas.

What I fear is the New Concept of City State when we lose our independence by offering it to foreigners. 'kar kui kui'.

I still have to make some remarks made by Veritas. The Chinese as a civilisation does not assimilate other minorities as an act of superiority of cultures. The Mongols and Manchus voluntarily assimilated themselves to the Chinese culture as they were primarily tribals and found the Chinese culture much more superior to theirs.

They were the conquerors, the powers of the day with the mandate of heaven, and they dictated the culture and customs of the day. The Manchus forced the Chinese with their pigtails and dress styles. Not the Chinese forcing on them.

If the Chinese have this habit of assimilating the minority tribes then there would not have much traces of minorities in China today. The minorities are wearing their culture to the People's Congress and flaunting their culture in the main media.

The overseas Chinese were easily assimilated in Thailand, the Ppines, Indonesia and Malaysia and Singapore in the past. Not to forget in the West.

Only when religion becomes a major factor that the assimilation becomes problematic.

The Chinese are free souls as far as culture and religion are concerned. That is why you see Chinese becoming Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and all in great numbers, including becoming bananas.

b said...

There is only one true type of discrimination - rich and poor. Religion and race and sex discrimination are all but distractors and created to divert anger away from the one real discrimination.