[Singaporean Literature]

Lee Kuan Yew on the Inevitable End of The British Empire

While a student at Cambridge University in the years immediately after World War II, the future prime minister explained why Malaya and other colonies would inevitably become independent. The following comes from a section of his speech entitled "The sun must set" -- an inversion of the old slogan, "The sun never sets on the British empire:"

Empires never last for ever. Either the master and subject races finally merge into one unified society as in Britain, where the Welsh and Scots, once English-dominated, now form part of one political society, enjoying equal rights with the English. Or the empire ends with the subject races violently resisting and finally emerging as a separate national and political entity as in the case of the Irish Republic, India, Pakistan and Indonesia. The indefinite continuance of the subjugation of one race over another is only possible where the subject race is inherently, both mentally and physically, inferior. Anthropologists are unable to prove any innate superiority of one race over another. This scientific fact and the historical fact that no empire has been able to last more than a thousand years is, I think, no mere coincidence.

We in Malaya are now seeing British domination after over a hundred years enter its last phase. Colonial imperialism in Southeast Asia is dead except in Malaya, and our generation will see it out. No sane man, whether he be English, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, or Chinese, can honestly study the situation in that part of the world and not come to the conclusion that either with or without the opposition of the Western-educated intelligentsia in Malaya, British imperialism will end. The two things we the returned students can help to decide are: firstly, how soon and orderly the change will be, and secondly, whether we shall find a place at all in the new Malaya. [259]

[Added by GPL.]


Han Fook Kwang, Warren Fernandez, Sumiko Tan. Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas. Singapore: Times, 1998.

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