[Singaporean Literature]

Malaysia Expels Singapore! Lee Kuan Yew on His Country's Independence

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University; Distinguished Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore, 1998-1999

Under Malay-Muslim custom, a husband, but not the wife, can declare "Talak" (I divorce thee) and the woman is divorced. They can reconcile and he can remarry her, but not after he has said " Talak" three times. The three readings in the two chambers of parliament were the three talaks with which Malaysia divorced Singapore. The partners predominantly Malay in Malaya, predominantly Chinese in Singapore had not been compatible. Their union had been marred by increasing conjugal strife over whether the new Federation should be a truly multiracial society, or one dominated by the Malays. [14]

Some countries are born independent. Some achieve independence. Singapore had independence thrust upon it. Some 45 British colonies had held colourful ceremonies to formalise and celebrate the transfer of sovereign power from imperial Britain to their indigenous governments. For Singapore, 9 August 1965 was no ceremonial occasion. We had never sought independence. In a referendum less than three years ago, we had persuaded 70 per cent of the electorate to vote in favour of merger with Malaya. Since then, Singapore's need to be part and parcel of the Federation in one political, economic, and social polity had not changed. Nothing had changed -- except that we were out. We had said that an independent Singapore was simply not viable. Now it was our unenviable task to make it work. How were we to create a nation out of a polyglot collection of migrants from China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia and several other parts of Asia? [22]


Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times, 1998.

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